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  • Writer's pictureRichard

All over the shop. Routes to building the retail and brand fanbase

Retail has been and still is at the eye of the storm. Shifts in national vs local. Homebound customers and direct to door priorities. Supply see saws. Urban life exits…

And although things may be more complex in winning some transformational battles, there is also room for simplicity to help with cut though when it comes to communications. Data matters, but so does being more human.

This is ‘simplicity’ in terms of being open and real, in being a listening rather than a monologue brand, and in being able to make things happen that help simultaneously with consumer, corporate, b2b and employee relationships.

We are more digitally driven than ever, but creativity still matters, as digital dexterity comes with the increased ability to self-select and switch of from interruptions, things that lack the personal or that land noise over value.

So here are three communications approaches retailers could be embracing to stay relevant, and serve up what the real world live customer wants.

1 Look within for your storytellers

Authentic is an overused word that everyone strives for and many misinterpret or hijack. But in being the sum of your parts, authentic means showing pride, trust and credibility in your story. And who embodies that more than those that are your customer interface? The people who know the most about your stock? And who see face to face how real customers (rather than focus groups) shop, think and ask questions.

Influencers can take many forms, but championing your team as the real world and ‘expert’ face of your retail offer is a winning but underused model. It combines the increasing micro-influencer appeal on social channels with the trust factor and relatability, but none of the brand partnership overkill popular influencers can fall victim to. Walmart’s ‘Spotlight’ programme for example has more than 500 staff signed up as ambassadors and brand storytellers.

It’s a boost too to internal comms, showing you see the value of your team to the business at a time when employees want and need to believe in you as a place to stick with.

2 Be more live

Emotional rescue matters in life

more than ever, and customers need

to ‘feel’ something from retailers to

break the new norm patterns of


Whether brand experience, brand theatre or just the bringing of energy beyond repeated messages and interruptions, the key need is around interaction and a perspective of the personal.

Immediate commercial benefits come from e-commerce buy now potential, but the richer and longer term commercial value is in blurring entertainment with education and values to create a layer of real differential.

This can be via live streaming executions - where for example Clarins work with live video shopping platform Bambuser around expert skincare tutorials captured an average 17 minute view time alongside high sales conversions.

Or through creative content partnerships - from M&S’s Cooking with the Stars TV approach at the top end, or an effective but regular use of Instagram stories to tackle most popular customer Q&A’s on a more everyday scale. Superdrug TV also understands this space well as a lifestyle YouTube show with 40+ weekly episodes to date

Or of course in store with reimagining of spaces as a customer draw as well as a selling canvas. Nike’s basketball court, Vans skateboard park, even Primark fashion catwalk shows.

An extra ‘P’ in the many “Ps’ of any marketing mantra has to be increasingly championed around ‘Personality’.

3 Collaborate smartly

If you partner with full time

influencers as opposed to employee-

influencers, then live the word

‘partner’ properly. Find those with

long term brand fit as creative

collaborators to be integral to their world as well as yours.

Ellesse showcased their fashion range as part of a targeted live shoppable Tik Tok concert with singer Zara Larsson. Burger King’s Keep it Real partnerships launched bespoke burgers with real names of current cultural icons to celebrate their banning of artificial ingredients (The Cornell Haynes Jr Burger instead of ‘Nelly’…). And fashion reseller Depop has worked with a range of iconic design talent with shared sustainable outlooks to launch collections for a community for whom sustainable purchasing is key.

In each case there is a reason for a link up beyond reach. It’s shared relevance. And freshness. Don’t fall into the trap of seeing influencer work as being a media buy, because it can’t be just that if you want to rise above the noise of others.

The link?

Across all three approaches it is making connections that go beyond transactions. Personality matters, values matter (even if simply customer first, being helpful, and being useful…) and understanding what real customers rather than just demographics want, need and engage with matters.

And it’s important to find the storytelling strategy for these blurred spaces to create an advantage for your retail offer within those lines that gets people talking.

Awareness isn’t enough any more. It has to be about understanding and interaction.

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