Deep branding – and why it is so important for brick and mortar stores.
Think about your last shopping day, how many stores did impress you? How many delivered an experience, something special that over-exeeded your expectations? Probably only one, if at all. Shopping nowadays is more a burden than an pleasure. You stroll along piles of wares in endless standardized shelves curated only in terms of completeness. Unless you don`t want to spend a lot of money for a customized offering you have to do the selection your self. No wonder that consumers increasingly buy online.There, you can easily select by brand, by style, by size or by color. You even find the best price with a few clicks while sitting at home on your sofa.
Deep branding means adding value to your products, not only with a logo, interior design or other visual triggers. It is a holistic experience reaching beyond the surface, including the tonality of your social media posts and ads, how you interact with customers, what services you deliver. It even encompasses the way you answer the phone. In short, branding is everything your customer perceives when they hear or think of your company name, service or product. There are 3 reasons why just selling things is not enough for brick an mortar stores:
Brands create followers.
Given that you are not goingto offer a bargain, but good value for money, why should your consumers step into your shop and not in any other? Where is the added value for them to come to you? Brick and mortar stores need an offering that is more than the tangible, it should be about a shared perspective and not only a product. Consumers want to be part of a clique, a community, a perceived attainable niche, that allows them to stand out from the crowd.
An extraordinary store experience increases not only the customer retention and return rate, but also creates referrals or viral traffic, since people love to tell each other about brands they like. A good example is the »un-selling« marketing strategy of Aesop, offering luxury skin and hair care products. Rather than selling through conventional advertising, the company creates emotional connections to the global design community. They tell their story through unique environmental design, aromatic experiences, an extremely friendly and well trained staff and a website that features insights on design, literature, architecture and film that goes beyond skin deep.
An other example is Gentle Monster, a Korean brand for spectacles. Its extravagant glasses are embedded into individually curated art installations following the topic »seeing and perception« in a more or less narrowly defined sense. While the Aesop's shop assistants are actively enganging with you, at Gentle Monster you can browse on your own as long as you don’t ask for help. Their goal is: We want customers to keep us in their memory .Both of these brands generate more earned media value than they have spent for the design of their shops.
People eat, listen and wear brands, and they’re constantly telling others about where they got their products. That's even more important when considering that 84% (Nielsen) of consumers say that they ‘always or sometimes’ take action based on personal recommendations. Taking into account that very 15 seconds somebody is joining the social network (brandwatch), for retailers a coherent social media strategy is more important than ever.
Products have life cycles. Brands outlive products.
Retailers need to communicate their passion, showing the »why« they are doing this business and »how« they are going to please their customers. Products may change, but the shop experience should address a subconscious long-lasting desire. The more a shop has managed to create its own authentic world, the less it is depending on the popularity of the product brands it is selling.
A good example is Manufactum, a store chain in the German-speaking countries and Great Britain. In its own words it addresses quality in the widest sense of the word: »Selected items that are manufactured with great skill according to traditional methods and are thus reliable and practical. The materials are carefully chosen to suit the purpose, and are therefore, attractive; they are made from traditional materials, i.e. metal, glass, wood etc., can be repaired and are environmentally friendly«. The products range from household tools and toys to clothing to gardening and to quality foods. Besides enjoying homemade bakery you can always go on a treasure hunt for special small series.
Having a strong store identity is not only a differentiator in an increasingly saturated market, but an essential for surviving in a market hooked on authenticity. According to a study of WGSN in 2017, UK consumers say that authenticity (73%) and innovation (76%) are most important for them. In other words: as much as brands need to innovate they need to stay true to their own DNA. If a store manages to achieve this deep brand perception, it is free to offer a variety of products and services as well as going for collaborations that are not necessarily within it’s core competencies . The only precondition is that the offering matches the lifestyle of its community.
Strong brands are contagious.
The best ambassadors for retailers are their own employees. If they are passionate about what they do and about the store brand they are working for, they will go above and beyond, and may become the source of an excellent customer experience. As the key asset in approaching the customer they need to be put in the center of all activities like the customer itself.
Currently, many retailers try to seduce the customer by price, but are sliding very quickly into reverse. The Streets far from the big boulevards display the results: There are more and more gaps in the storefronts because shops had to shut down. A strong and successful brand will add value to your business, well beyond its physical assets. Therefore, more and more retailers are starting to recognize that filling the shelves is not enough and are moving towards experience-driven concepts. Some of them going so far to become entertainment centers, instead of distribution hubs.
Those who succeed in adapting to new consumer expectations cannot avoid to offer personalization coupled with high-end service.The key areas to focus on in order to create a long-lasting shopping experience will be design, technology and customer service.