What’s the Deal with Branding in Online Retail?
We often tend to limit the idea of competition in the Indian online marketplace as that between the big online retail channels like Flipkart and Amazon. In fact, the real competition in online marketplaces takes place within the sales channel, between individual sellers. Earlier this year, Amazon claimed that it had acquired 1 lakh sellers on its roster. The figures of Flipkart and Snapdeal are in the same ballpark.
It is true that a large chunk of sales of both Flipkart and Amazon India come from their respective wholesale subsidiaries, but the changes in the FDI regulations done earlier this year by the Indian government will force the both to downsize WS Retail and Cloudtail Solutions respectively. In any case, the question remains that in a situation of such massive, robust competition, how can sellers distinguish themselves?
Online sales channels provide one solution to this question in the form of seller ratings. But a rating can never equate one’s identity. To truly differentiate themselves from the existing competition, sellers have to establish their independent identity. The process of doing so is known as branding. Let’s take a closer look at how to establish your identity in the marketplace.
What a Brand Really Means?
Branding as we know it is about the image of the product – its look and feel, its logo, its identity. But there is an older, more straightforward meaning to the word. Farmers would ‘brand’ cattle by marking their skin with a hot iron symbol. The ownership of cattle then was identified by its brand. This provides an important lesson about branding – it was a way of demarcating ownership. Think about this in terms of an iPhone and an Android – our brands too are carried on our bodies wherever we go. We wear our brands. Therefore, like fashion, brands have to be relevant to the market they target.
Branding in Online Retail
Branding and its relationship with sales poses an important problem to the small and medium retailers doing online retail. The problem is that the online retail channel generally does not leave enough room for sellers to be able to brand their businesses. We talk about ‘buying from Amazon’ rather than buying from a particular seller, and the seller’s identity gets subsumed within that of the sales channel. This leads to a product focused business strategy, which prefers immediate profits over long term growth. As we pointed out earlier, the seller’s identity is reduced to a five-star rating.
As opposed to this, a seller can use a brand focused business strategy, which allows them to think of the growth of the company without the restrictions imposed by the sales channels. Ankit Agarwal of www.humpteedumptee.in calls traditional marketplace selling the ‘illusion of growth’, because the seller is solely focused on boosting the volume of sales, which has a limit considering the competition within the marketplace. His advice, therefore, is to focus on brand-building rather than mining for immediate profits.
How to Build a Brand?
Branding becomes a question of increasing complexity in today’s time because of the media that we consume. By now, brands have become pretty much living things, in that they personify certain emotions. Apple reminds us of simplicity and perfectionism. Nike is a symbol of energy and athleticism and Coke makes us think about good times. These brands fit perfectly within our culture, and some of them, in fact, are at the center of cultural movements.
Therefore, it is important to realise that the better idea sellers have of the consumers of their brand, the better brands they can create. Social media presents avenues to display brands in action. In fact, we can even think of Twitter handles as brands in themselves! Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that branding is an ongoing process. It requires continuous time, effort and imagination which can take your business to newer heights.
To know more about branding, get in touch with Browntape. We are India’s leading ecommerce experts, and we are always happy to help!