The soaring world of retail seems to be growing with no end in sight. But brands are disappearing with the same speed they are sprouting up, and this fast-changing scenery is proof of just how hard every brand needs to work for surviving, let alone thriving, in this competitive shopaverse.
It’s not mere coincidence or luck that keeps names such as Apple, Amazon or BMW at the top of the food chain, and brands at the beginning of their journeys have much to learn from these retail giants if they intend to ensure long-term success. Using the advantages of the digital era is a significant part of the learning curve, but there are other aspects that will allow your business to stay a few steps ahead of the game – because that’s where the top brands aim to be.
It’s not business if it isn’t personal
Many companies consider their first priority to go global, as the online realm allows erasing all boundaries for making your service or product available worldwide. But rushing into spreading your wings can clip them sooner than you think unless you invest heavily into shifting your focus to your customers. Everyone, especially millennials, not only prefers, but expects, a deeply personal experience from the first encounter with the brand all the way to closing the deal.
Build-a-Bear Workshop is a clear example of how a brand involves their youngest customers in the creative process. They encourage kids to use their imaginations and let them build their toy from scratch, thus creating the brand, while its essence remains firmly in place. The same goes for Coca-Cola, where a simple marketing effort such as adding first and last names to bottles and an opportunity for people to add their name to the mix online has allowed them to get much more up-close and personal on a global scale.
The best of both worlds
As the digital and real world are slowly blending into a single universe of existence, the presence of your brand strictly online or offline is blurring. The boundaries are practically non-existent when you take a look at retail names that have successfully incorporated the digital into the brick-and-mortar without depriving their original look and feel of their brand’s authenticity. Their sole purpose? To increase the level of engagement.
In-store technology is not only an enormous step forward in terms of improved customer-brand interaction, or enhancing the experience alone, but also provides an invaluable source of customer info to your sales team. Polo Ralph Lauren’s already exclusive shop in NYC introduced interactive fitting room mirrors – you can change the lighting, check the inventory, enter your phone number to shop later, or call for an assistant to get you a different size or color of the product. Could there be a better feeling than being tended to at all times?
From websites, social media, instant chat options, mobile optimization, 24/7 customer service teams, and the building your own app, the tempo of the development of technology is a challenge for every brand to widen its presence without losing its consistency in presentation. All the way to the tiniest details, such as product descriptions, the design of promotional merchandise for a specific event, and the voice of your social media manager, all of this needs to feel like your brand, because that is what ultimately ensures loyalty.
The modern omnichannel imperative makes it difficult for any retail brand to differentiate itself and maintain the level of cross-channel brand identity, so this is where versatile analytics tools make all the difference. Just look at EasyJet’s anniversary campaign that prompted a 30%-increase of conversion rates among their Swiss customers on the basis of data-driven emotions. It’s taking storytelling to a whole new level that inspires your customers to feel as an indelible part of your brand’s journey.
Without losing authenticity, every brand needs a touch of novelty in their product range and presentation. Brands such as Apple are known to be innovative in their core, and it’s a part of who they are that has made them the leaders of the industry. But even small names can make enormous advancements by showing off their creative capacity through clever delivery solutions (remember Amazon drones?), reward systems, clever ads and upgrades to the product itself.
Keep up with the times, and innovation should become your competitive edge over the brands that are stuck in the past. It’s no longer the matter of simply meeting your client’s needs, but anticipating them and preemptively solving problems before they arise. It doesn’t even have to be immediately visible, but a matter of internal business operations, such as hiring forward-thinking employees, that will put you on the fast track of success.
Your promise and purpose
Perhaps the greatest disease of modern retail is mediocrity – it enables the existence of brands which offer temporary convenience, and can be replaced by dozens of similar brands. But for retailers who aim to stay relevant, you need to answer an age-old question: how is your brand helping your customers grow? An enduring brand puts an emphasis on the quality of choice as opposed to quantity, and always strives to remain relevant with the changing times of their target audience – like Levi’s.
In that sense, is your brand’s promise in line with its value proposition? Even if you start out as a relevant name in the market, maintaining that title is a constant battle, as you need to create and not conform, and build a timeless reputation that surpasses tradition or the rush to greet the future. The modern consumer requires a brand that stands for something greater than itself, and inspires an attitude of questioning, savoring the moment and discovering the greater meaning in life.
Modern retail brands need to think above and beyond making a sale. It boils down to finding the right balance between digital and human, consistency and innovation, widespread availability and personalization. They seem contradictory, yet these aspects of your strategy craft the recipe for loyalty that is not rooted in temporary allure, but based on a profound purpose and enduring authenticity.
About the writer: Emma Miller is a Sydney-based writer with a degree in marketing. Interested in digital marketing, social media, start-ups and latest trends, Emma’s a contributor at Bizzmark blog.
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