By Brian Walker
CEO, Retail Doctor Group 

If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz

Channel thinking has become more passé as time goes by. Retailers have travelled swiftly from multichannel, omnichannel, to a holistic retail ecosystem.

With the growth of e-commerce, m-commerce, s-commerce, to the metaverse and beyond, our devices will ultimately disappear into a world of sensors/ wearable technologies, avatars, to merge parallel digital ecosystems. The nature of customer relationships will transform from random, personalised, predictive, to intimately predictive and personalised intuitive. Customers are no longer a collective mass, but instead, have turned into a highly engaged village of brand apostles.

The concept of a brand as a beacon of attributes and differentiating values is only the “capstone” of what the brand means and how it will evolve. The omnipotent reach of a brand lies in its ability to genuinely be the portal for all the different expressions of the customer experience within the retail ecosystem. In short, the differentiators will emerge within the emotional promise of a brand, and much less rely on the hygiene factors i.e., which channel and which product they sell.

Innovation, for example, will be entrusted to the brand as an attribute. Innovation will be less manifested in the brand’s operational delivery, but more in the ethos and culture of an organisation and its people.

When brands look at their potential customers, the “What I am” won’t matter to them. It’s the “Who I am”, the psychological motivations, inspirations, the biorhythms with regards to how customers use their time, the sensory perceptions of oneself and their interests that matter far more.

Drawing a distinct demarcation in their target audience based on age, gender and so on won’t define a brand. In fact, this method has become increasingly obsolete. Brands, such as Gucci, will “exclude” to define their village. Others travel seamlessly across platforms with Uber creating different consumer tribes in each offer. Brands will grow in influence. They will become the co-creators of new experiences for their consumer tribe.

The role of the physical shop, as Doug Stephens says, will evolve with regards to the brand as an emotional centre of gravity for the brand is meant to attract, engage and loyalize customers. As Darren Andrews says “Brands are becoming even more competitive, developing strategies which will make businesses more efficient and customer-oriented. Excellent services, engaging in-store experiences, a high level of customization and automation, will be those criteria that redefine the new retail landscape.”

Thus, we should now think about brands as powerful icons of a humanised connection.

Then, what should brands do to capture this emerging power?

Brands must be increasingly fluid and agile, less the monument to a company but more the connecting enabler for differentiation, relevance, and advocacy. Brands should be more relevant to strengthen balance sheets than just expensing the trading.

The more businesses can think about a brand as the bedrock of the whole organization, the greater the authenticity the brand represents, the more compelling the pull, and the faster it evolves.

If you are interested in creating a brand that truly resonates with your audience and aligns with your business goal, our Strategy experts are here to help. Explore our suite of retail solutions today!