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How Transitioning to a Branded Environment Can Save Your Brand

August 15, 2018 -
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More brick and mortar stores closed in 2017 than any other year on record — over 7,000 — and the trend has only continued into 2018.

In a world where 96% of Americans shop online, and 67% of millennials, 56% of Gen X, 41% of baby boomers, and 28% of seniors prefer to search and purchase online rather than in-store, retailers won’t survive if they don’t adapt to the already rapidly changed landscape.

The “retail apocalypse” is forcing brands to reinvent their customers’ shopping experience. What can they get from interacting offline with brands that online mammoths like Amazon or eBay could never give them?

“The customer can get all of their clothing without ever leaving their bed,” said Stacey Bendet, CEO and creative director of designer clothing company Alice + Olivia to Knowledge at Wharton. “So the experience in-store has to become more VIP, more exciting.”

Bendet’s not wrong — 43% of online shoppers have made a purchase from bed, which means retail stores don’t stand a chance unless they reinvent themselves into immersive experience centers, creating value for their customers beyond just a space to purchase product.

Enter branded environments. Post-digital branding spaces should be created to appeal to consumers that navigate the world through social platforms. A brand’s digital aesthetic should reflect the physical, but with a focus on creating an experience and an in-person connection with the consumer that they can’t offer through a medium like Instagram.

Warby Parker, Everlane, and Bonobos are brands that have taken their ecommerce model and seamlessly transitioned them into brick and mortar spaces, using customer service, visual branding, and exclusive experiences to not only attract customers to their physical spaces, but turn them into a destination.

Executed properly, consumers then turn their experience back into digital content, posting and sharing to boost their own personal branding, while freely marketing the retail store that curated the environment in the first place.

Wharton marketing professor David Bell  commented to Knowledge at Wharton that 20 years ago, if 100 people visited your store, maybe 10 of them would tell someone else about the experience. Today, “when you have a physical footprint somewhere, 100 people come and maybe 20,000 learn about it because whatever goes on in there can be amplified through digital.” Your audience is immediately exponentiated.

Utilizing these strategies, retailers can not only target their online-focused consumer base, but use it to their advantage.

Brick and mortar shops, it’s time to get Instagrammable.