Abdicating Your Brand and Customer Experience to the Retailer

As we discussed in a recent blog post, physical retail stores remain a vital part of the customer journey. In fact, they form the foundation of customer experience and brand identity.

And retail stores aren’t going anywhere—even Amazon continues to up the ante on physical store locations.

Abdicating your brand by allowing retailers to drive your brand experience and customer journey means that you are handing over the in-person experience with your products. We see brands looking to make a bigger impact on their entire customer journey, and getting shelf space is not the last step in this endeavor—it’s the first.

Allowing the Retailer To Drive the Brand Experience and Customer Journey

You can see the difference between a retail store that truly embraces their brand values and drives the customer experience…and one that doesn’t. A great example of this is Lululemon.

Lululemon doesn’t just sell a product. They provide community (through retail drops of special products and skilled staff) to actively engage people in their brand. Rather than simply being a place for shoppers to buy their gear, their store environments are places to inspire customers, where they can feel good surrounded by like-minded people.

This kind of brand experience draws people into the store more frequently, which directly drives sales.

A retail store should be a way for the customer to experience the brand…an interactive space designed to inspire curiosity and make shoppers want to engage more with the products and the brand itself.

Your retail spaces should reflect your brand’s values, with existing brand attributes mirrored there. But it should go beyond what ecommerce can do by providing a tangible, engaging customer experience.

After all, the physical retail store is the basis for a successful omnichannel retail strategy.

Many of our clients (and most brands) live in multi-line environments, with many brands living together and fighting for space and message. A common issue we see is ending the controlled retail experience at the website, letting the products fend for themselves in the store.

When considering the customer experience of your brand in the retail store, think about the following:

  • How do I want my customer to feel when looking at my products?

  • What do I want them to know about my brand during the purchase?

  • How should they expect to interact post sale?

Success Requires Differentiation of the Physical Store

Both the physical store and ecommerce are necessary, and both exist for different purposes. Ecommerce offers solutions for lack of overhead, flexibility, ease of shopping, and breadth of stock.

But shopping is more than a way to buy the things we need and want…it’s a social activity that appeals to our basic need to gather. The ecommerce experience can’t replicate that.

Retail locations can do what the internet can’t by providing

  • A tangible experience with the products

  • Engaging shopping experiences that reflect a unique, physical retail brand personality

  • A way to build long-lasting customer relationships and brand loyalty

Retail stores can achieve this differentiation by aligning the corporate brand and mission with the customer, and creating in-store experiences that bring shoppers back again and again.

The physical store is ecommerce’s best ally due to its flexibility. It offers a traditional in-person shopping experience—a way to immediately put a product into the customer’s hands from the shelf, whether it’s through actual in-store shopping or through curbside pickup or delivery from the local store.

It can also:

  • Act as a form of brand awareness.

  • Function as a distribution hub.

  • Offer an easy, convenient way for customers to return unwanted items.

  • Help drive ecommerce sales—and vice versa—through the use of consistent information across platforms that makes it easy for customers to find the same products in store that they see promoted online.

  • Be a place to encourage customer-driven social media content creation and sharing; a place where influencers can create content that further promotes the brand online.

Physical Retail Helps Create a Customer Journey That Feels Natural

The physical retail store is a vital component of a customer journey that is natural and convenient for consumers. An in-store experience that is ever-evolving and easy to navigate makes shoppers more likely to return; it makes returning feel like a natural response to that experience.

It also makes them more likely to spend more money. For example, when customers use BOPIS (buy-online-pick-up-in-store) services, it feels natural to grab additional items they forgot to buy online while they’re there to pick up their order.

The same is true when customers can easily return items to the physical store. It feels natural to then shop for additional items with the money they get back.

This sense of ease creates a customer experience and journey that feels natural, not forced.

Building relationships with store employees can also contribute to a customer journey that feels natural. In fact, relationship is the key piece missing from the ecommerce customer experience that only a physical retail store can provide. In working with our clients, this is a crucial factor in creating the customer journey they strive for.

Once customers have built relationships with store staff, the store feels like a comfortable, friendly place to visit…not just somewhere to buy things.

Managing Your Brand Through a Downturn

When you go through a downturn, the retail store is ground zero for managing your brand. Make sure your retail customer experience includes the following:

  • Stay customer focused. Ask for customer feedback and focus on putting your customer’s needs first.

  • Give shoppers more than a product to buy. Offer unique, branded in-store experiences such as hands-on product demonstrations, knowledgeable store associates offering their advice, promoting brand identity and causes you support, and engaging customers through frequently updated signage and displays. This will:
    • Help build relationships with your customers

    • Create memorable shopping experiences

    • Give customers a chance to touch, feel, and handle products

  • Create a welcoming in-store atmosphere. Think of the concept of a “third place”. Our “third places” are where people gather outside of the home or office, such as bars, gyms, or restaurants. This means creating a clean and bright atmosphere with helpful signage, carving out spaces for relaxation and socializing, and maybe even offering free samples (coffee/tea/water, etc). The goal is to give customers the opportunity to engage with one another and with store associates so they want to stay in the store longer.

  • Make checking out easy. Make the checkout experience a positive one. Ensure that every customer’s experience is positive down to their last moments in the store. This means scheduling enough staff, making sure checkouts are clearly marked, and training staff to offer a seamless checkout experience.

Abdicating your brand and customer experience to the retailer can help your brand become more powerful and engaging. And so can working with Miller Wittman.

At Miller Wittman, we empower your brand through retail design, training, merchandising, and much, much more. Through store design, planning, and on-site consulting, we’ll ensure your retail stores offer a customer experience that reflects your brand’s values.

Contact us to discuss your needs and learn how we can put our skills and experience to work for you.