Proper brand positioning and branding strategy can be one of your fastest ways to success. In a sea of sameness, having a distinguishable, memorable and likable brand works great to your advantage! It creates a direct connection to your end customers, inspiring them to opt for your product in their next purchasing journey, rather than looking a similar product up on different sites and marketplaces. What are some of the branding guidelines you should follow when expanding abroad? What branding possibilities does Amazon offer and are they feasible for you?
Whether you are expanding abroad through a marketplace, your own localized online store, or going full in with brick and mortar shops in a new country, keep branding high on your list of priorities.
Why, when there’s so much to do around logistics, sales, recruiting, tech, customer service or marketing, you ask? The short answer would be because your brand matters. Customers can sense whether you have done conscious work on your branding or not – in which case they feel the vacuum and are less likely to buy from you, and it is therefore impossible for them to be turned into loyal customers.
A memorable brand is the shortcut to acquisition
“Creating a coherent brand can, in the long term, decrease your marketing investments and get you out of the rat race of having to pay for every acquisition,” founder of Brain One agency Roman Zámečník explains. “Some may think branding goes only as far as having a name and a logo, but that is just tip of the iceberg. A brand is a collection of associations your customers have around your company or products. And being able to instill the right mix of associations leads to their loyalty.” In the highly competitive e-commerce market, that is exactly what you want!
Thousands if not millions of sellers offer similar (or seemingly similar) products – and your competitor is just a click away. “A brand is a shortcut in decision-making on the customer’s side and a shortcut to a deal on your side. When a consumer remembers a certain brand, they don’t run around to check out a bunch of other options. They just go and buy from the brand they know,” Zámečník points out.
Keep in mind! Branding is not just your brand strategy, your website or ads. You can build and manage your brand in every touchpoint with the customer, be it online, in your brick and mortar store, when picking up the phone, or delivering a package.
- When expanding abroad, focus on localizing your brand. Brain One recommends you to first get to know the target market and your positioning on that kind of market. What are some of your strengths? Where is the competition not delivering results? Test your hypothesis using high-performance marketing tools, local comparison sites, Amazon, or other marketplaces. Only after that should you start building and communicating your brand story.
- Every brand needs so-called “reasons to believe.” According to Zámečník, these reasons depend on localization and cultural context. A retailer famous for their huge network of brick and mortar stores in one country really cannot use this reasoning while expanding to another. “Again, get to know the new market and find reasons why local customers should believe you and buy from you,” Zámečník suggests, adding that the brand’s personality should be the same and coherent throughout all markets.
Branding on Amazon: Then and now
“Historically, Amazon became successful because of its revolutionary model. It did not distinguish whether these Nike shoes are sold by the original Nike manufacturer, or some reseller on the other side of the world,” Adam Kurzok, CEO of EXPANDO explains. “Jeff Bezos had a vision to inspire people to simply shop from their cell phones. That made Amazon go for a simple white layout without any extravagant or complicated designs. Just products, one photo, title, price and the buy button. The content became secondary, which allowed Amazon to win the mobile revolution.”
It is clear from what Kurzok explains as the big idea behind Amazon’s rapid growth that there were little to no opportunities for brands to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Initially, all you had was a title, a caption and a couple of bullet points.
There were three factors that gradually led Amazon to widen branding tools for sellers, one of them being meeting the sellers’ demands for having more space for personalized content. Secondly, with a growing number of sellers, some of good quality and some shady, there was an increasing push from manufacturers to adopt tools for brand management and brand control over their products sold by other sellers. The third reason was Amazon’s own desire to keep traffic on the marketplace, without redirecting buyers to online sellers’ individual websites or stores.
Out of this genesis, Storefront, Enhanced Brand Content (ECB), Headline Search Ads and Brand Registry evolved. Let’s have a look at each of these Amazon tools.
Branding tools on Amazon: Storefront, Enhanced Content and Search Ads
Storefront represents a true renaissance in brand building on Amazon, allowing sellers to bring as much personality in their content as they want, as well as creating a space they can use instead of having to build their own online store. To Amazon’s delight, brands using the Storefront feature do not need to drive traffic away from the site, in exchange for getting plenty of opportunities for personalized content, from photos and videos to texts, stories to visual design elements.
According to Kurzok, smaller retailers and private labels usually use only the most basic branding tools such as title, caption and bullet points, as these are free tools. The willingness to invest time and money into an enhanced content portfolio varies from seller to seller, though. “As soon as you earn a trademark, you can opt for Amazon Brand Registry. And once allowed by Amazon as a registered brand, everything from Storefront to Headline Search Ads is at your disposal,” Kurzok explains.
Enhanced Brand Content (ECB) gives you the possibility to have each product on the site customized to your liking, from pictures to videos, personalized texts and other visual elements. As the Amazon algorithm favours enhanced content tools, your personalized product site is more likely to pop up in the search than one from your competitor without Brand Registry.
Thirdly, you gain access to Headline Search Ads, something that can be simply described as more noticeable, as well as efficient PPC campaigns.
Brand Registry and protection over brand content on Amazon
The second important milestone in terms of branding on Amazon are tools allowing brands (manufacturers, for the most part) to take over the control of their products all throughout Amazon, meaning that if someone else (seller, reseller, distributor) offers their products, the brand owning Brand Registry can control the content connected to these products on an exclusive basis. More and more fashion, cosmetics and pharma brands use Brand Registry and this trend is expected to rise all throughout 2019 and 2020.
“As manufacturers, you can increase marketability and sales of your products, because Brand Registry makes you the only authority that creates, updates, controls and sells products from that brand, having the best presentation of your products in front of millions of shoppers in mind,” the founder of EXPANDO elaborates. “Overall, Brand Registry cultivates the whole e-commerce market.”
Who is Brand Registry (not) for?
Brand registry is not offered in all categories: books and DVDs do not fall under approved Brand Registry segments, for instance. Who will most benefit from registering their brand?
- Manufacturers selling their own unique products
- Private label sellers
- Distributors and resellers with authorization from the brand’s owner.
The process is simple, although it is not easy. First, you need to acquire a trademark for the EU market, which is an investment of about 1,000 Euros and three months of time that EUIPO (the European Union Intellectual Property Office) takes to consider every request. When you are granted the trademark, you are eligible to register at Amazon for Brand Registry. “Undergoing the process can be one of your best long-term investments – just be prepared for it to take time and effort. Amazon is infamous for returning documents for further adjustments, prolonging the process by months. We are usually able to help our sellers get the registry within four weeks,” Kurzok adds.
The moment you are granted Brand Registry, all enhanced content tools become available.
What is the future of branding on Amazon going to look like?
Since acquiring Brand Registry can be a big consumer of both time and money, it is likely that a company or seller would opt for such a tool only after reaching a certain size. “This trend is connected to the cultivation we spoke about earlier. While Amazon has historically attracted tons of freelance sellers, they are now increasingly starting to attract the biggest brands. Jeff Bezos’s mission is to become an omnichannel giant, not just in the online space, but throughout all the channels. To achieve this lofty goal, Amazon needs high-end brands to trust the marketplace. It is possible that entry will become harder and harder for smaller brands, but certainly not impossible, which we see among our successful sellers using the EXPANDO app,” Kurzok sums up.
Last but not least, we should also mention that branding or brand communication is not limited to the marketplace itself. You can always reinforce your brand’s good name and power (or fail to do so) via e-mailing, ads, social media as well as through customer care, PR, content creation or dealing with customers face to face in brick and mortar stores. Any communication from your side has a direct impact on how the end consumer sees and feels your brand.
In terms of branding, what challenges are you currently facing? Is there anything we can help out with by diving deeper into the topic and providing a comprehensive how-to guide? Let us know in the comments below.