How important is the brand in the retail sector?
The diffusion of Digital innovation has grown in Italy over 2018 but data emerging from surveys run by the Italian Digital Innovation Observatory in the retail sector shows that this growth is still too slow. Only 42% of Italian Retailers considers Digital Innovation a key factor to compete and be a cut above their many competitors.
The obstacles preventing a more widespread diffusion of digital innovations are more and more frequently related to costs, that are often too high, and returns, that are rather uncertain economically. And yet nowadays it seems there is a solution to these major problems, especially when delving deeper into the importance of branding in the retail sector. So which way is to be followed in the near future?
The retail sector is forced to fully reconsider its own strategies both in terms of internal processes and in terms of communication with the audience.
How to maximise the power of branding in the retail sector:
1. By integrating the actual space to on-line communication channels
2. Through the strategical lever of sensory and experiential marketing
3. By bearing in mind the importance of the brand in the retail sector at all times
1. Cohesion between actual space and on-line communication
In 2018 a store that does not stimulate its customers using sensory marketing is a store that is very unlikely to see a major increase in turnover.
This is because nowadays when people enter a store to buy a product it does not necessarily follow that they will proceed with the purchase because they are moved by a real need.
Shopping is a fun convivial moment: individuals buy products to let off steam or to feel better; groups of people buy products during moments of social interaction, that are increasingly becoming on-line sharing moments, which generate further indirect marketing.
Anyone entering a store makes a purchase to have an experience.
The retail store that decides to adopt strategies aiming at giving its customers the best purchasing experience is a store that is very unlikely to remain empty. Because increasing the store interaction skills and understanding the importance of branding in the retail sector are two apparently simple actions that trigger a series of crucial factors:
- They create a brand identity. The more unique and personal the brand will prove, the more recognisable it will be in the eye of the customer. We are attracted by what we know, so being recognisable (both in terms of brand and in terms of brand personality) makes it possible to create a very strong bond with customers.
- They define the distinct personality of a point of sale. Why, of all the shops, should a customer choose a particular one? Because personality makes the difference, purchasing experience makes the difference, a well-defined and coherent brand makes the difference.
- They incite customers to return and buy again. As we have seen, creating a brand identity, defining brand personality and making sure all this context is coherent with the actual context of the retail store brings about a great and major outcome: customers walk in, make a purchase and come back to buy again and again. When customers need a product, they will immediately think about the store where they had a positive experience, from every point of view.
2. New sensory and experiential marketing strategies
To achieve the strategies we have just mentioned, it is not possible to leave the use of experiential marketing and sensory marketing out of the point of sale. Let's see briefly what this means:
- Sensory marketing is that particular type of marketing that makes use of all five senses in order to generate positive sensations in customers and so, will allow them to remember a positive experience and this memory will incite them to return and make further purchases.
- Experiential or "engagement" marketing feeds on and contaminates with sensory marketing. The aim of this type of marketing is precisely to put customers at the centre and the focus is on the experience customers can have with the brand during the purchasing process. Bidding on human value is what makes the difference, because customers are increasingly attracted to those stores that offer customised treatment and show real attention to the needs of individuals.
The retailer who understands the importance of the brand in the retail sector is a person who has assimilated two fundamental concepts, as explained and reiterated by Richard Bates:
- One needs to establish a balance between active interaction experiences with the brand and the more passive purchasing experiences.
- One needs to build a brand experience that magnifies the experience itself also after customers have left the store.
What does all this mean? It means that succeeding in getting customers to have a good shopping experience is what will set a store apart: it will mark a major dividing line between a store and a store that sells. Sensory marketing and experiential marketing are the ace cards to play inside any physical store to successfully generate customer loyalty and also because they contribute to underline the importance of the brand in the retail sector by using methods and strategies that allow for unforgettable shopping experience.
3. The true importance of the brand in the retail sector
Rethinking one's own strategies does not mean putting the physical space in the background and bidding everything on technology and innovative marketing strategies. Rethinking one's own strategies means above all rethinking the actual space so that it is coherent with the strategies implemented.
The physical space is crucial to be able to engage with customers and customers are at the centre of every strategy. Digital technologies allow for outstanding customer experience while at the same time offering many opportunities to collect data that is useful to implement personalised strategies. Based on collected data, experiential and sensory marketing leverage and remarkably enhance customer experience. And yet, without a physical space that is coherent in terms of architecture and communication, all the strategy policy would not have the same value.
We have analysed the importance of brands in the retail sector and we have delved deeper into some key factors, which as a whole, offer a possible direction to follow.
To conclude, we can say that the main priority of retail stores is to offer an unforgettable customer experience, that will remain in customers' memory not only through social networks, but also and above all an experience to be had inside the point of sale, intended as a physical space.