Hugh Boyle, Global Head of Digital at OgilvyAction gets to the heart of brand engagement, digital and total retail.
Throughout my adult life, the one thing that has always caused me shopping problems is that I wear size 9 shoes.
You see, size 9 is the UK’s most common men’s shoe size and I would estimate that on approximately 6 out of every 10 occasions, when asking the question ‘do you have these in a 9?’ in any given shoe shop, the answer would be ‘no’.
Affronted and having almost certainly eschewed any suggestions from the shop assistant that I might look for an alternative, I would leave immediately no shoes for me, no sale for the store.
That was until last week when something staggering happened to me in a central London branch of the shoe retailer ‘Aldo’ – a retail brand with whom I had previously no relationship nor particular perception either way.
Upon predictably being disappointed again ‘size 9-wise’, I was offered an unprecedented opportunity by the sales assistant, to join her at the till and use her terminal to go online and order the exact shoes I had selected – in a size 9 – such that they could be delivered to my home the following day. At last!
Now, I’m not attempting to say this ad-hoc and relatively straightforward multichannel retail moment was in any way noteworthy for the readership of Internet Retailing. But from a pure brand marketing perspective it demonstrated to me on a personal level that smart, multichannel retailer ‘behaviour’ of this sort can have an immediate and very positive impact on overall brand perception that retailers must recognize and amplify.
THE VALUE OF TECHNOLOGY
By successfully assimilating technological ‘utility’ into this previously frustrating physical retail moment, I felt valued and understood as a shopper and that ‘Aldo’ was a retail brand I would like to have a relationship with – and most importantly tell others about.
Brands have jostled for position for decades, constantly seeking new services and offerings to steal a march on their competitors. They’ve also tweaked and adjusted their identities and personas for the same reason. Perhaps then, using this new multichannel opportunity to demonstrate an intimate understanding of their shoppers needs through the provision of excellent digital tools and touch-points, might give them another facet to build brand equity around?
Conversely, you can see good evidence of how established retailers with significant brand equity are already working hard to ensure that what their brand represents – in terms of personality, values and provenance – is felt clearly in all of their shopper facing channels.
Take Tesco for example:
I remember seeing the TV commercial for their shopper app for the first time – you know the one that ends ‘…from your scan, to our van, Tesco – every little helps’, and thinking how consistently this app sat within Tesco’s bigger brand promise.
In the ad we see Mum realizing she needs more shower gel whilst in the shower, so she reaches out, grabs her phone and ‘beep’, it’s on her shopping list. Then, we see Dad scoffing the last packet of crisps in the pantry, so he grabs Mum’s phone and ‘beep’ they’re on the way… and so on…
From a brand perspective, what Tesco did here is rather than define the app by its technological form or innovation, they defined it simply and more relevantly by its utility and ‘usefulness’ to this very normal family. We see how much easier the app makes life by assimilating and integrating purchase moments into those times when you need them. ‘Every little helps’.
This is borne out further when you consider subsequent Tesco innovations that include the multiple award winning virtual subway store in South Korea and now the trial of a similar idea at Gatwick Airport allowing shoppers to order groceries for delivery on their return from holiday. Again, meeting the Tesco brand pledge head on with multichannel utility delivery.
I think then, that there’s a big lesson for retail brands to learn here as they explore the challenges of multichannel retail marketing. That lesson is to start with what you have, what you’ve worked hard to build and grow possibly over many years and many generations of shopper – your brand. Ensure that your brand personality, what it stands for and how it connects with people is the most pervasive and consistent component of every retail channel you occupy.
Two fantastic examples of newer brands getting this multichannel consistency in brand voice absolutely right are Jack Wills and Timberland.
Jack Wills has not only the essence of their highly visual and influential brand at the heart of their multichannel activity, but the aspirational values implicit in wearing their clothes.
As part of their online strategy each year Jack Wills recruit a number of university students to form the ‘Jack Wills Seasonaires’. These fashionable and fortunate young people are employed to promote the brand at a number of cool and trendy resorts both in the UK and North America, hosting parties for young, rich and style conscious boys and girls whether that be in the Swiss Alps or in the Hamptons in the U.S, creating digital content all the way that we get to watch on the Jack Wills site and follow on Twitter and Facebook.
This convergence of channels, content, lifestyle, live events and, of course, commerce results in Jack Wills presenting as a brand that’s relevant, contemporary and has a real ‘swagger’ physically and digitally. Oh, and my teenage kids can’t resist it.
Timberland feels like Timberland wherever you encounter them. It takes a robust brand architecture to ensure the same ‘feel’ whether in a physical store, on a website or whilst interacting with a smartphone app, but Timberland do this exceptionally well. Their stores feature interactive surface tables and screens to browse products, their website places their products in the places you’d expect to find them from field trips to festivals, whilst their app allows you to quantify and visualise your outdoor activities whilst wearing your Timberland gear. The channels are blurred, integrated and complementary, yet the all-important opportunity to ‘buy’ is as prevalent throughout as is the equity of the brand.
Finally and most fascinating of all, the multichannel world is one where digital has become ubiquitous, where we hardly even notice it, so integrated and assimilated into our lives as shoppers has it become. We just reach out and it’s there, and ultimately what we’re engaging with and buying is the brand, not the channel in which we encounter it.
Shopper behaviour is determined by the fact that life is simply a sequence of chronological moments that have different needs, attributes and requirements – sometimes a visit to the store, sometimes an online grocery order as long as your arm, sometimes a oneclick app purchase for a last minute birthday present.
But most often determined by need state and convenience, rather than channel or technology preference. Brands that make themselves ubiquitously available in this respect will remain firmly in the hearts of their consumers and shoppers.
And as for the ‘people still like to actually go shopping’ argument… of course they do, it’s just that good brands know that digital makes the experience much, much better… Just go and buy your size 9s in ‘Aldo’ and you’ll see.