E-commerce News and Insights
Mar 5, 2020

Brand Matters: How You Can Stand Out and Beat the Competition

So you have an e-commerce business.

You’re passionate about your product, excited to get it to your customers and grow your business.

But, like so many merchants in 2020, you’re wary of intense competition. Almost anything a consumer could possibly want is available at the tap of a finger through Prime. All the while, more new entrepreneurs are entering the space, creating an almost limitless supply of digital DTC merchants.

With millions of e-commerce brands in the market (yes, actually millions), how can you stand out?

Stop Thinking About Optimizing For Transactions—Start Building Lasting Relationships With Your Customers

In an increasingly competitive landscape, the emerging DTC winners will be those that establish strong brands that make lasting impressions.

But, how?

There are many opportunities for DTC merchants to strengthen their brand, but one core guiding principle, if followed, will give you an unfair advantage over the competition. Even better, it’s not rocket science and you don’t have to be a brand marketing guru to do it. 👀


Focus On Making Every Customer Interaction Unique and Memorable

This means every checkout flow, email confirmation, tracking update, unboxing experience, and even return process. Each is an opportunity to stand out and build a deeper relationship between your brand and customers.

Ask yourself, at each of these touch points, what are you doing to stand out? Are you providing extra value?

If you could swap your name and logo out for another and all else is the same, you’re missing out. Big time. But fear not, this means you have a big opportunity to make more sales, gain more loyal repeat customers, and gain a leg up on your competition.

Alrighty. Let’s take a look at how you can get started. But, real quick, before looking at some examples, it’s important to remember that these are just some opportunities. There are nearly endless opportunities to delight your customers and gain a leg up. Be creative! 

Tracking With Tunes 🎶

This example comes from our friends at VYNL. They have one of the best and most unique tracking emails in the industry. VYNL is a subscription service for records. Their secret sauce: in their tracking emails, they send customers a personalized link to a Spotify playlist with music from their incoming order.

Why it works (and why we love it): In a world where people are buying even the most basic goods like batteries, cleaning supplies, and even groceries online, tracking emails are a dime a dozen. VNYL elevates their brand by offering something completely unique and valuable for their customers. But, where VYNL really scores bonus points is the lasting impact. As their customers open up these playlists and listen to them during regular routines, VYNL’s brand stays top of mind on a regular basis. 

They’re All Just Cardboard Boxes, Right? 📦

Yes. And, no. Most of us know the experience of opening up a new box of shoes. Normally, there are logos and some kind of branding on the top. You open the lid, grab your new shoes, throw them on, and forget about the box. You’ve probably done this so many times that the experiences blend together, and while you may love a certain pair of shoes, the unboxing experiences all tend to blend together. 


This isn’t the case for Allbirds. Their boxes fold outwards to expose additional branding and two separate compartments. If you’ve ever purchased a pair, you probably distinctly remember the unboxing experience. It stands out as a unique experience and elevates All Birds as a brand above what consumers have come to expect.

Why it works (and why we love it): As consumers, we often have sky-high expectations. In most cases, brands struggle to simply meet our expectations. But, real magical and memorable moments happen when brands exceed our expectations. Fair play to Allbirds for capturing this magic in the unboxing experience.

Okay. If you’re thinking that these examples are expensive and hard to do, you’re not wrong. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve the same results. The core to this kind of success is delivering unique and memorable experiences. 

There are plenty of opportunities to do this without a large investment or significant technical skills.

Here’s an example that costs less than $0.01 per shipment. Literally one cent. And realistically, that might be rounding up.

All You Need is…a Slip of Paper 🖨

Yes, it can be that simple. Last year, admittedly after showing up quite a bit in my social feeds, I bought a bottle of hot sauce from TRUFF. All was straightforward enough: a black box with minimal branding enclosed in a larger brown one.

For a week or so, I put it on almost everything. I was hooked. And when my bottle ran dry, I knew I wanted to restock. Only this time, I figured I should stock up and buy a few more bottles.

So a few days later, I had a larger brown box with 3 smaller black boxes inside, each containing a bottle of hot sauce. The process went the same way. I opened the first bottle, and after inhaling it over a few days, I was ready for the second bottle.

Only this time, something different happened. 

I opened my second black box to find a piece of paper with a note from TRUFF. They had recognized me as a repeat customer and wanted to thank me for my business.

Why it works (and why we love it): This happened over 18 months ago (yes, I had to check my inbox to confirm exactly how far back) and I still vividly remember opening my hot sauce and finding the surprise note. In a digital age, where brands are constantly vying for our attention, lasting impressions are rare.

Here’s Another Secret: And You Can Do This One For Free

Think about an item description for a sweatshirt. It has materials, fit, maybe origin country. But in most cases, you could swap one description for another across thousands of merchants and you may not notice the difference.

This isn’t the case with our friends at Eterno. They go the extra mile to make their descriptions more impactful.

Why it works (and why we love it): Despite having bought more than my fair share of sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets, and other outwear, this product description stuck with me months after making the purchase. It’s also a great example of how you can give a little extra punch to your brand without spending any money. 

So, next time you’re thinking about a description for a new item in your store, keep this in mind. Focus on making your voice unique. The goal should be that when a visitor engages, they’re left with a memorable impression.

Inspired? Time To Figure Out What’s Right For Your Brand

There is no one size fits all solution. Yet, there are nearly infinite opportunities for you to forge stronger relationships with your customers. Every touchpoint is a new opportunity. It starts from the first moment a new visitor hits your site to the point they are a loyal repeat customer. Here are some prompts to help get you started.

First visit: Does your design stand out? Are they left with a memorable impression? 

Item view: How do you describe your items? Do your descriptions look like a copy-paste from another merchant? Or, are they truly unique and memorable?

Checkout: Are your customers left feeling confident about next steps? Are you doing anything to increase their excitement and anticipation? Maybe linking to helpful content.

Order confirmation and tracking: Are your emails unique and memorable? Or do they look like any other merchant? Think about adding something extra – fun content, a style guide, a fun fact about your industry or brand.

Packaging and unboxing: Are you delivering a magical moment or just another brown box? A great way to add emphasis is with custom packaging, assuming it’s in your budget. But, there are many ways to add extra personality that can be as simple as a quick and quirky thank you note.

Follow-up and customer retention: So you have an active customer, but what are you doing to keep your brand top of mind and retain them? This could be a rewards program, a special experience for repeat purchasers, or an email newsletter with valuable content.

If you’re still reading, congratulations—you have a leg up on your competition. And, thanks!

The good news (we hope) is that you’re excited to add a little more personality to your brand interactions.

Want to chat more about specifics for your business? Get in touch.

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Mario Paganini
likes running and eating vegetables. Previously worked at Shippo.

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