Top 3 Retail Branding Tools
Written by: Dmitry Burenko, LINII Development Director
When an entrepreneur starts thinking about retail branding, what firstly comes to his mind? Logo, navigation system and social media slogans. But all these things are the tip of the iceberg. It is important to determine the core of the retail which is relevant to its target audience and differentiates itself from competitors. Therefore, any competent branding project begins with a strategy development. A checklist of the most successful retail brand strategy tools is worthy for all types of retailers in process of brand development or rebranding.
Strategy is the movement from point A to point B, the steps that the business owner outlines, moving towards the goal. In retail the following tasks are relevant:
- consumer knowledge about the brand increasing
- conversion from knowledge to purchase
- improving user experience
- moving to another price segment
- expanding the line
- new markets conquering
The tasks sound different, and the work of the strategist includes a description of how the final point can be reached, what steps need to be taken to achieve this.
There is a wide range of tools for diagnosing and correct decision making when lining up steps. Among them are the TOP 3 main ones:
- retail 360° methodology
- customer experience
For successful business development one should follow the trends of its time. Today, consumers pay attention not only to the product or service that is represented by the brand, but also to what this brand is about, what values it supports, what its mission is. There are 3 main topics that often pop up on the agenda on the world stage:
- the interest of society is higher than the individual
- brands attention to social problems
- environmental policy in the long term
1. From personal benefit to community value
Personal gain is no longer enough to build sustainable customer loyalty. To reach this the brand needs to create and manage its communities, enlisting the support of ambassadors and capitalizing on these relationships. For example, Starbucks has been supporting Arizona State University students through career guidance programs for several years, along with non-profit organizations for troubled teens in Jakarta.
Moreover, during the lockdown period, the interaction of the brand with its audience on social media becomes critical. Here, the main branding tools are the visual and verbal language of the brand, which can make the dialogue on Facebook, Instagram or Tik-Tok alive and human, helping the brand to express its individuality and character. By the way, recent studies show that customers today demand from brands their presence in networks 24/7. For example, 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of contacting social media, and 79% within the first 24 hours.
2. From personalization to inclusion
Smart speakers that customize personal content, digitalization of retail: personalization in 2021 has become the norm for every company. Consumers today are more concerned about brand responses to social issues. They focus on equity and diversity.
Worldwide Gen Z mindset is demanding inclusiveness and empathy from brands. Brands reciprocate. Here we can recall IKEA (Israel) with its industrial design and branding of a special series of products for people with disabilities.
3. From environmental responsibility to sustainable development
Most consumers are willing to change their habits to help reduce their environmental footprint. They are also willing to pay extra money for brands that are open minded.
For example, the American clothing brand Patagonia is one of the recognized leaders in the fashion industry, because it set environmental standards even before it became mainstream. The brand was originally focused on innovative production that did not harm nature, using only organic fabrics, recycling old fabrics and even garbage. In addition, the brand often donated percentages of sales to various environmental events.
In 2015, Patagonia came out with an unprecedented ad campaign urging its customers to buy less. "Don’t buy this jacket" — with such a slogan they were preparing for Black Friday.
Chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely says: "Let’s make chocolate 100% slave free". The brand stands for worthy wages for the work on plantations. It occupies a leading position in the Dutch market and aggressively enters the markets of other countries.
In addition to trend analysis, it is useful to monitor the situation, including open public reports. McKinsey recently released a report on the retail market. This is important, since one of the key specializations of LINII is the development of brands for the retail and HoReCa market. You can also look at Gfk, Nielsen studies both in the public domain and order paid studies.
RETAIL SPACE 360° METHODOLOGY BY LINII
The main task of the retailer is to improve and manage the user experience. The Retail Space 360° methodology allows to understand how the consumer feels when interacting with the brand at different points of contact. As part of this approach, a retail brand is assessed on six important aspects:
- design (identity)
- interior / exterior
All six parameters are important for business and brand building. This means that when developing a brand strategy, all aspects must be worked out and combined into a single brand experience.
At this stage, the retailer determines where physical points of brand representation are located or should be located: offices, retail branches, postamates, shops, delivery points and so on. The social and demographic characteristics of consumers are analyzed in relation to geolocation. For example, diamond jewelry stores cannot be located in street retail locations with low traffic or in half empty shopping centers. And large DIY hypermarkets, on the contrary, can be freestanding stores with access to transportation hubs.
The evaluation parameters of the brand include basic recommendations about the product, its consumer properties and benefits, as well as the services that the brand can provide. In coffeeshop chain this can be drinks, main types of coffee and tea, as well as related products, such as snacks and full meals. Often the assortment varies greatly, only key positions should be compared. For example, cappuccino in our country for coffee shops takes 50% of the sale of drinks in the check. Therefore, the focus should be at this particular drink.
Even if we are talking about a retail store where a customer buys a product, the service is an integral part of the user experience. Here it is important to understand how the brand interacts with the client. If we speak about QSR (Quick Service Restaurants), then attention is paid to various aspects of user experience, which can be divided into service stages: ordering at the counter, serving dishes, communicating with waiters and cashiers. And for new automated formats, this is the convenience of using a face recognition system, a payment instrument, issuing a check and ordering.
It is important to understand that each of the consumers has their own expectations for interacting with the brand in the quality of service, the speed of interaction, the time spent in a cafe or restaurant. If the brand is focused on the premium segment, there is no need to meet the consumer at the entrance with the words: "It’s great that you came to us today, we have a 70% discount on the product. Don’t miss such a luck!"
The retailer is responsible for managing the expectations of these three aspects. However, a branding agency should always help with auditing, evaluation, and recommendations for improving the user experience along these three dimensions. The following three aspects are directly the responsibility of the branding agency.
This includes everything that forms the perception of the brand based on its visual and verbal identifiers: logo, corporate colors, fonts, corporate identity elements, media, exterior (sign), packaging, slogans, tone of voice etc.
5. Interior and exterior
Interior and exterior solutions are not only a packaging for user experience, but also an integral part of the brand experience. Here, recommendations include elements of space organization, furniture, finishing materials, lighting solutions and even atmosphere and music. Some furniture and building materials retailers clearly communicate the comfort and coziness of home to the consumer, while others speak about technology, high quality and innovation in the field of construction and design.
At this stage, the issues of what, to whom, how and where the retail brand says offline (advertising, posters, messages inside cafes) and online (social networks, online advertising, hashtag analysis) are solved. The appearance of communications (posters, promos) and verbal style (tone of voice, copyright, slogans) are analyzed.
A modern branding agency is not limited in its decisions only to designing a visual style. The language of communications, character, their tone, with which he communicates, are also extremely important. They allow you to stand out in the clutter of other competitive offers.
CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP AND CX
When it comes to retail, the challenge is to manage consumer behavior in a given space. In order to make it optimal in terms of cost and efficiency, CJM (User Journey Map) is used, which helps to correctly zone the trading space.
Here it is worth distinguishing between 2 closely related terms. CX — customer experience — is a broader concept that includes the user journey within the store, as well as searching before and interacting with the store after visiting and making a purchase.
CJM is a narrower method. At the strategy stage the planning and zoning of space is thought out, based on the user’s path, it is decided how to guide the user in order to make his route as efficient as possible. In fact, this is a simulation of the user’s path, a simulation of how a person will move in space.
Work with customer experience is divided into three blocks:
At the design stage of the space, the frequency of visits, the required time of stay (it is necessary that a person walks for a long time or leaves quickly) is analyzed. It also affects the design of the space, the light, the details.
2. Person (buyer’s mission)
5 key factors that influence why a person came to the retail space are analyzed. For example, a specific product or service, socialization, escape (the desire to get lost, switch, escape from reality, change the picture), education, entertainment function.
3. Place (purchasing path)
The shopping path is the movement of a person inside the space. Here we consider different stages of a person’s acquaintance with the brand’s retail space. It starts with attracting attention, for example, with a shop window or communication in space. Some research data says that today there are only 8 seconds to get a person’s attention. This is less than the RAM of Dory fish from "Finding Nemo" cartoon. We need some kind of wow effect that will help create a person’s interest in the circle of other competitive offers. This is exactly what the design of shop windows and facade groups is aimed at.
Further, the greeting is how the space meets a person from the entrance, how it is more convenient for him to get to know this space, how the staff greets him, whether they meet him.
Acquaintance with the store — when a person begins his movement in space. Immersive user movement as the store guides them. Here, navigation elements, floor traffic signs or electronic boards can come to the rescue, which can build a personal path of the consumer through the store.
Then there is a choice — how to help a person on a shelf in a department understand what he needs, point navigation, panels, screens.
Further consultation, if a person has questions — where he needs to go; you can send it to the application, or make the price tags more informative.
Then payment, how it is carried out, where the place of payment will be located. Upsells — communication and additional offers. Oddly enough, the moment of payment is very painful for people, almost 40% of them are frustrated with the expectation and inconvenience of making a payment. Remote payment services through the application, using a QR code and a self-service counter help to improve this process and make the brand experience more interesting, rich and friendly.
Farewell — how the brand at the exit says goodbye to the buyer, what a person sees when he leaves, so that his experience from the visit is completed.
All the described tools help to qualitatively diagnose the situation and develop an effective strategy for the retail brand, laying the foundation for future development and positioning for several years to come.