Throughout this IREU Dimension Report, a recurring theme revealed by RetailX research has been the idea that best practice around Brand Engagement is changing rapidly as both the market and customer behaviour evolve. One of the most important factors playing in here is the rise of direct-selling brands, whether these are retail brands or familiar consumer names that previously sold only through wholesalers.
In an age of digital technologies, there is no longer any need for these brands to rely upon third-party retailers to present their wares to customers. Brands value this because they can begin to gather data about their customers directly rather than having this information filtered back to them. That doesn’t mean consumer brands don’t recognise retailers’ insights or want to bypass retailers entirely, but it does mean there’s a certain amount of renegotiation going on here.
This development has been widely reported upon, but less noticed is the way that customers value the chance to talk directly to brands and are also driving change. After all, why bother to talk with a retailer when you can speak with someone who understands a product because they helped design or make it?
So how should retailers react? We would suggest that retailers need to stand out as social, sociable, responsive and engaging, to promote their own brand values. These values need to be separate from, yet complementary to, the consumer brands they sell. This isn’t an easy thing to do, yet retailers need to respond to changes in the market, as House of Fraser’s recent problems illustrate. Look beyond its practical issues with high rents and so on, and one reason it went into administration despite a strategy that involved focusing on brands was because it lost track of its own story, its own brand values.