The concept of a retail brand

As markets evolve and become more competitive it will become more important for retailers to focus on branding. Retail branding does not necessarily focus only on the creation of a private label alone. In case of multi brand retailers, the task becomes more difficult as the retailer needs to create a store identity which is different from that of the brands that he sells within the store but at the same time, there has to be a level of consistency among the products available.

World over, retailers like Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, Harrods, Bloomingdale’s Nordstrom and others have strived to create a distinct brand image. Primarily in a complex and mature marketplace, strong retail brand emerges as the key differentiator. Branding survives because at enhances the present value of future cash flows. A brand is essentially a seller’s promise to deliver a specific set of features, benefits and services consistently to the buyers. The relative position and perception of a brand evolves over a period of time. Branding therefore, has to be managed on the basis of constant change.

While retail in India is still at a nascent stage, there still is a strong need to look at branding as a key tool for differentiation. Customers today, not only know what they want to buy, but also have a phenomenal mount of choice available to them. If a customer wants to buy a pair of Levi’s jeans, he can buy them from the company’s own outlet or any of the department stores like Shopper’s Stop, Lifestyle or Pyramid. The price of the product would be the same and the shopping environment would also be similar. Why then should the consumer choose one retailer and not the other? This is where a strong retail brand, which connects to the consumer, can make a difference. A strong retail brand can swing the consumer’s decision in favor of a particular retailer.

Like leisure and heritage shopping is also being use as major theme to promote a destination Countries like Dubai , Singapore and Malaysia have successfully exploited this theme by way of the Dubai Shopping festival and the Great Singapore Sale. Closer home, retailers in New Delhi’s Connaught Place and the Delhi Apparel Retailers Association have started experimenting with similar events.

In the competitive retail environment the three generic strategies of cost, focus and differentiation have become bare necessities to survive in business. The customer is looking at experiences that company can provide when delivering the solution to the customer. A brand depicts and portrays the total experience a customer has with the product or service.

Today, amidst the retailing revolution branding carries great importance. The retail storefront is the reflection of the brand and this is where products are made or marred. Retail provides services that increase the value of merchandise by combining the tangible deliverable with the intangible such as courtesy access and reliability.

Companies today cannot afford to forget that experiences have become an integral part of banding. Experience is inextricably linked to very aspect of buying and using a product, not just to the inherent performance of the product. The idea is to stage experiences around the products/ services that are delivered. The companies will have to constantly provide experiences that delight the customer. The economy will grow through gals of creative destruction i.e. businesses will have to constantly evolve into providing experiences beyond the product and services that they generally provide.

This clearly indicates that branding is at a turning point. The very definition of brand is undergoing change. In future brands would constitute the whole gamut of interaction the product would have with the customer. Brands which fail to deliver might not see the light of another day. The key to success is building experiences that retain the customers and make them talk about it. Successful branding would be about delivering products and experiences to the customer and making him talk about it.