As business people and consumers, we know that retail today is more sophisticated and challenging than ever. In the context in which we live, customers demand more from every experience.
Beyond target segment or price point, the real power of retail lies in authenticity, consistency, story, emotion and experience. Retailers must be agile and adaptable, evolving with consumer tastes and needs.
Customers can find virtually everything online, so the in-store experience must offer them something that is much better.
In the Brandoffon world, word-of-mouth has accelerated and amplified exponentially. Bad news travels faster than ever. That can be a very serious challenge because a bad experience can derail our efforts. But good news also travels faster than ever.
The shopping center industry is in a constant process of transformation. Despite this, we could say that, considering the speed and depth of change in other areas, this industry is moving slowly.
Likewise, brands operating within shopping centers are advancing at a much faster pace than the centers themselves. Many companies have already incorporated social media into their digital marketing strategies, use QR (or BiDi) codes in their storefronts and have created applications for mobile devices. Undoubtedly, they are giving relevance to e-commerce and sensory branding.
Today, more than ever, the identity, the personality of a center is vital to achieve an adequate positioning among its competitors. The companies that focus their efforts on building a brand, interacting and satisfying the real needs and desires of their public will be the ones that come out ahead. For this reason, business cannot be understood without design, and its success or failure depends on proper identity management.
The economic, social and technological transformation we are going through has been the trigger for the strategy of companies operating in the retail sector to focus on two major trends: one based on offering low prices or aggressive discount policies and another that focuses on differentiation (i.e., selling experiences beyond the act of purchase: making tangible what is believed to be intangible).
But what are the keys to be taken into account in such management? The first thing that should be assimilated is that being different is good. While everything is very similar, brands need to make a difference.
Secondly, we must keep in mind that tradition is not contrary to change. If a brand is not working, we can renew it. You can’t change the principle, but you can look for a new ending.
Finally, the human component of each project is transcendental. A shopping mall is a space for people and where people work, who can be the best or the worst ambassadors of a brand.
Today’s customer is looking for a global offer and personalized attention. Young people are starting to shop younger and younger, and social groups are becoming hyper-segmented, seeking and having very different interests.
For this reason, centers must not only work on finding new customers, but must also focus their efforts on building customer loyalty. And how can this be achieved?
We have to create an emotional bond with the consumer, transform promises into facts, bet on storytelling and make the customer the protagonist of the story of our brand. 80% of our purchases depend on emotions. And 95% of our decisions, as we have seen, are unconscious.
Many stores have incorporated the concept of shopping experience in their spaces, with the use of aromas, sounds, flavors, textures, to stimulate the customer’s senses and strengthen ties. According to different studies, seven out of ten people decide to buy at the point of sale. It is therefore important to deepen the sensory relationship with each person: we are talking about audiobranding, smellbranding or neuromarketing.
Shopping malls should start applying this concept in their common spaces: parking, access, stairs, elevators, SAS, corridors, toilets and so many other places where the mall and the visitor are in contact. If you talk to me on Twitter, in this “virtual” relationship, how can you not talk to me in this tangible and real physical space?
The changes in the market, the transformation in society and the way of relating between both levels, are producing an unprecedented evolution that allows us to ensure that the retail sector will never be the same again.
The Internet is undoubtedly changing many of the established paradigms. For example, in Spain, 70% of purchases of goods and services are preceded by an Internet consultation. People are connected, they are “conversing”. The potential customer is googling or reading what other people are saying about the mall.
In spite of this, the shopping center sector still does not give enough relevance to the new communication formats offered by the network and the possibilities of connection with the consumer that it allows.
Today, a physical business cannot be separated from the digital world. People go to shopping malls to stroll, shop and interact. A practice very close to what the Internet user does. The time has come to blur the boundaries.
Retailers and consumer goods brands must rethink and redefine their marketing initiatives and actions and incorporate digital elements throughout the entire shopping process. This means talking to the consumer before, during and after the moment of purchase.
It should be noted that online represents “only” 6.5% of all retail sales, but it is growing four times faster than traditional retail. It is estimated that it will reach a sum close to 10% of the total by 2016.
In the 2.0 world, everything happens at breakneck speed. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Youtube updates are so frequent that it is impossible to keep up to date.
For many organizations, that generates a high level of stress, as they are overwhelmed by the avalanche of changes in the global marketplace. However, overcoming these barriers is crucial in order not to lose the race for the customer.
It is an intense and uncertain time, one that our grandchildren will study in school, in their books (ebooks?), probably on their tablets. It is a time when setting new standards, thinking new formats and designing new strategies is essential.
The shopping mall as a meeting space, as a space of experience, as a differential space must create new paths, rethink itself and lead again a time of change, a space of change. What brands need in this new climate is a set of values that support good behavior and dispel consumer fears.
The Internet is becoming the town square of tomorrow’s global village. In any case, what is clear is that the Internet has gone from being a marvel of technology and communication to a fundamental necessity for the vast majority of businesses and brands.

Excerpt from the book BrandOffOn, El Branding del Futuro. Marzo 2014

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