How to Improve Your Store’s First Impression Through Targeted Branding

Marla DiCarlo
Marla DiCarlo
Guest Contributor

Once your brand and stores revolve around your target demographic, you can create lasting first impressions that will result in loyal customers and a sustainable competitive advantage.

Having a brick-and-mortar store is more challenging than it used to be. The rise in e-commerce has left many retail shop owners out of ideas and out of business. However, despite the doom and gloom, retail research shows that 49 percent of consumers still prefer brick-and-mortar. Moreover, physical stores account for 94 percent of retail sales in the country.

But there’s no denying that fighting for shopper foot traffic and customer loyalty is an uphill battle. As a store owner and/or manager, you have to be intentional with your branding and shopper experience and make those first impressions count.

Figure Out Who Your Customers Are

To nail that first impression and ensure shoppers keep coming back, you need to know who you’re targeting. Your store needs to tell a story, and that story needs to appeal to your target shopper.

Who is your average shopper? If you find your regulars aren’t the type of consumers you want to attract, there’s something off with your branding. Once you have a handle on the demographic you’re trying to reach, creating a powerful experience and an inspiring first impression will be much easier.

Creating an Experience with Branding

Studies have shown the primary reason people continue to shop at brick-and-mortar stores is the experience. If you know who your target customers are, you can create an experience from entrance to check-out that caters directly to them.

For some people, it’s about being able to touch and interact with products. For others, it’s about the instant gratification of picking something out and leaving with it on the same day. For still other shoppers, it’s about customer service and personalization lacking in online shopping. Know what appeals to your shoppers, and create the experience that revolves around their needs. 

How to Nail Your Brand

  • Visuals: Make sure your store visually sells your brand. Use bright, poppy colors to exude a confident brand. Use more subdued, refined colors and décor to appeal to a more sophisticated customer base. Every piece of furniture, pictures, and decorations should reinforce your message. This focus on visuals extends to the layout of your store as an industrial, open warehouse has a different feeling than a cozy, more cluttered shop.
  • Music and Sounds: Choose the right background music to set the mood. There’s extensive research on how music affects shopping behavior. For instance, high-tempo music led to faster shopping and fewer purchases, whereas slower tempos led to shoppers browsing more slowly and buying more. However, it all comes down to your brand and the impression you want to make. Think about your customers and what music matches the atmosphere you’re trying to create.
  • Lighting: Lighting is also crucial, and how you choose to light your store directly impacts how your customers feel. Too bright and customers feel in a hurry. To dim, and customers are annoyed. However, both bright lighting and dim lighting can work if it’s contributing to the overall story.
  • Scents: Scent is one of the most powerful tools for creating a sensory experience because it connects to long-term memory and emotion. So, you have the power to play with a familiar scent that connects shoppers to a mood you’re trying to set. Smells are so powerful, back in 2007, Starbucks saw a dip in sales after they started using sealed packaged coffee. This packaging caused Starbucks to lose its overwhelming coffee aroma, and as a result, their sales dropped. After they realized this, they infused aroma back into the brand, and sales picked up again.
  • Employees: Your employees are the ambassadors of your brand. From the way they interact with customers to how they dress and carry themselves all reflect on your image as a company. To create a positive and lasting impression, your employees must be trained and know how to convey your image to your customers.

Going the Extra Mile

There are a few extra things you can do to elevate your shopper experience and make your store stand out.

  • Offering things like online ordering for pick-up, auto check-out, mobile coupons, or scheduling for personal shopping all contribute to connecting the convenience of the digital shopping experience with the physical shopping experience.
  • Ensuring that your online presence matches your store’s vibe goes a long way. Some stores are even setting up experiential moments in their shops to create Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. 
  • Providing extra personalization makes a huge difference, too. Things like having a customer profile, a loyalty program, or an individualized shopping experience are all great examples of personalizing the customer experience.

Once your brand revolves around your target demographic, you can create a lasting first impression that will result in loyal customers and a sustainable brick-and-mortar shop.

About the writer: Marla DiCarlo is an accomplished business consultant with more than 28 years of professional accounting experience. As co-owner and CEO of Raincatcher, she helps business owners learn how to sell a business so they can get paid the maximum value for their company.

Join the #retail, #ConnectedJourney and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter at @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.