It’s undeniable that technology has impacted the way we build brands. The good news about the digital age is that it’s a lot cheaper and less risky to launch a business to consumer business because you can move past traditional retail distribution channels.
The bad news is that competition is fierce and everyone has access to the same information through the Internet from anywhere on Earth. Much lower barriers to entry have led to more than half a billion active websites clamoring for attention.
Regardless of the implications of the digital age, there are three golden rules to make your business rise above the noise and succeed:
Innovators are often focused on creating the “next big thing,” but innovation can also happen by focusing on making a current market better.
For example, the multi-billion-dollar hair-color industry is dominated by big brands with relatively little innovation. There are two solutions to coloring your hair: go to the salon and shrink the size of your wallet, or try to do it yourself and hope it turns out like you want it to.
Madison Reed saw an opportunity to disrupt the market by improving on these concepts with its novel, tech-based solution. The company combines the salon and do-it-yourself experience by home delivering its products and offering an on-demand Color Crew to help guide customers through the process.
By focusing on the needs of its customers and recognizing the lack of momentum in the market, Madison Reed was able to pull ahead of legacy competitors and even more ahead of its customer’s expectations of the hair coloring experience and the products themselves.
Innovating the product to one that goes beyond a customer’s expectations is another key component to building a brand, which leads me to the next rule.
Innovating the product through price point, features, or qualities, is the next major rule to finding success. When people think of product, they often think of the physical item itself. However, the supply chain and pricing can be just as critical in developing a brand online.
Take Casper Sleep for example. Casper Sleep saw an opportunity to provide consumers with something everyone wants: a good night’s rest. It innovated a common product–the mattress–by removing retail costs and re-engineering the supply chain. The company discovered that they could deliver a high quality foldable mattress, made with hand-selected fabrics, for three times less than what it would cost in a store, and deliver it to a customer’s door in a small, portable box.
Because they focused on creating a product superior to its competitors and implementing a simple delivery and set-up method, Casper’s customer expectations of mattress quality and delivery standards have been refreshed.
Its free 40-night trial also innovates the experience of buying a mattress, which leads me to the third rule.
Innovating the experience can be done through the customer’s interaction with your website and with the actual consumption of your products.
Warby Parker has changed the way its customers think about buying and trying on prescription eyewear. Its Web-based technology enables users to download and virtually try on eyewear, diminishing the need to choose from the limited options at your optometrist and find what you like faster. It also provides a home try-on service, which includes a package of five pairs to test out, and allows for customers to ship back the pairs they don’t like for free.
Netflix and Hulu have also dramatically changed the consumption of their product in the entertainment industry. These companies are known for changing the way consumers watch movies and television and building brands as major stakeholders in television. These companies are so well-known for giving their customers the experience they want that a new expectation of on-demand, original content has emerged, which has proved to be Emmy worthy.
Because of the emphasis on improving and changing the way customer’s think they should experience a product, these companies have succeeded in building their brands and reimagined an entire market.
Building a brand is a constant battle of keeping up with customer expectations while also staying innovative and ahead of the competition. Following these three golden rules will help your brand break through to your audience and succeed in even the noisiest market.
—Jeff Crowe is managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners.