How retail stores enhance brand experience

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

Brick-and-mortar has become a key weapon for many retailers. It is this place where smart brands are able to fully demonstrate their essence and their brand value that’s beyond making money. The mobile industry has caught on to this in a big way over the last 5 years. AT&T, Boost, and Microsoft, for example, have all been on a building increase. Why has the physical store become so important in extending the brand experience? What happened to the doomsday web people saying that humans will no longer want to shop in physical stores anymore because they can practically do everything online?

The VP-Marketing of Boost puts it this way, “We work with partners like Best Buys because their stores become our brands’ anchor.” In a recent study by Wachovia, brick-and-mortar investment is the single biggest driver to customer acquisition. Advertising comes in second. They found that customers still valued face-to-face personalized service stores provided.

The store becomes part of your advertising. Just ask Starbucks. This is the place where your brand promise you made in advertising takes life and is fulfilled. Advertising and marketing helps get customers to try you out or at least, take a look around. It is the store experience that keeps them as repeat customers and turns them into loyal followers of the brand. Your store experience must fulfill the brand promise. If you do this with skill, you’re going to see the appropriate rise in business and revenue. If you don’t have a concise brand promise, then your store is just a commodity place where generic stuff is and you’re reduced to a price-point war.

Retail stores also act as billboards. Verizon has been increasing their storefronts at about 6-8% over the last few years, totaling 2,500 to date. The emotional meaning you provide by the in store experience translates into the sign people see from the street. This is one way to add emotional value to and otherwise, cold, inactive sign. Brand experience energizes the logo people see on the building. Stores are like permanent advertising.

Marketers need to maximize the marketing value of the store instead of seeing it just as a distribution point. They should be the embodiment of the advertising and bring to life the brand promise. It is the customer experience that people use to define your brand and if that experience isn’t delivered,  you’re in trouble. Many products and services are better served in a brick-and-mortar setting than online. For example, a vast majority of people don’t like to buy cell phones online. They want to touch and feel the handset. They want to see how it works. They want someone there to explain the cool features and gadgets. All of this “experience” builds your brand and the innate value your brand delivers. This is the “joy of the soul” that is beyond the utilitarian approach that is adopted by so many web businesses.

Now, online stores can do the same. They just have a disadvantage of not being able to appeal to as many senses as the physical world does. Online must rely on other tools more heavily such as great design and great writing to help deliver the brand promise. It is the execution of the transaction as well as the ultimate delivery of the product that further extends the brand experience. The only drawback is the loss of immediate satisfaction because many things must be shipped. And then the experience is out of your hands and in the delivery company’s control. Online stores are at a disadvantage because their physical counterparts can leverage all five senses as well as reinforce a sixth quality, how I feel. This is achieved through fulfilling the brand promise made in marketing and advertising.

As with either brick-and-mortar or online stores, marketing and advertising is a major key to communicating your brand. Many times it is advertising that customers first encounter your brand and learn what that brand promise is. By turing your store into an advertising platform, you can extend your brand essence where it is fully realized in a visceral way.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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