One of the biggest challenges that e-commerce businesses face when trying to build a brand is that they often have no way to connect with customers offline. They run businesses with no storefront, no inventory warehouse in some cases, and for SaaS companies, no physical product to speak of.
While social media, PPC, and SEO all play a massive role in marketing an e-commerce business, there is much to be said about building an offline connection as well. Consumers have to see or interact with a brand up to seven times before they are able to remember or recognize it. And thanks to the millions of internet users with ad blocking built into their browsers, lots of online advertising space is totally useless.
In order to increase the number of interactions customers have with your brand and boost engagement levels all around, online companies must be creative in their offline branding strategies.
Let’s discuss some easy but highly creative ways to do so.
Use Social Media for Exclusive Experiences
Of course, social media is all about building engagement with customers – but you can easily use this platform to take those connections offline through creative promotions. One of the most common reasons why a person will follow a brand on social media is to learn about promotions, products, or simply to be entertained.
Using social media to connect with customers one-on-one and market, promote, or even plan real life meet ups is a great way to build up your Instagram audience and Facebook following with meaningful engagement incentives. So, look for ways to offer these experiences in an exciting and unique way that gets them talking offline.
One way to do this is to offer exclusive features that only your social media followers can access, such as a promo code or early access to a sale. For example, Zappos shared an exclusive coupon code that only their Facebook followers could use.
You may even want to only offer these codes within your Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat story so that only truly engaged customers will know about these deals.
Try an In-Person Experience
Customers like to see, taste, touch, and try on merchandise before making a purchase, but this obviously is not possible when it comes to online shopping. While e-commerce is certainly a growing industry, 64% of American consumers prefer to shop in-store so that they can check out the items in-person before buying.
Hosting a pop-up experience by creating a temporary storefront is a great way for brands to provide their customers a hands-on experience.
It can also be great for PR, too, as was the case for Kylie Jenner’s pop-up shop. Her cosmetic line had only existed on her website, but Kylie wanted to offer her fans the chance to try out the products in real life.
Although the shop was only temporary, it created lots of buzz online and attracted thousands of customers and gave many fans an experience they would never forget.
Many e-commerce stores can benefit from trying this offline experience (perhaps on a smaller scale, depending on the budget) by opening a popup within another store or during an event. The important thing here is to create a physical representation of your website, so stay true to color schemes and overall aesthetic as much as possible to establish branding.
Think Way Outside the Box
Marketing does not have to be boring advertisements or commercials. In fact, more creative strategies, often called guerrilla marketing tactics, are often highly effective ways to grab consumer attention at a very low cost.
There are no rules or limits (besides remaining within legal mandates) when it comes to this kind of marketing. Some brands have drawn logos or graffiti-like branded artwork on the sides of buildings or created public installments to get people talking.
Your creativity is the only limitation when it comes to guerrilla tactics. The key is to, of course, incorporate your branded content clearly so people understand the message.
Sponsor an Event or Get-Together
Another way to get involved and connected with your customers in real life is by hosting an event to bring them all together. This can be done by getting involved with other brands to help sponsor something like a fund-raiser, 5k, or trade show, or hosting a party on your own.
Customers like to purchase from brands that support good causes, such as charities and non-profits. In fact, 33% of consumers think that brands should support a positive message or institution, and 63% of this group have also purchased from companies because they give to a charitable cause.
Supporting a non-profit event or donating funds to charity should not be done solely to attract customers, but it is a great way to build brand loyalty. It is also a great way for smaller businesses to get involved with their community through sponsored events, which may attract more customers who want to support a good cause.
Create Memorable Free Merch
Hearing the word “free” is music to a customer’s ears, but often the free branded merchandise that businesses had out are less than memorable. Boring pens with a business logo or a plain keychain don’t do much to build brand recognition, and a plain business card is not likely to leave a lasting impression, either.
There are tons of ideas out there for inspiration when it comes to creating branded merch to give away. One thing that can really make the product stand out is by relating to your company’s product or industry, like this bike repair shop did with their business card below.
Not only does it include the company information, the card is also a handy multi-tool that customers would actually be able to use.
Again, these items are all about branding, branding, branding! Make sure that your logo or business information is clearly listed on any merchandise you make. Creating an item that consumers will either find useful, clever, or innovative will also help your brand to stick out in their minds down the road.
When it comes to offline branding, there is no limit to how creative or innovative you can get. There are loads of opportunities to market your online business in the “real world” by providing fun and engaging experiences for your customers.
Not only can you increase recognition and awareness through these tactics, but you can also do some good and offer your audience something truly unique and special along the way.
About the author
Vishalsinh Mahida is Content Marketing Analyst at E2M inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in White Label Services for Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. He has previously assisted top brands like Axis Bank, Fox Star, IIFL, and more in implementing several customer engagement strategies