As a retailer, do you shudder when you hear the word branding? Does it bring to mind big budgets and ad agencies? How can you think about branding for your store? It is so much more than just advertising, and involves every aspect of your business and store.
For starters, envision your store: What do people see when they look at your entryway from across the street? Your storefront and windows serve as your brand “advertisement,” and you only have about three seconds to catch people’s attention, so make it count. Your messages and images should be bold, clear and concise. And they should give customers a consistent message about how the inside of the store will look and what they will find. Now, go inside. Is there a clear and consistent message or theme carried through from the outside of your store, or is the interior totally disconnected from the exterior?
So how do you create or build a brand within a retail store? Our approach at Retail Concepts is using a philosophy called “Inside-Out Marketing,” which basically says that stores should use their physical space (and everything in it) as their primary brand vehicle and as the starting point for all communication with customers. If you think about who you are targeting and use every opportunity within your store to communicate your brand to customers, you are on the right track to being able to connect with them, just using your brand—which can be accomplished without spending tons of money.
Here are four brand creation elements that strengthen your brand from the inside-out, along with examples of retailers doing it right.
1. Making the right first impression
T-Shirt Deli is a shop in Chicago where people can create custom T-shirts in a fun and unique setting. You take one glance at the place, and you can easily understand the brand and personality. Everything fits with the deli theme. But this isn’t a store that necessarily spends a ton to get that across. It uses props such as potato chips, condiment containers and so on to suggest its personality. Overall, the first impression the store makes is about what a fun experience anyone who enters will have in making a custom T-shirt—thus helping to define the brand.
2. Anticipating customer needs
Treat Cupcake Bar thinks about how people eat its cupcakes. It offers a make-your-own cupcake (straight from the cupcake bar) that comes unfrosted so that customers can frost to their own liking. Because the target market is children, Treat knows that part of the experience is in making the mess. So kids can create their own cupcake the way they like best (messy fingers and all). And what could be more fun than eating frosting right off the spoon?
3. Creating customer experience
American Girl has built its brand by creating customer experience, thus making its customers active participants in the world of American Girl. It does this strategically using various touchpoints throughout the store. Some examples:
- The Doll Hair Salon where girls can take their dolls to have their hair cut and styled.
- The theater kids can go to see performances based on the “stories” behind different dolls.
- The cafe where people can grab a bite to eat or have a birthday party (and where their dolls are welcome to join, complete with their own chair next to each child and their own snacks).
4. Leaving a lasting impression
The lasting impression is key in keeping a brand top of mind. It is that pleasant memory that keeps customers wanting more and coming back to your shop. Build a Bear packages their products in a box with a handle that is designed to look like a house for a child’s new stuffed toy. By doing this it is reminding customers (and potential customers) about the brand, even after they leave the shop.
If you think about how to integrate these strategies into your own business, you will create a memorable brand (again, without having to break the bank), which will keep customers returning for more. And we promise, you will no longer think branding is a four-letter word!
OPEN Cardmember Alyson Anderson is the Savvy Shopper of the Retail Concepts team, a group that provides retail consulting to small store owners.