Your ecommerce site is your prime opportunity to educate customers about your brand and convince them of its value.

It’s also a great opportunity to convince your customers to buy direct from you instead of third-party channels such as Amazon which will demand its slice of customer lifetime value and dilute your brand equity in the process.

With 48% of all online US product searches starting on Amazon you can see the kind of competition owned online site experiences are up against.

For instance, Amazon has nailed the following customer-pleasing aspects of ecommerce:

  • Personalisation – for example, tailored product recommendations and a user-specific homepage allowing you to ‘pick up where you left off’ with previously viewed items
  • Easy checkout
  • User-generated reviews
  • Merchant-generated product information.

So how can brands up their game when designing or relaunching their own website channels? The simple answer is they need to differentiate themselves from the competition and be bursting with creativity, ideas and confidence. In my experience, when creative and marketing people are involved in new website design and development the end product is more exciting and not nearly so rigid.

Here, are five top tips to ensure your ecommerce site surprises and delights your customers and stands out from the crowd:

Create a community of like-minded individuals your customer will relish joining

Video camera company GoPro has created a brand that’s synonymous with action and adventure, so the firm’s decision to showcase customers’ user-generated footage on its website homepage fits the bill perfectly. The customer video footage showcases a highly aspirational mix of exotic, often adrenalin-fuelled adventure that neatly showcases their Hero7 camera, perfectly tapping into their brand’s customer promise. If a customer takes nothing else from their first hit of the GoPro homepage, its that the Hero7 is a vital part of a truly adventurous, life-affirming community.

Compare GoPro’s approach with the more sedate but nevertheless compelling world of quality pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen. With its emphasis on homespun goodness and environmental stewardship it’s really giving consumers compelling reasons to relate to and buy into its brand. ‘Lilyland’ content focused on pet care, the brand’s story and explaining ‘proper food for pets’ gives consumers further reasons to align themselves with the brand, justify the elevated price point and belong to its community of ethical, loving, pet parents.

Offer your customers compelling original content on the subjects they love

GoPro may offer great user-generated content, but premium cycle brand Rapha takes the medal for carefully curated brand-generated content. It’s website positively brims with quality longform articles and features, clearly differentiating Rapha from its competitors. It’s ‘stories’ section is populated with the kind of journalism you would expect from a leading cycling magazine let alone a clothing and accessories brand. First-hand report of riding with a pro-team, a cycling travelogue and the joys of off-road cycling that give just the most fleeting of nods to Rapha products exemplify the art of consumer content marketing and give customers a compelling reason to re-visit the site time and time again.

Give customers actionable insights and advice from your in-house experts

Shirt specialist Charles Tyrwhitt has realised its customers often need help finding the perfect clothing fit and what to wear when attending a formal occasion. It’s online ‘What to wear to a wedding guide’, for example shares vital information about dress codes ranging from traditional and black tie to formal and relaxed. Whereas its virtual ‘Fit Guide’ explains the subtle intricacies of buying garments in the right shape, size and cut. Customers often need this kind of help in-store, so it seems only natural that Charles Tyrwhitt leverages the great experience and expertise of its people on line.

Don’t be shackled by conventional, boxy website design

Sometimes it pays to surprise and even shock customers online if you think they’ll appreciate the experience. Fashion brand Off-White, for example, attempts to creates its own parallel world where only those ‘in the know’ feel at home. The website isn’t supposed to fit in with the standard expectations of what an ecommerce site is supposed to be like. This is clear from its 13-minute homepage runway video which is intercut with psychedelic images. It’s a fashion ecommerce website where the focus is first and foremost on fashion rather than commerce, and it’s a perfect fit for devotees of the next big trend.

Offer your website customers a real-world experience

Nike+ Run Club is a great example of a digital retail experience turned physical. As the name suggests Nike+ Run Club is an online club for runners who use the shoe firm’s activity tracking solution. On its website Nike running products sit alongside training plans, ‘how-to’ guides, a ‘find a run club’ search tool and inspirational content about professional Nike athletes. Nike seamlessly blurs the boundary between physical and digital, giving customers ample reasons and opportunities to buy and use its products…and feel great about them.

Samuel Cane

Samuel Cane


Samuel Cane is Creative Director at Astound Commerce.