5 Considerations In Building a Retail Brand

5 Considerations In Building a Retail Brand

by Don Capman

Tell the world who you are. Brand yourself with the hot iron of success.

What are some of the things that come to mind when you hear Bloomingdale’s? Exclusive, high-end designer merchandise, unique-and-wide selection, great atmosphere, superior customer service, and a place to treat yourself? These are just some of the things that immediately may come to mind. Opening its doors in 1872, the Bloomingdale brothers knew that if they were to succeed big-time in the Big Apple, they had to do something different. Instead of selling what everyone else was selling, they imported high-end European fashions and by the 1920s they had expanded into an entire city block. They knew who their loyal customers were, listened to them and, amazingly, 128 years and many stores later, still do. They recognized the value of “branding” and consistency and were generously rewarded.

What is branding and why is it so important? Branding is the unique image that goes through a person’s mind when he or she is thinking of your store(s). When done right, a consistent theme should dominate and that theme should withstand the test of time.

Another great example of branding is Disney. We all have images imprinted on our brains when we think of Disney because those images have been pretty unique and consistent throughout most of our lives.

How is successful branding achieved? Branding isn’t always in a name. After all, before Disney created his magic, the name Disney meant little or nothing to the general public. Now it is synonymous with a certain mouse, some theme parks, many movies, and exciting vacations. This recognition and association did not happen overnight. Whether your store be a small family-run business or a large chain, brand strategy and recognition is critical. A starting point might be to ask yourself the following questions:

HOW DO YOU WANT THE WORLD TO VIEW YOUR STORE(S)?

Is there something unique about your store(s) that causes the public to remember you in a certain way? It might not a bad idea to make a list of what you think makes you unique and take a customer survey to validate those perceptions. Sometimes who we are and who we think we are can be two very different things.

WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?

Do you know the average profile of your most loyal customers? Why do they shop in your store(s)? How can you be sure you are buying the right merchandise if you don’t understand and know your target customers? The saying “You can’t be all things to all people” is especially true in retail. It is important to find your niche and work it to the hilt.

IS YOUR MESSAGE CONSISTENT?

There are many ways to message your brand. You can do print advertising, television, e-marketing, social-cause marketing, and event marketing to name but a few. All of these methods should present a consistent image of your store(s). This message could be in a store name, logo, slogan, song, in-store graphics, website or all of the above, as long as it is pervasive, consistent and appropriate and gets across the image you would like to project.

DOES YOUR BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORE HAVE A CONSISTENT AND CUSTOMER-CENTRIC ATMOSPHERE?

Is the store designed and merchandised with your loyal customer profile in mind? People spend money in places where they feel most comfortable. That’s why teens and young adults spend big bucks at stores like Aeropostale and Abercrombie and Fitch. They feel comfortable and know what to expect. Conversely an elderly woman might feel most comfortable in the Alfred Dunner department at Macy’s. She also feels comfortable and knows what to expect. Most importantly, both the teen and the elderly woman identify with the brand.

DOES YOUR WEBSITE DELIVER A MESSAGE THAT IS CONSISTENT WITH YOUR STORE IMAGE?

Successful branding demands consistency throughout the enterprise. Your website and/or e-store should be a reflection of your brick and mortar store(s) and be easily recognizable to your target customers. Choosing an inexpensive and amateurish standard template driven e-commerce solution can result in a long-term costly mistake. Your website is your window to the world.

In a world racked with political and economic turmoil, it is easy to impulsively change your direction and message in hopes that another approach will work better. If your message becomes unclear or confusing and you lose sight of your brand, you may also lose your best customers. If you don’t understand who you are, it is unlikely your customers will.

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