A new study says 2016 will be the year of the brand experience, and not just the digital experience. Global branding and design firm Landor sees real, human interactions and authentic interactions with brands as a key marketing trend.
Landor sees good news for brick-and-mortar stores, as consumers will return en masse to the old-fashioned way of shopping, but augmented with mobile, personal, multichannel, and multi-sensory experiences.
Online shopping is supposed to have killed or at least vastly diminished traditional brick-and-mortar retail, which it hasn’t and won't, but it is changing what physical retail means. Landor says customers once again want in-person interactions in the real world, and that smart brands are combining the physical store experience with the agility in terms of information and customization they can get via digital channels. Amazon just opened its first bookstore in Seattle, where customers can browse books and also read customer reviews.
Trevor Wade, global marketing director at Landor says that, althought Amazon is not the first digital brand to open a brick and mortar store — she notes that Warby Parker, the online eyewear company, has also opened physical store locations — more online brands are realizing that consumers want engagement in both the virtual and real world. "Engaging with consumers in the physical world can not only help boost sales but also create customer loyalty. Face-to-face interaction goes a long way," she says. "And with Amazon also becoming an electronics manufacturer with its Kindle and Amazon Fire TV, it makes sense to open a place where customers can try out these products first-hand before making a purchase.”
Engagement with brand employees, actual people, is also going to become a point that brands take seriously. Landor predicts that next year companies will focus on training employees to be brand ambassadors. As the nation considers upping the minimum wage, brands are going to tout how well they treat employees.
Wade tells Marketing Daily that brand agility is key to meeting consumers changing demands. “In today’s market that means existing on multiple channels. Consumers want their brands to be everywhere they are, and for most shoppers that means being both online and offline.”
Wade argues that one should mistake this new focus on the physical, personal experience as brand-strategy remorse: brands thinking they have maybe gone overboard on focusing on the digital experience as the cardinal brand experience. “But they are realizing it is about more than just digital. Brands are still looking for new ways to engage with consumers through digital platforms.” She notes that Starbucks and Taco Bell, for example, are now letting customers preorder using an app on their smartphones. “But they will also be looking for ways to connect with them in the physical world. We saw more brands trying this over the holiday season, with stores like Target and Kmart allowing consumers to shop online and pick up their purchases at their local stores.”
On the industry side, Landor sees:
- Banks rebranding as they face an over-saturated market. "Look for these institutions to reevaluate and restructure what their brands stand for as they strive to be more human and trustworthy," says the report.
- Brands focusing less on promoting calorie count and more on transparent manufacturing processes to tell an authentic food story, à la Shake Shack, which has been talking about where it gets its ingredients.
- Hotel chains, faced with Airbnb, creating exclusive experiences around authentic, personalized, local flavor. Marriott now has a series of smaller hotels under its Edition chain, for example. Hilton has the Canopy collection of hotels in the heart of culturally significant areas.