Branding is just as vital to a marketplace as finding the right sellers, measuring the right metrics, or choosing the right revenue model. Whilst there is no single consensus on the definition of marketplace branding, a marketplace’s brand can be thought of as the personality that identifies the business. Branding is the marketplace’s image in the eyes of the world. It covers not only its visual appearance (logo or website) but also the marketplace’s voice in content, how it interacts with the world, and how it manages its social media accounts. It is the character and values its customers think of when they hear its name.
Why is branding even important? Brand positioning helps customers quickly understand what a marketplace is about, what it can offer them, and how it stands out from other competitors, such as other marketplaces or online stores. It shows the marketplace’s unique selling point compared to other stores. In addition, according to 77% of marketers, branding is an essential ingredient of future growth. Marketplaces that don’t focus on branding will struggle to engage their audience and maintain trusting relationships in the face of fierce competition. Therefore, it is important to take the time to understand your target audience, identify your brand’s values and position and to develop a strategy on how to communicate this well to your customers.
As you start to develop your branding, it is crucial to fully understand your product and your target audience, and think about what kind of brand you want your marketplace to be. For example, Tophatter, an auction marketplace for businesses looking to eliminate excess inventory, knows what kind of brand it is: magical, affordable and dependable. Their success is due to their unique brand strategy and core values that are tailor-made for their niche audience (millennials). As a result, what was an unheard-of startup marketplace now has an estimated annual revenue of $96 million and remains profitable: evidence of the power of branding.
Establishing a strong brand is especially paramount to the success of niche marketplaces (e.g. hyper-vertical and hyper-local marketplaces). These marketplaces need to build robust brands that resonate with the niche audience they target.
Below, we outline the key steps of how a marketplace can use branding to stand out from the competition.
1. Define Brand Values
The first step in branding is positioning the marketplace. What is its mission statement? What does the brand stand for? What is the purpose of the marketplace and how will it affect the world? Users are far more likely to want to interact with a brand and stay loyal to it if it has values they can engage with. The numbers say it all:
64% of customers say that brand values are the reason they stick with a brand.
According to a Boston Consulting Group study, customers identify authenticity as the most attractive trait a brand can have.
48% of millennials prefer brands that actively support social causes.
By defining brand values, a marketplace will also gain loyal customers that engage with the brand on a deeper level through the values it stands for. Indeed, the top 1% of loyal customers will spend 5x more than the other 99% of customers. Accordingly, it is important for marketplaces to spend enough time identifying their values. An effective approach would be to gather a team and define what the marketplace’s brand is all about. A clear and engaging mission is vital.
2. Define The Audience
In order to define the optimal communication strategy for a marketplace, it is key to evaluate its audience. A marketplace is a community of buyers and sellers, so the marketplace must be able to cater to both of them. What kind of people or businesses sell and buy in the marketplace? What problems or pain points are they looking to solve?
By defining an audience, a marketplace is able to pinpoint the exact traffic it wants to attract. General traffic is far less valuable than the right, specific kind of traffic. Therefore, a marketplace should aim communications at a target audience that shares the values it has defined above.
A helpful way to better define an audience is to create a fictional profile of the buyers and sellers and try to include as much information about them as possible. By giving a persona a name, age, likes, dislikes, worries and passions, the audience comes to life. This profile can be created using data collected about the people that interact with the marketplace via audience insights, data gathering and customer feedback.
3. Execute A Marketing & Communication Strategy
Once the values and audience are clear, it is time to develop the brand in order to implement an effective marketplace marketing and communication strategy. To do this successfully, marketplaces must consider how they will execute their marketing strategy for both the supply and demand side. As each side might use distinct channels, message and tone of voice, different skills and resources might be required to communicate with them effectively. Additionally, it is important to know what messages resonate well with each audience. In general, to reach its audience successfully, a marketplace must know what its Unique Selling Point (USP) is. This is the competitive advantage a marketplace offers to its audience.
Interact With The Audience
With 74% of adults now active on social media, a brand needs to be present there too. Whereas B2C marketplaces tend to use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, B2B marketplaces typically engage their audiences through LinkedIn and Twitter. However, regardless of the channels used, the brand message must stay consistent across all of them to avoid confusion. Customers will expect an equally high standard of communication and experience if they journey from the marketplace website to its Instagram and Facebook pages. When the marketplace knows its audience, it will know where to find them. For instance, Airbnb began finding its audience through Craigslist, where people would search for lodging. Each marketplace must identify what works best for its niche.
Social media is also increasingly the home of customer service. While it might be hard to dedicate resources into customer care in the early stages of a marketplace, it is important to regularly monitor marketplace accounts and social media mentions (also hashtags and keywords) and be quick to respond. Nearly 80% of users who complain about a brand on Twitter expect a response in under an hour.
4. Create & Engage A Marketplace Brand Community
A loyal customer base can eventually turn into a vibrant community of buyers and sellers which is great for business. In fact, nearly 80% of companies believe that an online community significantly improves brand exposure and credibility. To boost the formation of a brand community, a marketplace can start discussion threads and get the conversation going among its customers. We recommend highlighting user stories on the marketplace’s page and rewarding highly engaged users. Ultimately, a brand’s community will be the powerhouse of the marketplace brand.
Once the marketplace has an established brand community, it must engage with its members on a regular basis by creating useful content for them. Of course, the exact type of content that performs best will depend on your buyer persona. For instance, if the target is an end consumer, the marketplace might use high-virality/engagement content, such as videos, tutorials or quizzes. On the other hand, if the target is a business, it might be better to focus on infographics, guides and blog posts. While content is a great inbound marketing tool, it is also a chance to engage and give back to the brand community. The more you help your customers with your content, the more loyal they will be to your marketplace brand.
In order for content to add value and beat competitors’ efforts, the marketplace must listen to its members and pay attention to audience and community insights. Furthermore, it should ask its community for feedback, respond to all queries, and interact with them on a personal level. The information obtained from these interactions should be used as a basis for future content creation. While online stores gain most of their profit from loyal customers, there is more than money at play. Building a genuine connection with your community through high-quality content will help a marketplace better meet their needs and expectations, reduce support costs, and will ultimately turn customers into brand advocates.
Making Sense of it All
On the road to a successful marketplace brand, you need to pinpoint your own unique offering and who you want to sell it to. It is important to leverage social media, build a community and keep in touch with the audience through constant interaction. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that a branding strategy may evolve as the marketplace and its community does. Branding is a journey that should be taken step by step.