Retail branding: How can it improve your e-commerce business?

Nick A. | March 25, 2022
9 mins

The prevalence of online shopping has transformed how people engage with retail stores. In 2020, 18% of all worldwide retail sales were online, and that number is poised to grow. For brick-and-mortar retailers, the focus on retail branding should uplift and enhance online offerings alongside the in-person experience. Essentially, retail branding asks the question: How can my business identity stand out among the crowd? As such, many retailers look to elements they can control, such as their brand’s visual identity, website, marketing campaigns, and other strategies to increase the effectiveness of their branding.

What is retail branding?

Retail branding is the strategy used by stores to differentiate themselves from competitors. For example, the trademark orange and pink bubble-letter font of Dunkin’ at a highway rest stop lets you know that reasonably-priced coffee and donuts await. 

But the booming e-commerce landscape presents new challenges for retail branding. With more choices now than ever before and the ability to shop from the comfort of your sofa at all hours of the day, retailers are fighting to stand out in a digital sea of competition they never quite experienced before. How can smaller retailers leverage their branding to improve their e-commerce business?

e-commerce using card
Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

Why is retail branding important?

In a world of endless options for the same product or service, branding helps to define your shop as a unique destination. The power of your brand can help sway a customer’s decision. In fact, 90% of customers cite brand loyalty as one of the reasons why they make a purchase. And when numerous alternatives are available faster or cheaper at the click of a button, that sense of brand loyalty will make a significant difference in your bottom line. 

When it comes to your retail branding online, it’s not just about winning new customers in a crowded market — it’s bringing current ones into your online space, too. Identifying the reasons why customers come to your brick-and-mortar location provides a great foundation for shaping the e-commerce experience, whether that’s through stellar customer service, a wide array of products, or special deals that they could previously secure in person.

5 benefits of retail branding

  • It creates visual consistency. One of the biggest challenges of moving “IRL” into the digital realm is ensuring that both the in-person and online elements of your brand are speaking to customers in similar ways. Your retail branding is key to that, so be sure to carry over the same colors, patterns, messages, and other branding elements to uphold a consistent experience from one medium to the next. And if it’s time for a refresh before you move forward, Namecheap’s Logo Maker makes it easy to build an eye-catching and memorable logo for your store for free.
  • It helps build relationships with your customers. Your brand goes beyond your logo and colors, although those are certainly essential to identifying your company. Adhering to your branding helps shape relationships that keep customers coming back to your shop both in person and online.
  • It keeps you ahead of the competition. Retail branding gives your business a competitive edge by keeping it relevant in the public eye. In an increasingly crowded market, you need to take advantage of opportunities to get creative and find ways to stand head and shoulders above other options.
  • It helps customers recognize you. Customers who find you online may recognize your branding because they’ve passed your storefront, seen your billboard, or come across a flyer advertising a sale. Thanks to strong retail branding, that memory will carry over into the digital realm and help potential (and current) customers recognize you in a whole new arena.
  • It helps you appeal to the right customers. As much as you might like everyone on the internet to buy from you, the fact is that simply isn’t possible. And that’s okay! This is why it’s so important to build a retail brand that plays to your strengths and your ideal customer base. Using color psychology, the logic behind logo shapes, and other visual branding tactics, you can tailor your brand to appeal to the demographic most likely to buy your products and roll out that branding both in store and online. For example, organic shapes draw from nature, so you may want to utilize a tree or a leaf in your brand if you’re appealing to eco-conscious consumers.

The best tips for successful retail branding in e-commerce

Now that you know all the good stuff that can come from retail branding, it’s time to apply these tactics to ensure a smooth experience on your website. These tips can help you get started on successfully implementing your brick-and-mortar retail branding experience in the digital arena. 

1. Start with a strong idea.

Pivoting into the digital marketplace requires a strong foundation. If you think your brand could use a bit of a facelift, or if you never solidified how your brand’s visual identity and voice are carried out in the public eye, now is the time!

Before your e-commerce pivot, standardize your brand’s look and feel with a brand style guide. This is your go-to reference document that keeps your brand consistent, so anyone on your team (or outside your team) can accurately craft an effective social media post or draft a great email campaign in a way that’s visually similar to your in-store signage. Speaking of a brand style guide…

2. Be consistent in store and online.

With retail transcending the physical and diving into digital, a retailer must maintain consistency on their e-commerce sites, too. While there will certainly be online exclusives or in-store only promotions, the overall experience of interacting with your brand should be similar both IRL and online. If you have minimal decor in your store, consider a minimally designed website. Alternatively, if your brick-and-mortar location is flush with pink hues and glitter, you’d do best to translate that design language into your online identity.

3. Harness the power of color.

When you think of your brand, how do you feel, and how do you want others to feel about it? This is where color comes into play.

As we mentioned earlier in this guide, there’s a psychology behind the power of colors, and big brands know this. While we all have different associations with colors, there are some universal emotions that are closely linked to particular hues. For instance, brighter colors like yellow spark happier emotions, and red may invoke hunger. No wonder the McDonald’s Golden Arches feature yellow on a red background!

Similarly, colors come to be strongly tied to the brands that use them. Customers recognize the “T-Mobile fuschia,” for example, and T-Mobile utilizes the power of that association in both in-store and online applications. You’ll see this trademark bright pink on its signage inside stores and throughout the T-Mobile website — an impactful way to tie together both customer touchpoints.

4. Prep your website for in-store inquiries.

When you’re a business owner, you have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Now more than ever, customers do their homework before they buy. As a result, even if they’re in the physical location of your store, they’ll probably Google it right there. Prepare for this eventuality by offering a content-rich experience on your website. Whether that’s through how-to videos for using your product, an FAQ page, or positive reviews about the product, using engaging content and search engine optimization (SEO) best practices on your website can decrease the possibility that a searcher buys from a competitor instead.

5. Get creative with your use of technology.

Launching your online store is just the beginning of the ways to implement your retail branding in the digital sphere. A slew of new and emerging technologies can reinforce your brand values and positioning online while standing right there in a brick-and-mortar location.

Two technologies already gaining traction in retail include:

  • Geofencing: This technology delivers content to a potential customer when they enter a certain area. You can use geofencing to deliver an ad to your customer when they’re within a block of your store, for example. As a bonus, you can use the data from geofencing campaigns to build a better customer profile.
  • Virtual reality: Woo customers with an unforgettable experience that melds their in-store experience with digital tools. Virtual reality (VR) can be put to creative use to help increase sales and generate buzz around your brand. Nike’s NYC Speed Shop took tech use in retail to another level with a whole floor of the store that implements data to stock its shelves based on customer demand.

6. Make it personal.

Remember those name keychains that you’d get on vacation as a kid? You’d scour the rotating rack to find your name — or maybe you’d glance at the shelves in vain, knowing that your name was nowhere to be found. Similarly, consumers enjoy experiences even more when they’re personalized. 

When Coca-Cola released the campaign “Share a Coke” in 2011, it added the novelty of personalization — the ability to see your name on a bottle or can of Coke. Of course, because it’s all about sharing, you want to get a bottle for your friend with their name on it, too. And thanks to its website, if a customer can’t find their name or a friend’s name on a label in the store, they can customize a label, expanding the possibilities beyond the limitations of store shelves.

Take inspiration from Coke and make it personal. While you may not need to offer every name in the world on a soda label, you can take simple steps to personalize the experience with your customers. Begin with email marketing campaigns or text message marketing campaigns that address your customer by the name they provided at sign-up. 

Move your retail branding online

With the rapid adoption of e-commerce in sectors large and small alike, retail brands have an opportunity to shine — even among a sea of competitors. One surefire way to retain brand loyalty and continue to reach new customers is to develop consistent branding and explore ways to bring the experience of your company into an online experience. Whether you continue your phenomenal customer service online or you want to introduce digital experiences in your shop, on-point branding is essential to ensuring your efforts stick. If you need help updating your brand’s identity for the web, you might want to check out Namecheap’s Visual Maker suite, which helps to simplify branding across website design, logo design, and even business card creation.


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Nick A.

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.

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