Brand experiences are all around us. All brands that offer a product or service provide a brand experience, whether they realize it or not. The department store experience is quickly losing its appeal due to the rise of internet shopping.
The economic model for national department stores is kaput. The predictability of the store, while critical to building a brand, hurts local versions of the chain stores. Local stores aren’t able to adapt to the local business climate, as they are tied to a national ad program. Therefore, the brand experience feels bland, whereas smaller, more nimble brands are able to deliver a brand experience that is quirky, fun, and memorable.
A Tricky Balancing Act to Improve the Brand Experience
In 2008, Macy’s tried to balance a sustainable mix of national and local. It was a version of predictive marketing before the term really caught on. For example, based on weather conditions, local stores in Minneapolis, Minnesota would stock more heavy coats and run sales promotions while fewer coats were offered in Miami, Florida.
The other strategy the department store deployed was to acquire local brands across the nation such as Marshall Fields in Chicago, Foley’s in Texas, and Burdine’s in Florida. Acquiring those brands was not the problem. Each acted as a natural hub for local shoppers that was familiar and trustworthy. The problem happened when Macy’s decided to rebrand all of the newly acquired stores in order to facilitate a national ad buy.
Shuttering Stores Across the Country
The strategy did not work and the brand experience has suffered because of it. Macy’s recently announced that in 2017, it will close about 15% of its total or about 100 stores. They are not alone. Sears is closing nearly 30 Sears and Kmart stores by April, with more to be announced soon.
Well-known staples at malls across the country are facing the same demise as Macy’s and Sears.
The Brand Experience of the Future
The good news? It’s not to say the mall is completely dead. For brands who want to delight their customers, they must begin thinking about their retail experience as a theater, an exhibition space, and playground, mixed in with unexpected experiences.
Department stores have an opportunity to become experiential enterprises. Just as the hotel industry is in the process of delivering new, exceptional experiences, department stores can add complimentary brand experiences that wow and delight customers, enhancing and creating a memorable shopping experience.
According to the Wall Street Journal, millennials especially, want “hipper, more happening lobbies and restaurants and better technology in rooms.“
Some boutique hotels are offering more amenities such as bell service, 24-hour room service and concierges. One of the ways that hotels differentiate and highlight their hotels across cities is to shine a light on what makes the city vibrant and fun. A new boutique hotel brand, Pendry’s features different amenities in different cities. In San Diego, you’ll find a nightclub and beer hall, while Baltimore will feature a full whiskey bar.
It’s not just hotels, though.
Brands from all industries can develop memorable experiences. A BMW dealership has started a valet service to pick up a customer’s car for service at the home or office and return it when the repair is complete, according to Automotive News. Nordstrom’s in Chicago is also enhancing the experience of the men’s department by having a fully stocked bar. And the Westin is helping travelers maintain wellness.
Failure to Adapt Leads to Failure Across the Board
Brands must continuously evolve in order to delight their customers and provide memorable services and experiences that build relationships and keep customer retention high. Designing brand experiences is one strategy that can elevate your brand and create positive memories in the minds of your customers.
What’s Your Take?
How can department stores adapt to stay relevant as the world evolves into an internet-based society? How do you use brand experiences in your company to delight your customers and encourage deeper engagement? Would love to hear your thoughts and connect with you. Find me on Twitter, ‘Like’ my page on Facebook, or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Also published on Medium.