Standing out in the retail space requires consistent end-to-end branding across all touch points
How quickly is the retail landscape changing? It seems that everyone is telling us that change has never been quicker. I am not sure how true this is, but the one indisputable fact is that change is upon us. This change comes in the form of international businesses crossing borders both online, and now in our shopping malls. So, with this cycle of powerful retailers hitting Aussie shores, what is the number one defence that local retails can initiate?
To answer this question, I took inspiration from a recent trip to LA – the home of extremes. During this trip we saw big, gas guzzling monster trucks driving alongside eco-warrior electric cars and Hollywood Celebs living next to droves of homeless in adjacent streets. But, amongst all of this I noticed one clear distinction – the culture of service among the successful retailers wherever my wife and I dined and shopped.
From a customer point of view, it starts with the overall end-to-end branding experience that you receive. A strong identity that connects the product to the people, the location, and the entire experience. An example of this was when we visited a super-healthy café near Venice Beach. Los Angeles is the birth place of the superfood phenomenon, and I was blown away by their execution. Calm and rejuvenation were a part of the dialogue, but they went deeper than this. Their purpose was to engage the consumer with the art of connection. They used some creative ways to instil this branding both through naming items on their menu and using ‘iamconnected’ as their WIFI password. However, their customer service team took this theme one step further when our server took our order and asked us if we wanted to know the ‘Day’s Question’. Obviously intrigued, my wife and I agreed and the waiter asked, “What is your mission?”.
Before we could react, he was on his way to file our order and get on with serving the other customers. We looked at each other. Thought. Looked at each other again. Smiled. And then, something great happened. We started talking about the question. What he meant by it. What our mission was. What our mission for the day was. What our overall mission was.
I won’t bore you with our ensuing answers, yet the result of this simple strategy was genius. This café is all about health, and connecting with yourself and others. In being presented with this question, we were immediately engaged in a thought provoking discussion in a fun way. From a branding point of view, I was left extremely excited. Brilliant! The overall experience was aligned and faultless. The delivery was spot-on. The effect was memorable.
Now, this sort of thing can sound gimmicky, but when all aspects of your retail experience are aligned, you move from gimmicks to something else – strength. Having brand alignment in the customer experience across all aspects of your business adds up to a very strong brand presence. You become memorable, and your customers become advocates. This results in real business growth.
It is on this trip that it struck me; all of the strong brands in Australia (large and small), and those internationals coming to our shores, have strength in end-to-end branding. A strong brand image leads to a brand experience. As business leaders, we need to be ultra-critical of every aspect of our customer touch points. Are they aligned? Do our staff understand them? Do our staff know how to deliver them? Are there any weaknesses along our customer service chain? Does our online experience match our offline? Do we stand out? Are we using the best language?
In driving this brand strength, it is vitally important to also make sure we deliver on our brand promise. With this in mind, another key question to ask is: are we style over substance? There is nothing worse than having a beautifully presented space and brand, but then the end result is a poor-quality product or poor perceived value. In an age of Instagram, photo filtering and infographics, the aesthetic of our branding is so important; but copy-and-paste the latest trend at your peril. If it does not match the overall goal or mission of your business and your people, then it may do more harm than good.
I feel that in the coming years we are going to see large international companies come to our shores and successfully navigate the tough Australian market. The local retailers that take their end-to-end branding to a memorable and sophisticated level will be the ones that push forward in the new Australian market, no matter how quickly change is occurring in the retail landscape.
Paul has over 15 years of Sales, Marketing, and Management experience from small independent business all the way through to the corporate world. Working with small business leaders, Paul focuses on team dynamics, systems, and adaptability to positively impact revenue. For more information visit fresheyesolutions.com