Building a Brand-Obsessed Model

Building a Brand-Obsessed Model

May 5, 2016

I stumbled onto some “out-takes” from the recent World Retail Congress in Dubai last month and this is what I read:

Paolo de Cesare, CEO of upmarket French department store Printemps, said that “the recent downturn insales ofhigh-endgoods was exacerbated by shoppers switching their spending from goodsto services: some shoppers have moved from buying luxury products to buying luxury services, spending on hotels, restaurants and travel instead.”

This is why smart luxury retailers are investing more in high-touch services and experiences in-store. One winning experience is offering customers the ability to experience a real-time runway show, with Hollywood quality, and fashions she’ s just seen in the show all with the ability to order right on the spot. Now they are not just first to see it but can be first to be seen IN it.

Knowing that stores are still generating some 80% of sales and that ‘ experience’ is proving to be the differentiator, what might this mean and how might this be interpreted for other retailers?

Add to that, most retailers aren’ t in a position to offer special services like a luxury brand might.

This got me thinking about the digital store. I always recommend that a brand start by laying out a blueprint that will prioritize the end-user experience they would like to provide, whether for a shopper or an associate. This exercise requires knowledge of the innovation available in the market, insights into how the end-user wants/needs to interact within the brand and, that aligns with the loyalty program and stated goals for the in-store experience.

An element that retailers are just starting to prioritize, I believe, is with employees – their input as well as arming them with the right tools. What I am talking about is how to create the right elements within the strategy that will channel the customer demand for a great ‘ experience’ into retail demand i.e. making the purchase. This starts with Employees being obsessed with the brand by feeling empowered!

Brian Kilcourse, RSRResearch, wrote a piece about this calledRBTE 2016: Focus On Employee Empowermentand it is well worth the read. Brian sites James Wintle, the Global Director of Digital & Technology at AllSaints, a London-based international fashion retailer. James talked about how his company fosters a “social mentality to communicate our Brand Value”. This doesn’ t work by throwing a bunch of digital technology or social media campaigns into a mix and expecting it to work.

First, employees who work directly with and see/hear customer frustrations, must be front and center to the decision making process. AllSaints achieves this by allowing their employees to have input on store design, fixtures and store layouts, and the source and manufacturer of the fashions they sell. Employees promote social communication both inside the company and with consumers. They are given tools that allow them to directly interact with customer as well as to design customer oriented solutions. –for example they may design how a display should be set up.

Second, employees need tobearmed with the tools that make them valuable assets to shoppers. Tablets or phones can provide a window to extended product information, buying histories, wish lists and recommendation engines. Give them real-time visibility to the entire floor plan, and discover where shoppers are browsing. Let them know immediately when a shopper asks for “help” from their consumer-facing app. With the right tools, well positioned, sales associates can even pass information directly to shoppers’ to help them make more informed buying decisions.

Finally, employees should be enabled tomake the right decisions for your most loyal customers. With tools to recognize which customers are in the store, and treat the most loyal ones in a personal way,
retailers can continue to foster loyalty, and increase revenue. For example, you may choose to leverage technology that will provide Associates with a customer’ s loyalty history, and encourage them to have a personal conversation or give them a reward or “treat” in the store. I was in a store once and watched an Associate hurry to the front of the store when one of her customers walked in. The Customer immediately broke into details about their recent family vacation. Wow!

While not every retailer can pull off what is being done at AllSaints, empowering employees all the way down to designing displays, they can certainly entertain these ideas and see how to embed them into their own brand. Endeavor to build a store experience that speaks to the way your customer shops, and the loyalty and revenue will grow.