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Customer Happiness Circle 3: Brand belonging and your online store

Customer Happiness Circle 3: Brand belonging and your online store

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Welcome to the Customer Happiness Circle – our blog series with Johannes Altmann! This episode is about the third element for long-term success in ecommerce: brand belonging. Here you'll learn how to make your online store your customer's favorite and thereby strengthen your customer loyalty.

In my previous posts for this Shopware Customer Happiness Circle series, I’ve been looking at the Customer Happiness Pyramid. At the bottom, underpinning the whole structure, we have Products + Price + Availability. The product the customer is looking for must be available in the store and priced at an acceptable level. In the next layer up, we have “cognitive ease”, which is the result of straightforward usability and the good user experience that customers are looking for. Today I want to look at what’s at the top of the pyramid in more detail – attractiveness!


The Customer Happiness Pyramid by Shoplupe

We can determine the attractiveness of an online store by assessing whether it: 

  • Feels welcoming
  • Has appeal
  • Offers an enjoyable experience
  • Looks good
  • Encourages brand affinity

All these criteria are totally subjective and therefore depend on the target group and the individual users. The users, however, are often unable to say why they choose one store over another, or where they feel they belong. The choice is based primarily on the result of good marketing, perfect customer communication, and meeting customer needs – plus, of course, the customer’s personal experience of the brand or store. 


Many customers are not consciously aware of why they prefer certain online stores.

It’s crucial that you work on attractiveness if your store is to give customers that sense of belonging and earn its place in the customers’ “relevant set”. We’ve always called these stores “category killers”. They’re the most attractive stores in the product category. Every user who is interested in fashion will probably have Zalando or About You in their relevant set. For cyclists it will be bike24, fahrrad.de or Rose, and for anyone who’s into home improvement it will be the big DIY stores. 

We carried out a study to ask users whether they had a favorite store. The results were surprising. None of those who took part could pick out one particular “favorite store” off the top of their heads. The only name that came up fairly quickly was Amazon, presumably because it’s easily associated with online retail.

Without any real need or a link to a product category, there is no favorite and no “relevant set”. The only names that came up repeatedly were of brick-and-mortar businesses, because people like visiting Oberpollinger or Lodenfrey in Munich, Breuninger in Stuttgart, and Alterhaus in Hamburg. These examples embody the attributes welcoming, appealing, enjoyable, and good-looking. You enjoy the overall experience of visiting these stores – whether you’re just browsing or really looking to buy. 


What we’re dealing with here is customers’ subjective perception. If you want to know how your online store is doing, there’s no getting around a customer perception test. Get them to tell you what they associate with the store, how they perceive it, and whether it provides an attractive experience. 

How does a category killer come about?

But you already have a blueprint of how to become a category killer. It’s identical to the Customer Happiness Pyramid we drew up. Who best meets customer wishes in the long term? In other words, who is offering the right product at the right price, instantly available? Who makes shopping as easy as possible, provides perfect advice, delivers the required services, and offers an attractive overall experience? 


ARMEDANGELS won last year’s Shop Usability Award. Quite rightly, in my opinion, as the business is simply a classic category killer in the sustainable fashion sector. Not just because the business has been on the market for a long time, but because it has played a key role in shaping the market and is consistent, genuine, and proactive in its mission. To underline this, its photoshoots are different from those of every other store, the store has a different design, the text is written differently, etc. Each individual element, each touchpoint is different and has been coherently thought out, creating the desired attractiveness that customers find so appealing.


This year’s winner of the Shop Usability Awards – MissPompadour – won over the judges with its attractiveness and the sense of belonging it generates. On the website, users can find instructions for their own DIY projects, exchange ideas with the community, and upload “before and after” photos of their DIY projects. Read more in the MissPompadour case study.

Customer Happiness Circle: Next steps

The next post will be about analyzing and evaluating all your online store’s touchpoints. I’ll show you different ways to carry out analyses and outline where you could work on your store’s attractiveness.

In the meantime, you could carry out the free self-check if you haven’t already. Discover where you’re performing well in terms of customer happiness and where you could afford to make a few adjustments. 

The Customer Happiness Circle series at a glance:

  • Episode 0 – Introduction: Customer Happiness expert Johannes Altmann explains why the subject is so important and outlines the building blocks you can use to inspire your customers.
  • Episode 1 – Usability: Find out how usability errors come about, how you can avoid them, and what impact good usability has on your users’ enjoyment of your store.
  • Episode 2 – Experience: This episode reveals what influences customers and will inspire you to conjure up an unforgettable shopping experience.
  • Episode 3 – Belonging: Why do customers feel drawn to certain online stores and brands and end up visiting them time after time?
  • Episode 4 – Touchpoints: episode four is about touchpoints of your brand that your customers interact with.
  • Episode 5 – Cluster costumers: what types of systems exist, how can they benefit you, and how can you utilize customer clusters to accurately depict your customers and their needs?
  • Episode 6 – Continuity: discover how to organize your business to ensure 'We make the customer happy' isn't a fleeting goal, but rather a constant focus on your agenda.

About Johannes Altmann

johannes-altmann-autorenprofilJohannes Altmann is the founder and managing director of Shoplupe GmbH. He has worked as a market and consumer researcher, usability expert, consultant, speaker, and podcaster. For the last 20 years, in all of these roles, Johannes Altmann has focused on customers in online stores. Initially, he concentrated on usability, today his focus is on customer happiness. He also runs the market research institute Shoplupe and created the Shop Usability Award®. With his insights on happy online shoppers, he not only identifies key optimization opportunities, but also helps online merchants achieve more success and happiness.


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