Online-first and so-called “clicks-to-bricks” retailers like Casper and Wayfair are paving the way for a new kind of shopping experience customers can have in retail stores. These physical stores have one thing in common: They encourage consumers to engage with their brands and products with a shopping experience centered on their brand identity.
According to Gartner’s 2017 Corporate Brand Survey, customers who feel a personal connection to a brand are more likely to prefer that brand when making purchasing decisions (full content available to Gartner clients).
In fact, customers who have a strong connection to a brand are four times more likely to pay a premium for its products than those who don’t, the survey found. That’s why it’s important that ecommerce brands connect that branding to their retail stores.
CEB 2017 Corporate Brand Survey (Source)
To learn about how online retailers can integrate branding into their in-store shopping experience, we’ve spoken with an expert that’s done just that.
Co-founder of women’s hat retailer Gigi Pip
Gigi Pip began online and opened a brick-and-mortar store in Salt Lake City, Utah, a year later. Parrish shares his insights from this process.
How to integrate brand identity to your physical retail store
Bringing your online brand identity to your physical store is no easy task. But Parrish has offered up some key considerations that will get you well on your way.
1. Create a consistent and unified experience
Bringing your brand identity to life from your website to your retail store begins with focusing on what customers remember you for and imagining how your shopping experience can foster that.
“Since we had built a pretty successful brand identity, we wanted that to carry over into the retail shop,” says Parrish. He recognized that every interaction a shopper has with Gigi Pip—whether online or in-store—has to be consistent.
Gigi Pip’s retail store is an extension of its online store, using plenty of white space and similar brand elements
With the launch of its physical retail store, Parrish sought to maintain the same look and feel of the brand through in-store language, greetings, and colors. He implemented the creation of a style guide, making sure every in-store element was aligned to its online store, and vice versa.
Similarly, Gigi Pip’s tagline and greeting—“For the women who wear many hats,” which is featured on its home page—is imprinted on the wall of its retail store and is the first thing customers see when they enter their store.
- ✔ Document a brand guide: Just like Gigi Pip, you can include brand elements like your vision, mission, and guidelines. Providing guidelines and examples of do’s and don’t’s will help educate your employees on your brand identity and clear up any confusion.
- ✔ Encourage communication across teams: At Gigi Pip, both online and retail store employees receive the same training when it comes to understanding the brand’s mission and values. Make sure all teams, whether it’s the marketing department or store managers, are aligned and have open lines of communication needed to provide a consistent customer experience. You can maintain this communication through weekly 1:1s or routine email updates.
2. Engage with customers online and offline
Customers do not differentiate between “online” or “offline.” They see every interaction as a brand interaction, regardless of medium.
They communicate with your brand through their preferred methods, whether it’s through online chat or in-person.
Omnichannel customers spend 4% more on every shopping occasion in-store, and 10% more online than single-channel customers.
When it comes to buying hats online, Parrish discovered early on that customers have numerous questions, seek recommendations, and often end up exchanging products once they’ve tried them on at home.
And while customers always have the option of emailing or calling them, those options did not cater to the demands of the average online shopper that desires an instant response.
Engaging with customers online
On the Gigi Pip site, Parrish launched a live chat widget using text messages to communicate with customers.
Here’s how it works: Customers can send inquiries via a pop-up chat box that appears on the website, and employees follow up by responding to inquiries. Customers can then choose to opt into its text list before or after the chat. In just a few months, Gigi Pip grew its text subscribers to over 500 customers.
Customers can opt to join its text list before or after its live chat
This may not be the right move for every business, but it’s something you should at least consider. Below you can find a list of steps to follow when exploring this avenue of engagement.
- Identify use cases. How and where can you use live chat on your website?
- Inventory existing apps. What existing applications require integration?
- Determine additional support. What extra interaction channel support will you need?
- Examine pricing. What different pricing and deployment options are available?
- Ensure customization. Is the live chat application mobile-ready and easily customizable?
- Assess capabilities. What are the analytics capabilities that you’ll get?
Source: Gartner (full article available to clients only)
Engaging customers at a physical retail store
When it comes to its retail store and trade shows, Parrish and his team use an iPad kiosk to add customers to the text list. Customers get an instant message requesting for details such as their email and birthday.
The iPad kiosk system by CityGro is also integrated with its in-store Shopify POS. That means every customer gets a text from Gigi Pip confirming their order and letting them know they can text back any time with questions.
Parrish says the company wants customers to have the ability to reach out to them with any inquiries; Gigi Pip gets to follow up with relevant promotions via text in response. To date, the women’s hat retailer has about a 35% opt-in rate for its SMS list.
“Many businesses might think that text marketing is too intrusive, but we haven’t seen that at all,” says Parrish.
- ✔ Identify where your target market is: An effective omnichannel strategy means you’re meeting your customers where they’re at. In Gigi Pip’s case, it’s through online chat and an interactive iPad kiosk. You can find out where your target market is and where the most important touchpoints for your business are in two ways: either with Google Analytics, or by running various attribution reports that show where your customers are converting through your POS system.
- ✔ Connect both online and offline channels: Customers interact with your brand online and offline in different ways. Some may look up your products online before making a purchase at your store. Others may check out your store only to make an online purchase weeks later after an online chat. One way you can use online research to drive sales to your stores is through Local Inventory Ads which serve to help drive foot traffic to nearby stores.
Source: Gartner (full article available to clients only)
3. Provide an experiential retail experience
Forward-thinking retailers are re-imagining physical spaces as consumers increasingly seek out immersive shopping experiences.
What does an experiential retail experience provide?
- Addresses consumer needs
- Creates a shareable experience for shoppers
- Engages customers through personalized and curated experiences
Here’s how Gigi Pip is creating a more immersive retail experience to meet customer needs:
- Offering free steaming in-store
- Providing free head measuring
- Providing cards for the right head size
- Educating staff on how to advise what hats fits best with different head sizes and face shapes
These customer-centric services are a great way to serve your customers and often indirectly influences purchasing decisions. In-store complimentary services not only provides an engaging experience for customers, they also go a long way in creating a long-lasting customer relationship throughout the lifecycle of your product.
Ready to integrate brand identity for your online and retail store?
Now that we’ve offered ways in which you can integrate your digital and brick-and-mortar stores, Parrish shares what else you need to consider in your expansion to physical retail:
How will my retail store add value? “It can sound glamorous to branch into the physical world. The reality is that it’s really expensive to do well. We knew there was real value in providing a physical experience with a hat—picking it up, holding it, and trying it on. Be aware of your emotions—do you love the idea of this, or the reality of it?”
Consider other ways of using your retail space. “Can it also be used as a warehouse, office space, photography studio, or even generate extra revenue from renting parts out? If you can double-, triple-, or quadruple-use that space, you can keep your costs from ballooning out of control.”
Ask yourself the hard questions, such as:
- How many existing and potential customers will you have at the retail store?
- How much time, money, and pavement-pounding are you going to have to invest to get the word out?
- How much financial runway do you have as traffic and attention builds?
- How long do you have to prove the idea, and are you willing—or able—to walk away if it’s clear it’s not going to work?
Want to learn more about others who have successfully expanded from ecommerce to physical retail?
Find out more about how their strategies in our “Clicks to Bricks” series:
- From Clicks To Bricks: How An Online Pet Store Expanded Into Wholesale Retail
- From Clicks to Bricks: How an Online Apparel Store Launched an In-House Retail Showroom
If you have specific questions about what technology you’ll need to make the integration of your digital and physical retail store smoother, our friendly retail software advisors are here to help. Give us a call for a free 15-minute phone consultation at (844) 687-6771.