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The Building Blocks of a Successful E-Commerce Site: Cell Wellness

January 12, 2011

When we first encountered Cell Wellness, it was still a burgeoning brand, characterized by a smattering of disjointed brand components: a logo, a few product prototypes, a working product list, and a folder of supporting scientific data—most of which was too complicated for even the most discerning and informed consumer. The original packaging didn’t tell us much, and while the company founders could describe their products—and the value thereof—in scientific terms, they were having trouble doing so in a way that would speak to the average consumer.

While Cell Wellness’s brand and products are unique, their marketing goals are no doubt shared by any online retailer whose online store is not only the brand’s primary commerce center, but also its messaging home base. In particular, they wanted to stand apart in a packed marketplace (in this case, supplements and wellness), create a user-friendly experience, encourage specific buying behaviors, and create buyer loyalty, all with an online store and with the aid of the best ecommerce platform that truly embodies the brand.

We recommend taking the following steps when embarking on the development of any brand and its online presence (commerce-driven or not):

Understand the Brand
While we sensed the energy of the yet-to-be-developed site—green-ish, healthy, active—we didn’t want to limit our audience with overly targeted messaging. After a marathon brainstorming session and a lot of whiteboard ink (my favorite), we narrowed Cell Wellness down to its four essentials: Longevity, Endurance, Vitality and Wellness. With or without the rest of the site, any shopper would understand the basics of Cell Wellness.

Stripping a brand down to its essence provides the framework on which to build the site and future marketing and public relations campaigns. If you can’t tell your brand’s story, or at least its purpose, in 3-5 sentences or less, you might want to reconsider moving forward.

Tell the Story
These days, many companies bring with them a good story that can cut through dry marketing tactics and reach the consumer on an emotional level. While in the past these stories may have been seen as “folksy” or unnecessary, they are now a crucial part of a brand’s image. What’s Ben and Jerry’s without Ben and Jerry?

Fortunately for us, the Cell Wellness story includes Bear Walker, an Earth Medicine Practitioner and the grandson of a medicine man from the Anishinabe Native American tribe, and John Wood, the grass-fed guru of U.S. Wellness Meats. Each man brought an interesting background, colorful stories and the experience on which to build Cell Wellness.

Seek out your company’s story—the people behind the brand, the “why are we doing this?”, the epiphanies—that will strike a chord with consumers and hone the message into a well-told story with a beginning, middle and end (and a point).

Content
Whether or not they know it, consumers who visit e-commerce sites are looking for content that confirms their reasons for buying. For Cell Wellness, content was derived from extensive research into plant properties, supplements and alternative medicine. Transforming the scientific jargon into, well, English, was crucial to making the site consumer friendly. [Even better? I’m now confident that I understand the benefits of Indonesian yams, humic acid and kudzu (best for hangovers) better than your average person.]

A FAQ section—particularly if the content is complex, involves shipping or tends to elicit a lot of confusion—is a helpful one-stop shop for most consumers’ questions. FAQs also add a layer of self-help customer service to a website, which empowers consumers and allows a company’s customer service team to handle other concerns.

New media content, like YouTube videos (in this case produced by the client), can offer consumers another way to understand and experience the value of the products.

The Feel
Designer Chad transformed our aforementioned brainstorming session into a website with a clean, healthy look and incorporated the ideas set forth by the logo (action, nature, fitness). The earth tones evoke the “natural” side of the products and the men-and-women-in-action photos promise a healthier lifestyle.

Enlisting a seasoned designer with a keen eye for brand-appropriate style will tie the entire site together.

And in the end…

When all was said and done, the Cell Wellness site came together rich in content, quality and design. Our brainstorming sessions, research and taste testing (did I not mention that?) were well worth the time we allotted to them and provided us with a look into the world of supplements.

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