WebRef Update: Featured Article: Online Branding - Part 2
Online Branding: Developers and Designers Hold the Key
Creating Brand Loyalty
Here are some good ol' fashioned methods with a cybertwist that will work toward creating "brand loyalty" and a repeat visitor.
- Get 'em at the door. There are three questions which
immediately enter the mind of any user when popping into your home
page: What's in it for me? Can these people be trusted? Do they
know what they're doing? Through clear and appealing visuals and
copy you must immediately establish credibility. This is the
first step toward developing a healthy "relationship" with your
user. Make it inviting. Remember, these are people who are
trying to communicate with you. Brand the domain name so they'll
remember it; they're directions to the office or store. The
domain name should reflect the company name as closely as possible.
Here are a few good samples that offer a credible message, sell
their product and company, and visually address their intended
- Don't clutter the aisles. If you design a site that is
difficult or impossible to navigate, your user will turn around
and walk back out the door, or worse, never make it in. Ever go
to a department store and walk into a "Please use other door" sign?
Make those buttons a delight to look at and easy to figure out; they're your salespeople and clerks. A lost sale or visitor is often the result of not being able to get to the checkout with relative ease or find the information/service sought.
- Offer assistance - even if it's not asked for. Let those clerks
offer helpful suggestions about other products or services to buy,
or other information which might be of interest. The user can't be
expected to know your entire product or service line or to spend
the time looking for it.
- Personnel must be efficient, friendly, courteous. If your site
doesn't outdo the bricks and mortar version of the purchasing or
visiting experience, there'd be no point in the user coming.
Utilize the many comprehensive tools available to you: autorespond
thank-yous; follow-up email in the form of newsletters, sales, or
unique memberships. Offer incentives, sweepstakes or gifts of
some kind. Give the user a thousand reasons to feel right at home
and to come right back again. Make online contact information a
snap, and provide a place for complaints and suggestions.
- Develop a relationship, make the visit an experience. Generating
word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful components of any
branding strategy - online or off. Developing a solid relationship
with a user and helping them identify themselves as being a "friend"
or "preferred customer" of the company will ultimately generate
positive word-of-mouth offline. It can also be generated online.
Let users share their experiences through a chat room or forum of
some kind. Set up a message board where they can voice their
opinions or get an opinion before they buy a product or service.
Let them know that they as individuals, and their opinions, count.
- Be clear, informative and don't make false promises. There is
such a thing as "overpositioning" - making false statements or
setting up goals which are unattainable. Be realistic, give your
users accurate, up-to-date information about your services and
products. If it will take a week for shipping, say that. It will
do wonders for credibility. Also, provide easily-accessible
information should they need it or want it - like instructions on
how to put that model train together or recipes for their brand
- Listen to your customers and follow through. Study your
audience, measure where they're going and not going, and why. Web
pages should be created based on knowledge of a customer, and
product data can be pulled from your database based on that
individual. Customize as much as you possibly can. Don't
underestimate the value of "Welcome back, Joe," as a user revisits
a site. Solicit information, analyze it, and act accordingly.
- Practice what you preach. The site you develop must accurately reflect a company's core values. Are they trusting, helpful? The caring provider of all providers? If it professes to offer high- end solutions with the customer in mind, the site must execute that successfully throughout the user's entire experience - from start to finish, and then after the sale or visit. Remember, this is an ongoing relationship and it's your responsibility to maintain it on the Web.
Whether you're programming, coding, or designing for the Web, you are an integral part of the process of branding - for companies both large and small. In a split second, a consumer will reach for what they know and trust. You help build that trust. Your Web site may be the only contact or experience a user has with the company, so offer them a worthwhile and lasting one. Build it so they WILL come. Brand like you never thought you would.
About the Author:
Wanda Cummings is a 20-year veteran of visual communications and marketing. She and her two colleagues offer a wide range of comprehensive solutions through their innovative company, Creative Solutions Design & Marketing.
Previous: Branding: What and Why
Revised: April 28, 2000