Take Your Retail Brand Experience to the Next Level

How do you create a retail brand experience that improves shopper engagement and sales velocity?

When you want to succeed in a modern retail environment, standing out from the crowd is only the first of many steps to a consistent return. A differentiated CPG product or a service with a unique selling point is a solid foundation, but those features alone won’t yield the results you seek in retail. Today’s consumers are more discerning, selective and critical of subpar experiences. 

Building a retail brand experience that fosters a buying mindset is the key to winning consumers today, but what does that process mean in practice? 

In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of this essential element of shopper marketing, discuss the strategy that underpins this effort, and explore how your brand can execute a better experience consistently over time for a better bottom line. Let’s start with answering the core question at the heart of this process: what’s it all about?

What is a Retail Brand Experience?

A retail brand experience isn’t just one thing–it’s a broad combination of many interlinked efforts to shape the totality of an audience’s interaction with your products. They are an active force meant first to grab the audience’s attention and then engage them with an unforgettable experience that leaves them wanting to know or do more. As your targeted buyers journey down the path to purchase, experiential marketing turns that trek into something so enjoyable or interesting that shoppers even become advocates for your brand.

Retail brand experiences are in the same family of marketing tools as consumer promotion–both aim to incentivize audiences to engage more closely with your brand. However, where consumer promotions are often limited in scope and highly targeted, brand experiences incorporate a much broader array of efforts. How and why?

Compared to consumer promotions, which can involve a large degree of retailer collaboration, experiences operate at a higher brand-level playing field. Promotions tend to be confined to a specific channel to drive towards particular results. A retail brand experience is a truly omnichannel approach that aims to produce a cohesive, unified experience where every element works in concert. This means a broad combination of in-store factors, email marketing, social media campaigns, microsite deployment and paid media.

This complex shopper marketing approach can serve as a highly effective funnel toward making sales, with multiple points of entry and many opportunities for different experience elements to reinforce one another’s effectiveness. 

Let’s briefly consider an example of a project Cliffedge Marketing (CEM) executed as a brand experience agency for Sunkist.

Sunkist wanted to take advantage of the arrival of the mandarin orange season by deploying new brand packaging to excite regular buyers and busy shoppers with an eye-catching experience. Sunkist desired a bright new look, educational resources to share the benefits of mandarins with consumers and an interactive element to engage younger shoppers. Cliffedge Marketing dove into the project and delivered fast results in time for the season.

We determined that the core elements would need to include a digital platform at the center of the experience, one that was easily accessed on mobile by bridging the digital divide with QR codes.

In executing the project, we helped Sunkist deploy the following elements that contributed to a comprehensive experience:

  • Engaging new packaging and art enriched with QR codes while preserving the core elements of Sunkist’s brand, with an added element of fun through the new “Peel Good Citrus” tagline.
  • A QR-accessible microsite with family-friendly content and information for choosy moms on mandarins.
  • A suite of three branded mobile games, fun for all ages, to keep Sunkist mandarins top of mind.
  • Free augmented reality camera filters for social media sharing

With all these moving parts working together, Sunkist and CEM were able to deploy an effective campaign at the height of the mandarin season–and capture key data to inform additional efforts throughout the year. 

As we can see, this approach does not focus on just a single element. Instead, it involves building a brand ecosystem where consumers can have unique experiences that leave them with a positive impression and, ideally, the desire to buy.

The Benefits of Building a Better Brand Experience

What are the core benefits brands can unlock by embracing omnichannel experiential marketing? 

The retail market remains exceptionally robust, with trillions of dollars in sales annually. However, there is a significant concern facing many companies today. In our shopper marketing strategy guide, we explored the need for a tailored approach to reaching consumers because of the extensive commoditization in retail today. With so many products crowding virtually every space, rising above the noise to reach shoppers isn’t easy. 

Building a better retail brand experience can help you break through these barriers. The right approach does more than merely differentiate you from competitors; it forges a connection to your audience by fostering a sense of relevance. When buyers feel that a brand experience has something to offer that they might like, they’ll gravitate towards those campaigns. Staying relevant in a crowded market is the first core benefit.

Let’s build on that idea to reveal the second significant benefit: brand experiences make you more consumer-centric and “down to earth.” You’re offering something more than just a competitive price point or a unique product feature: you’re offering the value of an experience that is enjoyable in its own right.

Finally, investing in brand experience marketing supports growth efforts toward embracing omnichannel strategies. More touchpoints between your brand and its target audience mean more opportunities to spread your message–and for the public to help by sharing their own experiences. A cascade of social sharing and a broad presence in the digital and physical spaces opens the door to diversifying your audience and reaching new segments over time.

How Retail Brand Experiences Engage Shoppers Today

There are many ways to build experiences that connect your brand to consumers and empower them to learn, compare, consider and ultimately convert for a sale. However, remember that it’s a crowded marketplace out there. If you try to reach buyers everywhere, all at once and all the time, you’ll end up with a haphazard strategy that doesn’t yield the desired results. 

You need to think carefully about how to connect with the modern consumer.

For example, 64% of buyers still make most of their purchases in-store, even though they may prefer shopping online. Based on that alone, it might make a presence that leans heavily on physical spaces seem the best choice. Yet when you consider the nuances of specific audience segments, complexities emerge. Consider that in a Big Commerce study, parents of young children spent 61% more online than non-parents and 75% more time engaged in online shopping.

What this means for you is simple: Target the channels that align most closely with your audience

Don’t try to overwhelm your targets with a firehose of omnichannel content. Instead, determine how to build an entire brand experience around providing channel-specific value based on the nuances of your audience demographics.

Brand Experience Strategy: Key Elements for Making Improvements

Understanding the concepts behind the retail brand experience and exploring the benefits one can offer your business are reasonable first steps. When you want to embrace these opportunities, though, you’ll need a good strategy. How do you build one? Let’s look at the key elements your team should keep front and center during the development process.

First and foremost, put your product at the center of the experience, not your brand. Your brand is essential, indeed, but you want to communicate the product’s strengths. Consider the multi-billion-dollar foodstuffs company, Mondelez International. How many consumers do you think head to the store with Mondelez on their mind? 

The focus becomes apparent when you reframe that in the context of the company’s core brands – Oreo, Ritz, or Philadelphia Cream Cheese. People buy end products, so that’s what the parent company promotes. This approach paves the way for personalized messaging so that you can easily target specific audiences.

Next, keep scalability in sight. It’s easy for a shopper marketing campaign to become unwieldy, ineffective, and downright frustrating to manage if you don’t adapt. For example, consider store-level sampling, a common outreach strategy among CPG businesses. While consumers respond strongly to such programs, sampling necessarily comes with a hefty price tag. Sampling is a very effective strategy, but going wide with such a program is unlikely to be a wise financial decision.

Therefore, as you develop your strategy, you must identify the core opportunities to sustain activation across a broad base. Marketing opportunities that you can affordably maintain and coordinate across multiple retailers and disparate markets will yield the best results. At CEM, we often explore opportunities at the intersection of digital and physical brand experiences. With this conjunction, you can drive down costs and push up engagement.

The third pillar of a successful strategy is a consumer-centric approach. In “3 Keys to an Effective Consumer Promotion,” we examined how brands can drill down to deliver what consumers want most. In short, you must:

  • Know your audience. Invest time in building and refining buyer personas. This foundational element will answer key questions about who will respond best to your efforts.
  • Engage that audience at multiple points. When you know your audience, you can choose engagement points that align with their habits for organic opportunities to grab their attention.
  • Know “the red thread” that ties together the entire experience, providing continuity around a theme that funnels buyers towards an action.

To recap, the strategy for building compelling retail brand experiences relies on three key areas:

The ABCs of a Successful Retail Brand Experience 

  1. First, identify your product’s strengths and allow those strengths to shine through clearly to consumers. 
  2. Second, you must find marketing opportunities that align with the product niche and offer cost-effective opportunities to scale. 
  3. Finally, connect your target consumer to the product’s unique qualities by providing experiences that align with what those consumers desire.

3 Ways to Execute Retail Brand Experiences

How do you put these strategies into practice? In other words, how do you execute your ideas? There are three ways we believe work best, and we have a wealth of resources for your consideration on these subjects. 

Let’s review each category and some content to jumpstart your approach.

1. Physical Brand Experience

With a vast amount of money still flowing into physical retail establishments, activating physical engagements between buyers and your brand can pay considerable dividends—if you execute the correct plan for your audience segment and its various buyer personas. Here’s a quick look at the extensive resources we have for your consideration on building physical experiences that make a lasting impact on consumers.

What is Retailtainment?

The average shopping experience is humdrum and boring—just another part of the routine. Break up that monotony with “retailtainment” experiences that make the retail experience fun again. Discover the value of engaging with brand ambassadors, running sampling programs, and themed activities in this blog.

The Do’s and Don’ts of CPG Sports Sponsorships

Connecting sports events with consumer outreach is a match made in heaven, and exploring opportunities in athletics can yield an impressive ROI. However, it’s just as easy to make mistakes as it is to be an exciting part of an event. From forgoing wasteful investments in traditional media to keeping your campaign grounded in reality with reasonable goals, there are some important dos and don’ts to know before you punch your ticket to the game.

Cause Marketing is a Win-Win-Win for Retail Brands

An Accenture study shows that nearly two-thirds of consumers prefer buying from brands that express a purpose. Cause Marketing can be a valuable way to develop brand experiences that stick with consumers—when you’re fighting for a worthy cause, people take notice. In our in-depth look at cause marketing, find out why and how it can work for you.

Cause Marketing Trends for Retail Brands in 2021

If Cause Marketing is such an effective way to generate wins for your brand, how can you ensure your work ends up ahead of the competition? Knowing which way the wind blows helps, so check out our look at some of the most critical trends to know in this space. On the list: the growth of omnichannel marketing to engage with consumers at multiple touchpoints and the use of such an approach to develop beneficial relationships between brands and buyers.

See Real-World Examples of Retail Brand Experiences

How do you put physical brand experiences into action? At Cliffedge Marketing, we have extensive experience as a shopper marketing agency in this area. Discover how we used hundreds of simultaneous augmented reality events in Walmart to enable a highly effective retailtainment campaign or explore how vendors participating in a retailtainment series achieved a remarkable 10-to-1 ROI.

2. Digital Brand Experience

There may still be strong demand in the physical retail space, but we can’t ignore the trillions of dollars in value represented by today’s digital spaces. How you engage with buyers beyond purely physical promotions is an essential element to consider when building today’s brand experiences. We can help you get up to speed in this area too.

How a Digital Experience Makes Your Retail Brand Stand Out

A digital experience is the entirety of the interaction that happens between a consumer and your business when they encounter your brand online. From landing on your website after running a search to pressing “Pay Now” at the end of a buying journey, everything involved is the digital experience your customers have. By investing time and effort into refining this experience that shines, you can drum up word-of-mouth and keep buyers coming back. Explore more about why this effort matters in our closer look.

How to Effectively Add AR To Your Retail Marketing Campaign

“Augmented reality” is all about living in a physical space but interacting with it digitally, usually through today’s smartphone cameras and special AR apps. In this post, we explore how effective AR experiences forge strong connections between brands and consumers. With capabilities that can engage shoppers with the experience and provide information that leads to more purchases, it’s a key differentiator in the marketplace today. 

The Future of Retail is Augmented Reality

Making the shopping experience memorable is easier said than done, but AR offers a way to create novel experiences that consumers enjoy and remember positively. For example, QR codes have surged in popularity again and provide an incredible touchless way for consumers to interact and learn. Uncover why retail brands must explore the value of AR today and consider how to formulate effective strategies that include using QR codes.

Why the QR Code Belongs in Your Retail Marketing

Hold on – QR codes? Those old things? Yes, the QR code is indeed enjoying a renaissance, but this is no flash in the plan—it should be a pillar of your marketing strategy for retail. Consider how brands like Michelob ULTRA have leveraged QR codes for customer engagement by offering contest entries through code scans or King’s Hawaiian, which deploys a unique AR experience to make in-store grocery shopping a fun game. Learn more in our consideration of why the QR code is no fad.

6 Ways Augmented Reality Can Benefit Your Brand in Retail

In this blog, we break down the benefits of augmented reality and see how you could put your brand on the cutting edge of exciting new consumer experiences. From contactless self-service for customers to powerful and innovative ways to advertise, you might be surprised at how extensible this solution is.

Case Study: An In-Depth Brand Refresh for Sunkist California Mandarins

Dive deeper into the Sunkist story we discussed earlier and see how CEM built a successfully engaging brand experience through enhanced design elements, AR and online features, and more.

3. Strategic Storytelling

Everyone loves a good story—and your brand can harness that shared love through strategic storytelling. A type of content marketing, strategic storytelling lies at the intersection of producing organic content for sharing and the smart placement of paid media. When done right, combining these elements creates opportunities for your brand to resonate with audiences. What goes into a strategic storytelling approach?

How to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy for CPG Brands

Content marketing doesn’t always come easy. It exists in a highly competitive space, even more competitive than the shelves of a retail store. There’s always more content to find, after all. In this blog, we dive into the core basics of content marketing and what makes it practical for CPG brands, from smart SEO tactics to defining the metrics that say you’re succeeding. Build your foundation for storytelling here.

How to Create a Brand Story that Connects with Your Audience

Brand stories matter and the numbers bear that out: buyers are 55% more likely to make a purchase when they love a brand story. A brand identity that oozes authenticity is easier for audiences to connect with, and today’s shoppers demand authenticity—they know a phony approach when they see one. Think about what goes into an effective brand story and learn how to connect effectively with your audience.

3 Tips on How to Make Your Content Count

Producing content for its own sake is a losing proposition, and many brands can get stuck on a treadmill where they never seem to gain additional traction. That doesn’t mean content marketing is ineffective, but it does mean reconsidering your approach. Read about how to keep your content relevant, the importance of optimization, and the need to measure and analyze how your content performs.

Case Study: Grace’s Best Cookies Brand Refresh

Brand storytelling in action yields concrete examples of how and why these strategies work. Working with Grace’s Best Cookies, CEM faced the need to support a new product launch with a digital experience online and a packaging refresh—without deviating from the recognizable branding that the company’s buyers expect. See how we executed a smart approach to consistent package design while activating digital experiences through QR codes to ultimately yield a 98% increase in online sales.

Case Study: A Viral Sensation for Oreo and Prairie Farms

How did CEM help Oreo achieve 52% year-over-year growth in a regional market? With a smartly-designed social media campaign, we helped these brands connect with consumers to generate viral video sensations that ultimately generated more than a quarter million views. Learn more about this promotion in our case study.

Partner with a Trusted Retail Brand Experience Agency

In a retail environment that has seen massive amounts of change in a short time and where competition remains fierce, reaching consumers is a tougher job than ever. As we’ve seen, engineering a better retail brand experience can have numerous benefits. 

There are many ways to shape and tailor digital or physical experiences to align with the unique aspects of your brand—but unifying all these moving parts into an effective campaign is easier said than done.

With over two decades of experience and a proven record of success for major brands, Cliffedge Marketing can help you engage with shoppers throughout the buyer’s journey. By investigating opportunities to provide value beyond low cost, tearing down barriers to buying and focusing fully on achieving the best solution, we help your brand step up to the next level. 

Track the ROI of Your Retail Brand Experience for Consumers

Trust Cliffedge Marketing to be a careful steward of your budget and your shopper’s attention – with regular reports to show your ROI!

After all, the work and cost that goes into building a better brand experience can be for naught if you aren’t also actively engaging with an analysis of the process. Measuring your success is vital—not only does it indicate when you’ve hit a winning strategy, but it can also provide key insights to refining your experience to be even better. Making course corrections when trends don’t tilt in your favor is another fundamental effort.

Ultimately, with a well-defined strategy with an omni-channel approach that tracks results, you can design unforgettable brand experiences and succeed in the modern retail environment.

See what’s possible and how you can reshape the path-to-purchase today with a powerful retail brand experience. Schedule your free consultation with the Cliffedge Team now.

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