Previously

Part One: 3 Rules of Customer-Centric Communications

 

Whether a store, an office or a showroom, there are 3 fundamental rules any brand environment should follow:

  1. It should have a purpose
  2. It should be easy to use
  3. It should be a physical manifestation of a brand’s ideology

 

Answering the following questions would help

  1. Determine whether you need to build something physical in the first place
  2. Quickly put together a comprehensive agency brief (if so)
  3. Keep an eye on strategic goals and not get carried away with aesthetics

 

Are you sure?

  • First of all: why do you think you need a physical brand presence?
  • Do your customers need a physical environment, what for?
  • Are you sure your product requires testing before purchase?

There are successful online-only retailers in pretty much any category, from food to luxury fashion.

  • Would the required investment in design, rent, construction and maintenance of a site not bring better results if spent on product development, logistics and digital infrastructure?

 

What?

  • What would you like to achieve by opening a traditional store (gallery/showroom)?
  • What customer problems would your store/showroom solve that a well designed website couldn’t?
  • Does the space need to sell/stock product?

E.g.: a themed bar could do a good job promoting a fashion brand with customers placing orders using table-mounted tablets.

There could be a middle ground where customers would go to a traditional store to try things on and would be helped to place online orders (that could be delivered same day/hour).

 

Where/when?

  • Where would your target audience have the time and inclination to explore your product?
  • Could the product exposure be integrated into their daily routine?
  • How can you provide ease of access?
  • Does the site need to be open outside of regular hours? Seven days a week?
  • Does testing your product require a lot of space (is it a skirt or mountain climbing equipment)?
  • Does it require proximity to external infrastructure (parks, roads, highways, lakes)?

 

Who for?

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are their expectations of your store? How could these be surpassed?
  • Dissect the target audience into up to 5 (if you are not mass market – 3) typical customer portraits – be as specific as possible.
  • Get into their shoes and scout what leading competitors have to offer.
  • Split what you have experienced into pre-visit, in-store and post-visit “moments”.
  • Analyse every experience – what could be improved?

Some improvements may require investments that are currently impossible; many will be a matter of behaviour and small touches.

  • If you belong to your brand’s target audience, close your eyes and think outside the box: see if you can solve problems your competitors (and possibly even customers) aren’t aware of.

 

Design

  • The environment should be designed by professionals.
  • You may (and should) have an opinion on how it should operate and feel: e.g. is your brand about adventure, craftsmanship, personal freedom?
  • What design would convey the right sentiments and allow the space to function as required?
  • Your brand’s ideology should transcend every element of the on-site experience – from staff greeting to receipt design.
  • Split design development into stages – general direction, concept, refinement.
  • Be inquisitive, ask questions – make sure you understand what you agree to.
  • Make sure the design (holistically) feels right for the brand. Not for you; for the brand.

 

Honest answers should provide a fairly good understanding of the following:

  1. Whether physical brand presence is absolutely necessary
  2. What it needs to do
  3. Who it needs to cater to
  4. Where it needs to be located
  5. When it needs to be open
  6. How large the site should be
  7. How it should feel

It is advisable to involve designers early on – it usually saves time, money and allows a more holistic, omni-channel approach.

 

Next

Part Three: Customer-Centric Digital Environments

Part Four: Customer-Centric Services

 

Also

A Word is Not Enough: Why The Future Belongs To Sincere Brands

How brands could get better at storytelling

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