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4 Tips for Consistent Branding across Retail Channels

April 18th, 2013 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

What’s your favorite store? Where do you like to shop when you have a little extra cash in your pocket? Which stores do you like to recommend to friends who are looking for new clothes, new furniture, new gadgets, etc.?

Chances are that seeing those questions made a few different brands pop into mind, and even made you visualize how you shop at those stores. And this locks onto a crucial concept that is fundamental to the shopper and the shopping experience as a whole: Consumers do not buy from channels but from brands.

This might seem like a strange idea, given that the retail industry is buzzing with words containing “channel” in them (“multi-channel”, “omni-channel”). And this is not dismissing the strategy of branching out into different retail channels, which is a strategy that grows ever more necessary as tech-savvy consumers continue relying on mobile devices to make purchasing decisions. In fact, merchants who don’t adopt a multi/omni-channel approach risk future extinction.

But retailers need to recognize that the ultimate reason that a customer chooses to shop at a store is because of the store’s products or services. That store is giving them something they want, and there is a specific reason why they chose that particular store as opposed to a competing one (whether its price, product quality, location, etc.). If merchants don’t understand what makes their customers tick (regardless of channel), then they will eventually make their customers flee. 

So the smart retailer needs to ensure that all of their channels, from the online store to the brick-and-mortar location, uniformly communicate what brings the shopper to the brand in the first place. And if this sounds a little daunting, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a report by the Aberdeen Group titled “The 2012 Omni-Channel Retail Experience”, 35% of retail organizations surveyed said that a major omni-channel pressure was inconsistent branding.

But if retailers don’t take the steps to address branding across channels, there can be serious repercussions – such as lost customers and lost revenue. According to the report, “Inconsistent messaging, pricing, promotions, or experiences cause customer confusion, leading to low customer satisfaction and reduced spending. Retailers need to ensure that certain principles, such as branding and style guidelines and the voice of the retailer, are evident in all communications and all touch points, regardless of channel.”

Here are four tips for making your messaging seamless and unified, and getting your customers to keep coming back – from any channel.

1. Make Your Design Aesthetic Consistent across Stores

First and foremost, the store logo that’s on the front of your brick-and-mortar store should be the same logo that’s on your online store and mobile store. If you think that different channels mean that you should tweak your logo for each channel too, just don’t. It will confuse your customer and not associate your different channels as coming from one single brand – and it’s all about one brand, one messaging.

And if you have a certain color scheme or design aesthetic that your retail stores follow, be sure to incorporate it into all channels as well. For example, look at the screenshots of cosmetic retailer Serenity’s online and mobile stores below. First, shoppers see that the same logo is present for both stores, which makes them know they’re in the right place. Also, the colors (white, gray and green) and the clean, spare design layout are incorporated in both, further signaling that although these may be two different retail touch points, they are in essence the same store from the same company.  

The online Serenity store

the mobile store

The online Serenity store (top image) and the mobile store (bottom image) convey the same design style and color aesthetic, proving to the shopper that they are in the right place.

2. Offer Cross-Channel Loyalty Programs

Shoppers love a good deal, and loyalty programs are an enticing avenue for shoppers looking to get them. And what’s great about loyalty programs for retailers is that they can very effectively and seamlessly tie shoppers from different channels together. If there’s an opportunity to access the same cool rewards or deals that a program offers from different touch points, then customers will naturally continue accessing those different touch points – and even access them more, with the loyalty rewards giving them the incentive to do so. 

According to the Aberdeen report, “Next Generation Customer Loyalty: The Evolution of the Digital Customer”, retailers using a cross-channel loyalty platform have seen a 20% increase in customer retention rates (compared to 8% for all others) and 15% increase in customer re-activations rates (compared to 4% for all others).

By developing a loyalty program that is consistent across store platforms, and that enables customers to register, check loyalty balances, redeem awards, and access specials regardless of which channel they’re in, retailers strengthen their connection with customers and provide an environment that fosters customers in becoming potential brand advocates.

3. Use Social Media to Market Promotions Going on in All Channels

Social media is a huge connector on both a person-to-person and person-to-organization scale, offering an incredibly valuable platform for businesses to engage with customers. Since social media is the virtual spokesman for company brands these days, use your company Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to get the word out about the compelling promotions that are going on in all your retail channels.

When building and maintaining a social media presence, it’s important to remember to stay true to who your company is. By understanding your brand and how your customers connect with that brand, your communication with customers is more highly targeted and thus more likely to take hold across channels. Richard Alfonsi, Global Vice President of Small Business Sales at Twitter Inc., that was posted in the National Retail Federation’s blog, Mr. Alfonsi had this advice for businesses: “[It’s] best to speak in your own voice, know who your audience is, and think about building your presence in a smart and authentic way… If you think about the image you want to project, the voice you want to use, and are doing that in a natural way that’s engaging with your customer base, that is what resonates and generates success for a business.”

Not only is social media helpful in publicizing the different channels you have available, but it is also a useful tool in directing traffic to a particular channel. For example, if a merchant wants to drive more foot traffic to a store, Alfonsi recommends using specific hashtags for promotions or deals they are running, and then to instruct customers who want to use the deal to mention that hashtag when they arrive in the store.  Said Alfonsi, “For example, let’s say you are a local retailer and as part of your holiday promotions, you are giving a 20% discount on all out-of-season items. If the retailer then sends a number of tweets telling customers they will get the discount if they mention the hashtag #2012SuperSale in the store, instantly the business knows those customers not only saw the deal on Twitter, but it motivated them to come into the store and buy their products.”

4. Accurate, Up-to-Date Customer Data from All Touch Points

It cannot be overstated how crucial it is for your team members to have customer information at their fingertips, at all times. The day and time that a customer placed an order; the items in a customer’s order; the location that the customer placed the order from (was it through an online store or a customer service representative?); the status of the order (is it being processed, on hold, or completed?); all of this information is necessary for a store representative to have access to.

With retail, it’s all about the customer service. By providing personalized attention that serves the needs of the individual customer, stores establish a crucial bond of trust – which encourages customers to return. For example, say a customer decides to call in to check on the status of an order he placed on the online store three days ago. What kind of impression will he get if the customer service rep who answers his call has no idea what he ordered, where his order is, or even who he is? Lack of information signals a lack of caring – and customers will reciprocate this feeling by walking away.

By putting in place an order entry system that serves as a central repository of customer and sales order information, merchants give their team members a clear view into sales activity across channels – which enables them to better serve and support their customers. By also showing inventory availability and status on the order entry system, merchants further assist their reps in supporting the customer, which increases customer satisfaction and retention. Initiating standardized information sharing practices across retail channels enables retailers to develop a common merchandising strategy – a policy that is necessary for keeping branding uniform across channels.

order entry system

An order entry system that allows customer service representatives to see sales orders and track customer activities enables better customer service and management.

Let Your Brand Lead the Way

Seamlessly integrating your company’s brand into all of your retail channels enables you to not only maintain and deepen connections with existing customers, but it also paves the way for enticing new customers. By allowing your brand communication to evolve the way that consumer interaction evolves, all while staying true to your organization’s core messaging, you position your company to stay at the forefront of your customers’ attention.    

If you would like more information on the retail information management systems that can improve your cross-channel brand messaging, please email us at retail@ignify.com

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.