It All Begins with a Brand Strategy
The hot topic right now in retail marketing is shopper experience. But I think we should be more specific. I mean, if I walk into Urban Outfitters and am mauled by a tiger, one could rightly say that this was a retail experience. Not a good one, but an experience nonetheless.
Retailers need to brand their shopper experiences.
In the next couple of posts, I want to talk what defines brand experience and why it matters. But first, a quick look at the elements of a solid retail brand strategy.
Brands that don’t actively work to differentiate themselves will have it done for them, by competitors and shoppers. Without a doubt, the retail branding game is tough; one either grows or dies. It’s winner take all, with the losers left to fight over the crumbs.
In this cluttered marketplace of indistinguishable brands, developing a strong, unique position in the heart of the shopper is critical. A meaningful brand strategy is the foundation of all work that follows, and is anchored by three tenets: relevance, growth potential and category leadership.
Be relevant. Everything the retail marketer does must create value for the shopper. Anything that does not create value weakens a brand’s relevance in the customer’s life, and is a waste of time. The shopper must find value in the brand promise, or the relevance evaporates and she does business with the competitor.
Remember K-Mart? The brand floundered when Wal-Mart became more relevant by having what the customer wanted (deep inventory), when the customer wanted it (open 24-hours a day), at the price the customer wanted to pay (low price always, always). In fact, it’s difficult for any other retailers to be as relevant in the shopper’s life as Wal-Mart is. Through brand strategy, they’ve staked out a position that is theirs alone.
Capitalize on growth potential. A powerful brand helps its customers achieve growth. People (that’s what shoppers are) are always evolving, and they favor those brands that help them along life’s journey. To succeed, the brand must give shoppers the opportunity to grow in a personal way. If the shopper does not derive any growth or betterment from the brand interaction, the enterprise will fail.
It’s important to remember that the shopper is attracted to a retail brand for her own reasons, not those of the brand. Don’t make the mistake of looking at the needs of the business first. Start with the shopper and the journey she wants to take.
Aim for category leadership. When he was running Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher said, “I will tell you our strategic plan, its called doing something.”
Most brands choose the path of least resistance and take their place in the rankings by simply doing what they’ve always done. Brand leaders own their categories. The goal is to serve specific shoppers better than any other brand. Great brands always stand alone.
Leading the pack isn’t easy. Creating market dominance means paying careful attention to the shopper and creating experiences that are meaningful to her. Great brands engage in constant conversation with their shoppers (and associates, BTW), building to top-dog status in their categories.