Today’s fickle shopper means that having a strong brand is more important than ever. Guy Chiswick, Managing Director of Webloyalty Northern Europe, discusses five areas which retailers should focus on when trying to create a strong brand identity to attract the modern customer.
How to build your brand
In today’s hyper-competitive market, bricks and mortar shops on the high street are not only competing with each other, but also with the allure of online stores. With so much choice, fickle customers can no longer be lured in by attractive products, and a ‘something for everyone’ store portfolio. To stay ahead of the curve, build your brand by developing a strong and, ideally, unique brand identity, which expresses their retail proposition to potential clients.
Key points for how to build your brand:
- How people are shopping today
- The importance of sub-branding
- Visually stimulating customer experience
- How to improve shop aesthetic
- Brand consistency is essential
- Adapt your store portfolio
How are we shopping now?
Following the recession, and owing to the proliferation of digital shopping channels, the way in which consumers shop has changed. They now expect more from their retail experience, and are more discerning about where they buy. According a survey of over 2,000 consumers that Webloyalty undertook, the most popular retailers were John Lewis (21.4%), Primark (18.3%), Debenhams (13.8%), H&M (9.8%) and Waitrose (9.7%). Whilst these brands share little in common in terms of their portfolio, prices and offering, each of them has a distinct brand identity and is known for offering their customers something desirable and unique – whether it’s value for money, a popular product range or a special experience in store.
The importance of sub-branding
In my experience, many outfits tend to fall short when they try to go after the whole market, or attempt to offer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ store portfolio. Making homogenous ranges that ‘could’ cater to the needs of every customer can often be confusing and off-putting to shoppers. In order to avoid these pitfalls, businesses should aim to offer their customers a clearly segmented and visually inspiring offer, where product ranges are given their own distinct identity. This is where sub-branding is critical, as it allows your customers to understand how your ranges are tailored to their specific needs, providing them with an easy and logical shopping experience.
Visually stimulating customers’ interest
The importance of visual merchandising is often underplayed, but it has become a crucial part of stimulating customers’ interest. Online shopping is usually efficient and this efficiency has bred impatience in shoppers when using physical stores. Many will not take the time to browse or search for what they want. Making sure that each section of your store is not only visually stimulating but also signposts what is offered will help your customers find what they want and make choices accordingly.
Unfortunately, stores can no longer depend on passing footfall to generate business. Online shopping offers convenience and efficiency, so bricks and mortar shops often need to offer something special to lure customers to visit. Creating a unique shop aesthetic and an exciting in-store experience can be the key to this. Presenting your customers with themes and stories, rather than just offering the products on their own merit, can help them make their choices. Two stores which excel at this are Apple and Hollister, who place as much importance on their stores’ designs as they do on their products. Not only do their stores offer a unique and exciting aesthetic, the aesthetic neatly matches their product offering, making it clear to customers exactly what they can expect from the store.
One of the most important factors to consider when building your brand is consistency. Creating compelling product lines and an exciting store aesthetic will not be as effective if consistency cannot be maintained. The most successful brands are consistent across all aspects of the retail proposition, from product ranges to marketing to the store environment. Developing a coherent brand image is essential to expressing your entire store proposition to potential customers, building up customer loyalty and making sure you stay at the forefront of their minds when they shop.
Adapting store portfolio
Finally, as shopper habits become increasingly diverse, store portfolios need to evolve to better meet shoppers’ expectations. Retailers need to have a strategy for segmenting their supply according to consumer demand and the local competitive environment; a particularly salient example of this can be seen in John Lewis, which has opened larger flagship stores in major catchment areas, while in-filling gaps with smaller, flexible format outlets. Despite a difficult retail environment over recent years, John Lewis is a retailer which has continued to grow from strength to strength, reporting its best annual like-for-like sales growth since the start of the recession in February 2014. This popularity means John Lewis stores, and its huge flagship outlets in particular, are able to drive significantly high footfall.
I hope this has helped you with ideas about how to build your brand. Don’t hesitate to connect on Twitter, and if you have any other ideas about how to build your brand, please leave a comment below.