Retail branding to increase sales

“I am just browsing”… It´s is one of the most recurring phrases that a business professional hears in their establishment. What makes a customer go from the verb “to browse” to the action “to buy”? Why do consumers choose to buy a product in a certain establishment if an identical one is for sale in a store nearby? The answer lies in HOW we sell, not so much in WHAT we sell. According to various studies, 80% of the retail purchasing decision is irrational. In other words, it is based on emotions.  To make people feel like they are in a shop (or while browsing an e-commerce store) what comes into play is Retail branding. How the products are presented on the shelves or the price of the latest gadget that has been acquired may be forgotten, but a customer will never forget how it made him/her feel. What experience was consumed while shopping.

The value of emotions and the intangible when it comes to making a purchase

The latest Global 500 annual ranking by the consultancy firm Brand Finance was led by Amazon and Apple. Among Spanish retail companies, Zara and Santander are at the top of this ranking that evaluates the most outstanding brands, based on variables such as customer satisfaction, corporate reputation, price and product range or investment in marketing. What do they all have in common? The four companies offer products and services that are also sold by others in the same industry, but present them in an inimitable way. As stated by Andy Stalman in a meeting with SMEs last May, “a great brand is not one that does not imitate anyone, but one that nobody can imitate”.

Together with this differential value of the inimitable, we must consider the authenticity of our retail brand: the coherence between what we sell (values), what we say (information) and what we want our customers to feel (brand image). We could not imagine Apple launching its gadgets in a dysfunctional environment that is nothing like the minimalism of its stores. In the same way that we could not imagine Amazon telling us that it is not possible to locate a product because it is on the other side of the world.

Technology at the service of the customer

During the shopping experience the high point in the relationship between the user and the brand is reached. Hence, eliminating any barrier and guaranteeing the best possible shopping experience for our customer is decisive when it comes to increasing sales and delivering ROI in a digital environment. In other words, in the purchase decision.

This scenario involves knowing what our customer is looking for beyond the product they are looking to buy and offer a personalised and different experience according to the company’s brand values. And herein lies the greatest challenge for brands: knowing and understanding the needs of customers in the new era of retail. We have Big Data tools that provide us with access to information that was previously unknown. Offer them what they really need and want during their shopping experience, and not what we thought they needed and wanted. This is the objective of smart retail which aims to exceed customer expectations.

Integration of physical and digital shopping experience

In a recent study by the consultancy firm CBRE, it was indicated that digital purchases are directly related to the physical presence of stores. This reality is an indicator that the integration between offline and online environments is the main challenge at present. Staying within the comfort zone could mean, in the long term, a  retail strategy that is unfavourable for companies that resist the digital/technological leap and remain exclusively in the physical space.

And when a customer walks into our store we want them to buy, we want them to feel that the shopping experience has been prepared just for them and for them to pass this on to other possible customers. That happens because of the product, of course. But also due to the overall store design, the range, the pricing, the tone of voice, the treatment from the company´s retailers, customer service through any of the contact channels, engagement on social networks; but also as a result of the transmission of a single brand message, the perfect interaction between physical (store) and digital channels (e-commerce).

It is about communicating, transmitting and making our customer feel the same comfort and personalisation in our stores when shopping while sat on the sofa at home with a device. Only in this way will the shopping experience go from a like to a buy.

-How do we go from a like to a  buy? From influencing to selling?

-In reference to social networks, it also ensures that many brands are on the right track but that the target is sometimes incorrect…

-Most brands start using social networks or building a presence on the internet and that is a correct path. The problem is that most are on that ephemeral path: only looking for views or retweets. The aim is to wonder why one is relevant to these people and how something can be sold in a better way, on the basis that, as stated by Time magazine, 50% of all transactions will be carried out in the cloud within 30 years. That is the target that must be aimed at in order to avoid being left behind in the ephemeral Internet, and which has more to do with the cultivation of the ego that leads nowhere.

-There is a maxim that says “don’t let others define you”. That in this digital age seems like a very complicated challenge, don´t you think?

-You define your personality through what you do, not by what you say. Brands have to define themselves before the competition does so, and for that you have to know who you are, where you are going, what your values and principles are and why what you have to do and say is relevant. It is sometimes as if some brands don´t know this.

-Firstly, it needs to know who it is before it can start interacting. What is clear is that interaction is part of building the brand, its history, experience and word of mouth. This does not mean that you can respond to all requests, because otherwise nobody would cope. The important thing is that you are aware that you are a brand that is not only interested in dialogue and conversation, but that you also have a very clear idea about what to do with those ideas that have got you where you are. In the end, a good idea that is poorly implemented is a bad idea.

-Is a brand without values a brand with no future?

-It is difficult for a company to exist in the 21st century without clear values. In the end, it’s not just about taking care of the environment, but the human ecosystem. Brands should be aware that people should be at the heart of everything they do. This person is going to demand values increasingly because social networks are putting and end to secrets, small print and deception. Let’s not forget that values are the basis of a business strategy.

There has been a stage of ephemeral use of social networks in which brands sought likes, or retweets. In the end, a brand is created to sell something. You must be aware that there are a lot of people who are willing to buy from you through those channels, but what kind of experiences are you offering? What solutions do you provide? Why are you important to them? The big problem is that, for many brands, the offline experience is not adapting in the same way in the online world, so opting out of the buying process is becoming very frequent. There are many factors involved in this, the physical space, the structural costs, the productivity of the sales staff or even legislation…

Going from the like to the buy has to do with putting an end to only looking only for the ephemeral joy of  a “like” and focusing on what really gives sustainability to a business: sales.

Replicate the capabilities of the online store experience

Consumer buying habits are constantly changing, but there are certain characteristics of the online experience that are highly valued by consumers which they will try to obtain (following the previous trend, through their mobile device) while shopping in a physical space.

The ability to compare prices, for example, to get suggestions about other products based on what other users also bought or the ability to access the personal opinions of these users about the products (whether good or bad) are some of the features that consumers are not willing to give up.

The store experience has two options: adapt to this and facilitate customer access to this information, making their experience more transparent and aligned with the needs and expectations of consumers, or let the customers themselves be the ones to look for (and get) access to this information, without the brand being able to capitalise on this value.

By offering comparison, recommendation and customer feedback capabilities, retailers will increase sales and improve consumer satisfaction by reinforcing the idea that what customers are buying is the crème de la crème, at the lowest possible price. In order to offer the best prices we have to focus on profitability, on improving our structures and the excellence of management, controlling the financial cost of the stock, assisted sales, cross-selling and up-selling, in the category management that helps decision making when standing in front of the shelves, impulse buying, range, pricing, traffic creation…it is a constantly evolving job since everything changes so quickly in RETAIL.

“You only need to look at your customers”

About the author: Kilian Gonzalez Fontboté | Country Manager Italia EQUIVALENZA GROUP
Country Manager Italia EQUIVALENZA GROUP
Former Chief Commercial Officer at DOUGLAS
Former Sales & Expansion Director Iberia at Engel & Völkers
September 25th, 2019 | Branding
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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