Our 5 Key Takeaways from Interbrand's "Best Retail Brands" Report

best retail brands 2013
Today’s shoppers are savvier than ever, and retailers constantly need to reassess and evolve their marketing strategies in order to stay relevant. Navigating the waters of e-commerce, in-store experiences, and the endless options the digital world offers may seem overwhelming. Today’s most successful brands capitalize across all available channels, while responding to the consumer’s needs and maintaining a strong brand identity. Easier said than done, but definitely do-able! Below we’ve outlined five major qualities that the world’s best brands embody to show how retailers can develop strategy and positioning to elevate customer experience and sales.  These are our key takeaways are from Interbrand’s report on “Best Retail Brands”.
1)  The Brand: A 360 Approach Digital media and connected devices have transformed the retail shopping experience. But this doesn’t mean that in-store shopping has become obsolete. Look around— stores and malls still exist— and plenty of them, at that. This means they must still play a role in the customer’s interest, namely, by providing a 360 brand experience. A brand can’t simply employ digital marketing, nor can it hope to survive on e-commerce alone. Customers love shopping and want to interact with the products directly. They want to see the product. To touch the fabric. To test the function. This can’t be done on a screen. So, somewhat counter-intuitively, as on-line options grow, off-line options become that much more critical in leveraging consumer interest. By catering the in-store experience to the consumer’s needs, the best brands offer an important complement to all the digital innovations they are constantly bombarded with. Brand Example: ASOS, a British fashion retailer that currently only operates online. Thousands of global fans are clamoring for the brand to open a store, one blogger stating, “The only thing that could make ASOS even better… is a brick and mortar store we could visit on our lunch breaks.”
2)  “Best Price” Replaced by “Remarkable Experience” In today’s retail world, it is no longer enough to offer the best, lowest price. The old approach of low-prices-all-in-one-place won’t do much in the way of garnering consumer interest. To set themselves apart from competitors, brands must find a seamless, simple interaction between brand + product + experience + consumer. Customers’ expectations are at an all-time high, and the best brands constantly deliver a remarkable experience that meets their desires. By maintaining its core proposition, expanding overall presence, and finding innovative ways to simplify the shopping process, a brand can provide the “remarkable experience” that consumers are looking for. Brand Example: Sephora. It has given customers access to affordable high-end beauty products, provided a tactile shopping experience by encouraging customers to test out the products, and catered to their individual tastes by having in-store beauty advisers to make personalized recommendations.
3)  Watch Closely: The Consumer Still Knows Best  The best brands are the ones that watch their customers. And then keep watching. And then watch some more. By observing consumer behavior and interests, brands can tailor directly to their needs. Instead of placing products where the brand thinks the consumer wants them, by keeping a careful eye on their behavior, both on-line and off, brands can place products where the consumer already is. Brand Example: Lowes recently implemented devices that keep track of a customer’s past purchases, like their preferred paint color. Based on this information, they then send personalized suggestions to that customer about products that may interest them, or tips specific to their current home renovations. 
4)  Around-The-World Cohesion As brands go global, having a strong brand identity becomes that much more critical. In order for a brand to survive in the competitive global market, it needs to develop and maintain a core proposition, one that consumers can identify and pull apart from the rest. Truly global brands deliver their product with clarity and consistency, while allowing the flexibility that various cultures demand. To be effective, the company’s brand must be behind every element of expansion, helping synthesize every aspect under one cohesive core value or message. Brand Example: IKEA. This global brand is universally recognized for its affordable prices and modern style. Their simple core proposition of giving people from all financial backgrounds access to sleek, stylish home furnishing options has successfully translated to 44 countries. The in-store experience is constant across all countries, and it boasts having one of the most energized, engaged workforces in the retail world.
5)  The D-Word We don’t have to say it, but we’re going to anyway: digital, digital, digital. With the huge number of channels right at the consumers (and marketers) fingertips, brands have more power than ever to assist, inspire, engage, and personalize. As some stores have ditched check-out lines for mobile POS, others use digital to make personalized suggestions to customers. Digital offers a new potential to personalize the customer experience, and retailers have only begun scratching the surface. But, as effective as digital marketing can be, these tactics will only work if they’re directed towards the brand’s overarching goal. Example: Near Field Communications (NFC). This Wi-Fi style tech agent already exists in most smartphones, devices that continues to grow in popularity and soon will become the norm. If retailers capitalize on this function, they will soon be able to spark conversation between gadgets to help the payment process, cater to the customer’s preferences, and continue to improve service. In the not-so-distant future, it could be used to track the digital shopper’s every move and translate that info to in-store representatives, who can then prepare for that specific customer’s arrival and help them make spot-on recommendations.

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  As the retail industry continues to evolve at such a rapid pace, brands are put to the test on a daily basis. Though the task of staying relevant and profitable may seem daunting, these five tips all aim towards any brand’s timeless goal: know your customer, predict their needs, and leverage this awareness to drive demand and increase sales. Learn more by reading Interbrand’s report on “Best Retail Brands.”

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