Great marketers are obsessed with the customer experience, and nowhere is this more true than in retail. Increasingly, a disconnect between a retailer’s brand story and the actual customer experience can mean the difference between success and failure in this highly competitive vertical.
According to author and futurist Michael McQueen, “visceral, multisensory and high-emotion” retail experiences delivered seamlessly across online and offline channels are what retailers should be striving to deliver. That is if they are to keep customers coming back, achieve brand loyalty and turn customers into brand advocates.
So while the digital experience is taking on a bigger focus as customers search for products, competitive offers, compare prices, check availabilities and make selections, the offline experience cannot be neglected.
In fact, it is increasingly important when it comes to younger shoppers: millennials and their younger counterparts, Generation Z. Younger shoppers are still inherently social creatures, drawn to shopping centres that facilitate face-to-face interactions and connections according to the Retail Practice Report 2017. Findings suggest that 87% of millennials like or love shopping in-store, view it as a social experience, and often shop in groups or with friends.
So who are the retailers creating great cross channel experiences that are driving exceptional brand stories?
For those of us who “carry our life in our bag”, there’s upmarket leather-goods retailer Mon Purse. In-store, the smell and tactile qualities of high-end leather are combined with bag-building software offered via desktop computers and ipads in-store that help customers create their ideal handbag.
The store even offers a hand-painted detailing service in-store and promoted online via the store’s stylish website that enables customers to turn their totes into wearable art.
Sourced internationally, designed by you and made in Europe — because why would you carry around a bag you didn’t love?
The art of brand storytelling across channels is something in which bespoke shoe retailer Shoes of Prey specialises, promising its customers “confidence from the feet up”. Designed by the buyer, their custom shoes are made a pair at a time, a fact which is borne out via images of the shoes in production, delivered in beautiful packaging with the shoes themselves. This draws the customer into the whole story, from online to offline, involving the customer from conception to production and delivery — and inspiring advocacy.
US retailers such as Timberland are also tapping into storytelling, curating their product offering with flexible stores and TreeLAB, a retail offering which which product selection is reduced to a single story. These are tailored to suit a particular location and operated like a pop-up store, with the ability to change stories or relocate based on results and move to areas with greater potential.
TreeLAB contains one-third of the product lines of a typical Timberland store and changes every 6-to-8 weeks, with the goal of increasing customer engagement and excitement, as well as making sales.
Such experimentation positions retailers to make use of machine learning technology which many retailers are expected to adopt; in fact, around 45 per cent of retailers plan to use AI in the next three years. However using data to design compelling in-store experiences is still a relatively untapped opportunity.
Not for long.
While these trends offer exciting possibilities for brick-and-mortar retailers, the art of telling a great brand story involves ensuring the essence of the story is carried across and through each channel with which the customer engages.
Marketers, customer service teams, front-line retail staff and executives — as much as merchandisers and buyers — must be aware of how to tell the brand story via their established channels, as well as emerging technology.
To achieve this, it’s important to ensure all stakeholders are aligned on the company’s brand vision and values, and have the tools that enable them to thread these through every customer conversation and touchpoint.