Competition in the retail industry gets stronger every year. Not only are there rival brands to contend with, but competing sales channels. E-commerce and subscription services are especially strong channel-level competitors. In order to keep up, brands must continually give shoppers reasons to come into the store and shop instead of choosing what they may see as a more convenient way to buy.
Shoppers look for three things when they consider going to a brick-and-mortar store: a seamless omni-channel experience, in-store digital enhancements that increase convenience, and a personal connection to the brand.
- A seamless omni-channel experience is critical for those who may interact with your store brand both on- and offline. Keeping everything uniform prevents confusion and reinforces your brand messaging.
- In-store digital enhancements include price and inventory checkers, coupon dispensers, and more. These make it easy for shoppers to find what they need and ensure that they’re getting the best possible prices.
- Shoppers feel a personal connection to a brand when they can relate to it, its history, or the types of situations it is often used in. This is where storytelling comes in – building these aspects and getting people to feel more connected to a brand through the in-store experience than they would through other channels.
Why Storytelling is Crucial for Retail
Physical retailers can rarely compete with online stores like Amazon on price alone. Therefore, they must take steps to communicate their value in other ways. One of the best ways to do this is by telling your brand’s story so that shoppers become emotionally invested in shopping at your store. Outlined below are a few benefits of integrating storytelling into physical stores:
- It helps to humanize your brand. When done well, it can engage, entertain, and educate. This helps form memories that keep your brand top-of-mind with shoppers.
- It conveys what your brand is about. This is especially important if you want your company to be known for a particular theme or way of doing things.
- It places the focus on the shoppers. For physical retailers, storytelling helps to grab their attention, guide personal interaction, and create memorable and rewarding experiences.
Studies show that shoppers are more likely to bond with brands that tell their stories. These bonds increase shopper loyalty. In fact, a person with strong brand loyalty – known as a “fully connected customer” – is over 50% more valuable, on average, than the highly-satisfied customer. Those who are emotionally connected are also less price-sensitive, and they are more likely to believe that the company cares about them, understands them, and cares about the world. All of these are positives that can increase sales and brand loyalty.
4 Examples of Brilliant In-Store Storytelling
Several companies have taken monumental steps to tell their stories to those who walk into their stores. Here are some of the most stellar examples of in-store storytelling:
1. Ulta Beauty
Ulta creates a nearly spa-like experience by offering far more than just cosmetics. It also provides hair styling, skin treatments, and brow services. This transforms the store into a destination – one where shoppers want to visit and hang out rather than simply pop in.
The company also offers beauty products of all price ranges into one beauty superstore, avoiding the segregation of “high end” and “drugstore” brands. This model appeals to a range of shoppers, allowing them to shop without feeling like they are making “lesser” choices if they prefer a brand that isn’t very expensive.
2. Timberland Tree Lab
This concept store, located in Pennsylvania, works hard to create a personal experience for shoppers. Through a featured theme titled “Streetology,” the Timberland Tree Lab highlights city style and performance technology that’s proven to withstand long hours in the city. The product collections and brand stories are presented as a gallery, and they’re rotated every six weeks. Another element to their city-focused theme is the store’s employees: they can help with merchandising, plus inform shoppers of events happening in the city.
For those over 21, there is another perk to visiting the Timberland Tree Lab: craft beer. All shoppers, regardless of age, can also get a bottle of water. This small detail supports the brand’s storytelling, as the bottle can later be recycled into shoelaces or other Timberland accessories.
3. Nordstrom Local
Nordstrom departs from its usual large-store format with Nordstrom Local. These stores don’t feature racks of clothes or open space; instead, they put a coffee and juice bar, manicure services, and a beauty salon front and center.
Of course, Nordstrom will still offer clothes at these locations. However, those who want to see them will have to book an appointment with a stylist for a private showing. The company will also offer custom in-store tailoring, which allows shoppers to customize every aspect of their clothing down to the stitching and buttons. With these storytelling elements, Nordstrom aims to be a fashion destination – where shoppers have the convenience and accessibility of certain services while shopping for clothes.
4. American Eagle AE Studio
American Eagle Outfitters is doing something so unusual that it’s likely that no other company has even thought of it: it’s allowing students to do their laundry there for free. This is just one of the unique things about its newly-transformed AE Studio located in NYC’s Union Square, which is now showcasing its experiential marketing ideas.
Another idea on display is a “jeans gallery,” in which products are displayed on canvas stretchers like art pieces. In the dressing rooms, iPads are available so that shoppers can check various fit options on the spot. It also has members of its social media team on site, and they create content in real-time based on their interactions with shoppers. All in all, the effect reinforces its allegiance to serving a young, hip demographic.
As these examples show, there are many ways to create an emotional connection with your shoppers. While they don’t involve telling a story in a traditional sense, they put important aspects of the brand, such as a commitment to the environment or to highly-personalized service, on display for shoppers to see. The overall atmosphere adds to the perceived story, whether it is one of inclusiveness, relaxation, urban hipness, or quiet wealth. Those who are successful will align their store’s atmosphere with shoppers’ expectations, and then exceed them to make the experience memorable.