Think of the last time you recommended a store to someone. Chances are the store provided a shopping experience that was memorable, seamless, and integrated - from the first interaction to the post-purchase follow-up. The atmosphere likely complemented their products, which meshed well with the wording, images, and mission that made the company so easy to remember.
This is a prime example of a brand that has a solid branding strategy - one that they not only utilize daily but specifically created to leave a lasting impression on everyone who comes through the door. And since shoppers like you remember this store, they're more likely to make a purchase - leading to higher sales.
In fact, branding is so important; it can make or break a company. It is part of the overall experience a business creates, and better experiences lead to repeat customers and plenty of new shoppers. It's part creative, part analytical, and entirely critical to your success. In this white paper, we'll discuss exactly why branding your business is important and how great branding leads to higher sales.
Specifically, you'll learn:
- What exactly branding is and why it's fundamental to sales
- How to create a branding strategy
- How great branding leads to more business
- How to create an integrated brand experience
THE BASICS OF BRANDING
By definition, everything that influences a shopper's impression is part of your brand. It encompasses the complete experience from the first interaction with your company to after the sale is made. From the color of your walls to the font on your packaging, branding is interwoven throughout the entire retail process.
Why is it considered crucial? Branding is important because no one can purchase items from a company they don't know exists. Not only does it increase interest, but once someone is aware of your brand, you've entered into their shopping consciousness and have a better chance of becoming part of their purchasing journey. Branding also has the power to turn shoppers into loyal customers, which can be worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs as reported by HelpScout1
However, there are a few fundamental things a company must get right for their branding efforts to be effective according to Karl Heiseman, Chief Executive Officer of Wolff Olins and Maryam Banikari, Gannett's Chief Marketing Officer. First and perhaps foremost, "all successful brands have a clear and specific purpose. Because of the way technology has affected people, brands, and society, the most critical thing you can do is define your purpose. Once you've nailed it, your purpose will be a roadmap for the ride ahead," Heiseman and Banikari stated in their column for FastCompany.com.2
So how can you pinpoint your purpose? They recommend sitting down and pondering through tough questions like these to define how people should experience your business:
- Why does my business exist?
- What do we stand for?
- What role will we play in people's lives?
- What impact do we want to have on the world?
- In less than 30 seconds, what would I say to promote my business or entice others to learn more?
WHAT'S BEHIND YOUR BRAND STRATEGY?
The plan behind your brand is called the brand strategy, which works to make your store more credible, profitable, and visible, both online and offline. Most brand strategies consist of answers to crucial selling questions like these:
1. Why are you selling what you're offering?
This question helps you find the passion behind what you're doing besides making money. Dig deep and explore what interests you about what you're selling, who you're selling to, and how you plan on making your store successful to help drive your brand strategy.
"It's important to have a story that people can understand and connect with," stated Jennifer Eggers, Group Director of Brand Communication at branding firm Siegel + Gale on SEO expert blog, Linkdex. "Especially with newer brands, people care and expect that the brand is coming into existence for a good reason - to solve a problem, to change how we do things, to meet a specific need - and the story is central to communicating the brand's purpose.3
2. How are you going to stand out?
No matter where you're selling your goods, it's likely you won't be the only one offering these items. This question helps you figure out how you're going to stand out from your competitors and what problem your brand is going to solve. When your brand fills this need unlike anyone else, shoppers will stay engaged and likely spend more money at your business.
3. What can customers always expect from you?
According to a 2011 American Express Survey, 80% of Americans believe that smaller companies put more emphasis on customer service than the average big box retailer. Therefore, they are able to differentiate themselves and win over customers with consistently great service. If you deliver on your promises to your customers, you're reinforcing what they already believe and trust about your brand, prompting them to shop more and likely refer your business to others.
4. How are you going to build an emotional connection?
According to an article on Forbes referencing McKinsey & Company, 70% of purchases are not based on logic or price, but rather on how a customer feels about your brand.5 For example, a shoe retailer may not have the lowest priced pair of pumps, but thanks to a 90-day, no-hassle return policy, customers feel reassured that they can return the shoes if they change their mind. These shoppers may be more inclined to pay a few dollars extra just to know that they can return their purchase without any questions asked.
5. How are you going to retain customers?
Since retaining customers is entirely more cost-effective than attracting new ones, your brand strategy should outline how you're going to build loyalty and keep customers coming back. You may decide to include a rewards program for frequent customers, coupons for referrals, and even secret sales for your best clients as part of your brand strategy.
HOW DOES GREAT BRANDING TIE INTO MORE SALES?
Building a cohesive brand isn't just all about looks and first impressions. Coordinating your store and creating an impactful design can lead to increased sales. According to Christie Harper, President and Founder of Brand Endeavor, "great branding boosts sales by attracting new customers, retaining existing customers, and allowing you to sell your items at a premium price."6
Buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, so it is important to make sure you are giving your customers a unique and personalized experience they can't get anywhere else. One way to do that is by creating a shopping experience that truly wows. "Overall, good visual merchandising that matches your branding can increase sales from 10 to 15 percent," says Lyn Falk, president of Retailworks Inc. in an article written by Kathy Cisar. "Displays can move the customer to action. [Yet] a bad display can negatively affect all of the other good things you are doing in your store."
Visual merchandising that matches your store's branding acts like a persuasive salesperson - it beckons customers to come closer, while telling them the information they need to decide whether they're going to make a purchase. Research done by Russell R. Muller notes that, "displays can boost sales by a whopping 540% and even items on rolling racks with attractive signage can increase sales well above 134%!"
HOW CAN I CREATE A MORE EFFECTIVE BRAND EXPERIENCE?
Personalizing your brand experience is key to creating an engaged customer base that helps you promote your store. Did you know that 73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that personalize their shopping experiences? 9 Even further, it takes just three seconds to make a visual impact on your customers when they are in-store, says KDM P.O.P Solutions Group.10
You can use the size of your store to your advantage by creating an in-store environment that acts as a silent salesperson. Doing so allows you to capitalize on the opportunity to offer a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that big box retailers just can't deliver. Your visual merchandising can influence customers through signage, eye-catching displays, color palette, and unique details that can only be found in your store. Since it's one of the largest components of your brand, every detail should be a conscious one that ties back to communicating exactly who you are.
According to an article by Psychologist and Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker in a paper titled, Dimensions of Brand Personality, each color that you use to represent your brand is tied to different perceived traits by the customers. For example, a company whose brand color is purple is often associated with sophistication. However, the color yellow is often associated with ruggedness. Further, according to HelpScout.net, many scholars agree that it is important to choose your colors based on what you want to portray as a brand. 12 Once you have chosen your brand colors, they should be carried through the customer experience and can further help with brand recall. Try applying your brand's colors throughout your displays to tie the customer experience together.
Merchandising and point-of-purchase displays are also both fantastic ways of providing an emotional connection that's powerful enough to drive impulse purchase decisions and higher sales. Think racks that emphasize the style of your items, mannequins that enhance anything they're wearing, bags that match your color palate perfectly, and even the hangers that echo great taste. "Be consistent with the materials and colors you use throughout your store - they should reinforce the brand and the store's signature look. Retain and enhance your store's identity through well-coordinated and unique fixtures and props, but don't overdo it," states Falk referenced in an article by Kathy Cisar.13
Keeping your brand standardized across all touchpoints not only builds trust, familiarity, and authority with your customers, it also helps reinforce what you're selling, your message, and your core values. To capitalize on the benefits of consistency, use the same visual design, voice, and phrasing across all marketing efforts to help distinguish who you are and what you do.
Don't forget to coordinate your marketing and social media efforts to reinforce your brand. Your blogs, social media platforms, and even email can tie your business to new, thought-provoking content and interesting tips. You can even connect with your audience on a more personal level with promotional giveaways and contests to make your customers feel appreciated and recognized.
All of these pieces are integral parts that make up a successful brand - components that can significantly drive sales, if executed correctly. Don't be discouraged if the process of creating and implementing solid branding for your business takes a while. It requires a lot of input, creativity, and trial and error to create a memorable experience for your customers. Rushing the branding process has the potential to result in a lackluster, disjointed effort that has no effect on your revenue stream.
One final takeaway is to stay true to who you are as a business, even if the competition has great ideas. Imitating not only prevents you from standing out, it can come across like you're trying to keep up rather than offering something new. If you stay true to who you are, keep all of your branding consistent, and offer a product and experience that truly fills a market gap, higher sales numbers will be right around the corner.
(HelpScout), (Maryam Banikarim and Karl Heiselman), (Lisa Lacy), (American Express), (Forbes), (Christie Harper), (Jyppe Alqui), (Grace Nasri), (KDM P.O.P Solutions Group), (Jennifer L. Aaker), (HelpScout)