The numbers speak for themselves: many new brands (especially D2C ones) are embracing brick and mortar each year. A recent study by CoStar revealed that ecommerce retailers leased over 376,000 square feet of retail space across the U.S. in 2018 – with a further 850 stores expected to open between 2019 and 2023, according to property consulting firm JLL.
For these retailers, physical stores are appealing as a new medium to share their brand story. When done well, the in-store experience commands a customer’s attention, creates an emotional connection and offers unique opportunities for unscripted and unedited moments. Yet for these same reasons, running physical retail poses an immense challenge.
For first-time retailers, here are some tips to bring their brand story to physical stores:
Find the story at the heart of the brand.
Behind every successful retailer lies a story that sets it apart from competitors, and captures the customer’s imagination. The best brick-and-mortar stores succeed in distilling this ethos into a tangible customer experience – but to do so, marketers will need to first hone and define their story, before sharing it with their audience.
Asking the following questions can help brands come to the table with a clear vision to communicate through their stores:
· What is our mission?
· What values must be communicated?
· What makes our brand special?
· Who is our ideal customer?
Envision your customer’s journey.
Bringing a customer into a brand’s story requires taking them on an immersive, considered journey through a store experience.
Retailers often benefit from mapping out their customers’ journey along each step of the way – from the first point of contact, points of discovery in store, to the final point of purchase – as this helps to ensure a connected narrative and to visualize customers’ experiences from their point of view.
Once a retailer has a clear vision for the way they seek to serve and sell, an experienced design team can then assist with presentation and execution.
For example, one outerwear brand envisioned a service-assisted sell as its customer journey, with consumer engagement as a priority. To support this vision, the store (pictured above) was designed as an edited presentation with a limited product selection, requiring customers to interact with staff for product education and recommendations.
Consideration and consistency are key.
When a message or a story is inconsistent, it has less impact on the customer. For this reason, it’s essential that the execution of your entire store experience remain seamless, with each detail carefully considered from the moment a customer crosses the store entrance to the time she leaves.
For example, does technology enhance your store experience, rather than dominate it? Should you have two cash registers, or four, to ensure a minimal wait time? Moreover, is your experience authentic and consistent from one location to the next? Do you tell the same story across different real estate, from pop-up shops, to standalone stores? In our experience, it is this level of consideration that truly sells the story, and sets apart the average store from the great ones.
While building a brick-and-mortar experience may require first-time retailers to learn a new set of storytelling skills, ultimately they’ll find the benefits prove worth their while.