How the Retail Brand Experience Is Changing… and How to Keep Up
I want you the think about your favorite retail brand. A company you interact with at least weekly.
In what ways do you interact with the brand during an average month?
Let’s start with the obvious. You likely go to a physical store. Where branding is everywhere from cash register to shopping cart.
The way the cashier greets you. How you are treated in their customer service department. This all plays a role in the brand experience.
But what about outside of the physical store?
Today, many of us carry our favorite retail brands in our back pockets. They are just a few clicks away on a smartphone.
You may get their newsletter. Have their app. Read their blog. Follow them on social media. Place an online order. Chat with customer support. Get text updates.
And some of the biggest brands will be out and about in your community. Sponsoring local kids’ sports teams. Supporting local festivals. Donating to local charities.
The best brands make this a continuous experience. Whether in the shop, through digital, or out and about – there are certain things you expect to be consistent.
These companies know…
Branding is not just a logo. It’s an experience.
Yes, matching colors and content across physical and digital touchpoints is important. It tells people quickly – and visually – that they are in the right place.
But omnichannel means much more than that.
Your brand encompasses everything involved with your company’s identity and what it stands for.
Logos fade into the background. A brand must attract the public consciousness.
Building a digital relationship began with email and blogging. The omnichannel approach is about product research, selection, payment, and delivery.
Social media facilitates a dialogue amongst the crowd. Omnichannel evolves the experience into social commerce.
Personalization of online interactions can mirror an ongoing relationship with a trusted salesperson or a store owner. Relationships need to pick up from where they left off – and they can with the help of data.
To implement the technology effectively, the experience must be seamless and easy.
There is no longer a separation between the “virtual” and the “real.”
With smartphones, smart devices, and soon the introduction of true VR technology on a mass scale, the internet is everywhere.
The differentiation between our physical and digital worlds is blurrier than ever before as mobile devices proliferate daily routines.
Create immersive experiences both in physical spaces and the digital. Go beyond digital touchpoints and in-store signage.
The best way to engage a customer is to enable them to own their data and experience. Then use it to guide creation and context in future experiences.
Let them tell you what they want. Where they want it. And how they want it.
How do you keep up?
Today’s retail branding requires a nuanced approach.
Consumers today are increasingly sophisticated, preferring brand engagement to brand saturation.
Effective retail marketing needs to demonstrate:
- An understanding of the customer
- A creative and imaginative approach
- A pervasive and relevant message
- The capability to apply digital technology
- An awareness of touchpoints in the customer journey
- A passion for continual improvement of the customer experience
This means increasingly ambitious, engaging, and inspiring retail venues. And promotions that respond to the savvy consumer’s hunger for the real and interactive.
For example, in-store virtual reality can simulate participation in a sport for a retailer selling equipment. It can allow people to really test things out before committing to a purchase.
Or digital dressing rooms. They allow customers to flip through “look books” and try on limitless outfits. Without even getting undressed.
It’s more than a shopping trip. It’s a shopping experience.
Spatial branding can be more sophisticated too.
It can be infused with a creativity and depth not previously possible. There is an adaptable and ubiquitous potential to extend a brand both digitally and physically outside of a location.
It can – and should – serve as an extension of the physical store.
For example, you create a retail space at an event.
Leverage your Facebook audience. Let them know about the event. Encourage their participation. Let them know that you are in-the-know.
Then at the event, you support the participants. Promote the brand. Connect with followers old and new.
Your brand is not at the event. Your brand is a part of the event.
This enables your brand to more deeply tap into the psychology that informs our longing for experiential and tactile stimuli.
Using the Digital and the Real to Shape Retail Brand Experiences
Online-only retailers have built their businesses around digital (and increasingly around mobile) technologies.
But the click-and-mortar approach has its own ace to play—the power and reach of omnichannel interaction.
Consumers still can’t touch, hold, try on, or taste a product online. The Internet cannot provide the immediate gratification of instant ownership, or the experiential mystique of retail as theater.
There are major opportunities for retailers to rethink category management—including promotion, pricing, distribution, advertising, and point of sale—for an omnichannel world.
Effective omnichannel branding engages your audience at all critical touch points. Uses webrooming to your advantage. Balances the physical and digital to engage customers.
It is pervasive, consistent, present, and relevant. It makes use of both the digital and the real to varying degrees and in unique ways to attract and keep consumer attention.
A brand cannot build loyalty and long-term growth through just a single purchase decision. It’s not something you create once and then walk away from.
Instead, branding should be an ongoing process that you analyze and nurture.
It should build momentum at strategic points. Involve increasingly sought-after and trusted interactions with what the brand stands for. And take advantage of the melded digital and physical world to touch consumers and address their pain points.
Do so and you create a semi-virtual reality that encourages consumers to step further into your brand experience. Whether literally in a physical space or virtually in a digital space.
The result is strong brand loyalty and brand ambassadors. A retail brand that will retain their attention much, much longer.