high street shopping shops

We’re in the midst of a ‘Great Repositioning’. Three quarters (74%) of brands want to adjust their brand this year, according to our research.

And three quarters (73%) of retailers want to overcome established brand perceptions – the highest proportion of any of the sectors we examined.

Forging an emotional bond is paramount when it comes to brand repositioning in retail. But there needs to be some rethinking for today’s retail brands to be successful tomorrow – doing the same things again won’t suffice.

Why? Because over the past three years, everything has changed. People’s values and belief systems have changed at an accelerated pace and retail needs to move with these changes to remain in tune with them.

While digital retail is excellent for operational efficiency, the opportunity for physical retail lies in making emotional connections with customers through empathy-driven consumer engagement. Retail spaces are where brands can connect with new audiences and nurture relationships with existing customers.

Physical stores

While online sales acted as a safety net for retailers over the pandemic period, the number one priority now must be to radically transform your retail stores into purposeful, community-driven destinations. Post-pandemic, there is an insatiable desire for real, in-person, human interaction, so why not satisfy that urge and give customers the human-designed experiences they crave?

That means thinking like an editor to curate and manage retail experiences to be ever-evolving engagement ‘platforms’ that create something of value for audiences in those stores.

Build purpose and presence into your retail space and make it into a destination that offers a variety of different things – from real-world to digital engagements, to unique personalised services and hyper-exclusive product launches – that cannot be found online.

Thinking like a curator with a vision for your store will enable you to create editorial themes or collaborations based on relevant stories, which customers can connect with and feel part of as a reflection of their lifestyle.

Just like the best magazines and exhibitions, editorialising retail gives brands a strong voice. It will make customers feel part of a community, and leave them wanting more. Physical retail should be dynamic, not static, designed to build anticipation and showcase something new, ideally on every visit.

Every retail decision you make should ultimately ladder back up to your core brand purpose: welcoming people into the heart of the brand narrative as a way for customers to not just understand your purpose, but believe in it too.

Make sure your new brand narrative is featured across all connected communication platforms and activations, with digital engagement seamlessly integrated throughout. This way you can more easily avoid becoming a commoditised proposition, fighting the traditional retail landscape of price wars and the subsequent race to the bottom. This is precisely why so many organisations have decided to adopt new brand positions and shed outdated marketing-driven associations.

Making emotional connections

Making an emotional connection is very difficult to achieve without taking experiential approaches, matched with the right kind of data. 

Data enables you to truly know your audience on a deeper level, focused on attitudes and an intimate understanding of their desires, wants and needs. It’s not about being customer-centric – it’s about being audience-obsessed.

By obsessing about audiences, brands can easily make meaningful emotional connections, particularly through physical-holistic retail.

Look at the Nike store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. It breaks the rules for what successful retail is about by offering in-store experiences that cannot be replicated online – or in any other retail location for that matter. It offers very good reasons to return and return again.

This is less about retail in the conventional sense and more about a healthy obsession with the audience. The result: more sales.

As this store shows, it’s possible to seamlessly integrate a retail space into a community with a relevance and purpose – almost like it’s always been there. It has localised environment design, and audience-specific themed events and experiences accessed through mobile, all driven by customer data – from lifestyle to product preferences – garnered via the Nike app.

This gives the store’s curators the information they need to make the next editorial decision and create value for their customers, translating their audience obsession into action.

The ways in which the store reaches and interacts with people evolves and develops because it is underpinned with data to give customers what they want and desire.

Curation should be inspirational, creating an audience obsession that gives them what they don’t yet realise they need. Build deeper emotional connections, create positive emotional outcomes, generate successful business outcomes – in that order. Only then will physical retail spaces prove their long-term value and become the beating heart of your brand.