As a retail design agency, we work with our clients to not only create effective and beautiful spaces, but ensure these environments are a marketing channel in their own right.
In doing so, we consider how physical retail environments integrate with the other channels marketing directors have at their disposal. There’s no denying that the most important of these other channels is currently digital and that, within this area, the two most interesting trends for brands and retailers are social networking and crowd-sourcing.
And I can’t help feeling that brands are missing a trick. There are great examples of brands such as Burberry, New Look and Topman using social media to build brand engagement or create access to consumer insight, but beyond that there’s little evidence of retail brands taking a more integrated approach to social marketing and its relationship with retail environments.
Think about it; where else other than the virtual world of networking sites can brands and consumers talk to each other? In store. And I believe this is the most powerful expression of a brand. But if there’s little to connect the virtual world of networking sites to stores, brands are missing out on a huge opportunity to add a powerful, physical and experiential element to social campaigns.
Consider your store an element of your brand’s social network, an exciting place of connections and happenings that drive customers to the store and keep them there. If the virtual spaces of social networking sites enable consumers to talk and share, it could be the in-store experience that gives them something to talk about. We call it Social Retail.
If you place the store at the centre of your social marketing activity, you reinforce your brand values by giving customers an enhanced experience; you’re giving them content to share with their peers on social networks. In turn, that will drive visits to the store “have you seen this, it’s amazing, you have to come and see it/try it”. Do this, and you add what has always been the elusive element of social marketing – an effective way to monetise and measure your investment in social media.
We’ve got evidence of this approach working for our clients, including adidas, SanDisk and Virgin. We put experiences at the heart of the store or experience that create excitement and deliver against their fundamental brand values.
By implementing this approach, stores will inherently be designed differently. Your store becomes the home and meeting point for your brand’s advocates; they’ll talk about the event or experience you’ve given to them, their likes and dislikes, and you can foster this in a similar way to crowd-sourcing. So just as fashions change, brands and retailers can use the feedback gained from store experiences to adapt their offer, bring in ’the new’ and create excitement.
Looking forwards, stores won’t just sell but will deliver experiences that are connected and intelligent, from learning to trying to joining in – and the feedback gained from your brand’s biggest fans will help to shape all future developments.