May 12, 2016
When I started Spyder Works almost 25 years ago, I was in the making promises business. The firm created design, marketing strategy, advertising and promotion in support of clients’ brands. Back then, I considered my job well done if I could attract legions of new customers into their stores. After all, that’s what the ‘making promises’ business is all about in retail. Attracting well-qualified traffic. The idea was that compelling advertising and promotions along with great store design and signage would delight our clients’ customers and build their brands.
As my relationship with retailers grew, I had the opportunity to travel from community to community and store to store. What I quickly realized was that some stores have an important social role beyond just places to shop. These stores are also like informal community centres where you run into friends and acquaintances, where you can chat and catch up, where you can make plans and stay in touch.
During my travels, and particularly during store visits across Canada, I saw first hand how powerful a sense of belonging can be. Building and nurturing inclusive communities is one of the things we do best in Canada, which is really a vast connected landscape of tight-knit neighbourhoods. Main street communities in Canada have many faces and are as diverse and unique as their urban counterparts. When main street communities succeed, the nation succeeds.
Community stores not only offer a welcome sense of belonging, they are also good for business.
After all, the longer people linger in a store, the greater the chance that they will buy more. A welcoming store also increases the probability that your customers will return and develop a loyalty to your store and a stronger relationship with your brand.
I realized that all of the branding work you do, no matter how clever, won’t keep a customer coming back if the experience in-store doesn’t reflect the customer’s expectations on all levels of experience. To properly serve our retail clients, Spyder Works also needed to be in the ‘promise keeping’ business.
How do you build a brand around the culture of ‘promise keeping’?
Businesses have to take it upon themselves to foster a sense of close-knit belonging in any environment whether it’s in a big city or a small town. They need to evoke the sentiment of old-fashioned “Main Street” culture. Retailers, marketers and agencies have the same goal when it comes to connecting with consumers, simply, to build a passionate community of customers that engage regularly with a brand.
The success of your customer relationships depends largely on how well you are able to engage your community.
Community stakeholders’ participation can help you shape your business to ensure you are responding to local preferences. In community retail, the members in your community are not looking for just a cheque to support local causes, events or sponsorship – the community is looking for your participation, engagement and involvement. How committed are you to where your customers live and work? Ideally, you should be involved with your community from an early stage engagement; this will help you to form lasting relationships with community members to ensure a sense of belonging in a neighbourhood that everyone can be proud of.
In contrast, in all retail, where your front line people are face-to-face brand ambassadors, employee turnover can leave your brand perilously exposed. Without a solid foundation, your brand is at risk of not keeping the promise that it communicates to everyone. That’s why, at Spyder Works, we feel that it’s important to look at branding from both sides of the coin, outward and inward facing. This insight has lead us to design learning programs and workshops to extend your brand to the in-store experience, embracing your corporate values and your mission with the people responsible for keeping your brand promise with your customers… your front line team members.
Retailers need to complete the branding circle to survive in the economy of relationship building.
At Spyder Works with our retail clients, we have created ambitious brand strategies that more accurately capture the essence of brand by embracing community and engaging customers. In this hyper connected world we are supporting our clients on the front lines of their stores, we can boldly claim that we’re no longer a half-branding company.
The secret to building a customer-centric brand for community retail is like maintaining a long lasting relationship with your close friends. Keep your relationship transparent and genuine. Show up, stay in the moment, stay in touch, encourage and support them as they grow with you.