Brand-Right Journey

Brand-Right Journey 1920 1280 Nathaniel Seevers

During the early phase of the crisis, brands that have stayed true to who they are, such as Costco and Best Buy,  have reinforced our understanding of their brand and in some cases elevated the brand entirely. AT&T, for example, gave more than expected when they provided free cell service for frontline health workers in NYC for three months. Way to stay in touch AT&T. Showing up for your customers and even non-customers is the way to win in the end.

At the beginning of this re-opening phase, retailers have made the initial investment in safety and security of store staff and shoppers—installing plexi-glass shields at check-out counters and marking off floors with X’s to show us where to stand safely. Hopefully, this is just a crisis management short term solution. Customers often visit physical stores for the complete brand experience that is personalized and that they can’t get online. The way retailers will deliver that in a coronavirus culture will be the making of great brands.

Great brands know who they are, are clear about their core beliefs, and share their unique point-of-view through everything they do, regardless of channel or the circumstances. In response to the current crisis, the in-store rules may be changing but customer expectations to the brand and values have not. How do you deliver the appropriate experience and yet maintain your brand culture? Crude plexi panels are fine in the grocery store this month, but would be completely out of brand character for Anthropologie. Brands need to speak in their unique voice especially for store re-openings because a big part of the challenge will be to build confidence and reassurance in the branded environment.

With these new requirements for social distancing, we know the complete customer journey has changed. How shoppers move through the store experience needs to be reconsidered and tape on the floor and one-way aisles isn’t a solution.

Brand Welcome

The store front, once used to announce your brand and showcase a featured item or collection in the windows, no must become the “experience lobby.” As shoppers are being asked to wait outside to maintain safe numbers within the store, brands must develop brand appropriate engagement.  It is time to rethink the storefront and approach experience entirely.

Creative ideas for your business:

  • Develop clear brand-right messaging that alerts shoppers of your in-store steps and considerations. They should feel confident joining the in-store experience
  • Provide added hospitality and offer branded treats in one-serving containers while shoppers wait
  • Exterior hand washing station in the vestibule for easy access
  • Install mask & glove dispensing station, or a no touch kiosk
  • Maybe you’ve not used music outside your space before, what does your brand sound like outside?
  • Now might be a good time to roll out the brand carpet or extend your signature floor finish to the sidewalk
  • Implement door handle sanitation or hands-free entry
  • Station a Host at the door to greet and wipe down handles or open the door for guests
  • Remember what is seen says more than what is said, are your store team members compliant and considerate of shoppers? Train store staff regularly on health and safety practices and behaviors that make shoppers more comfortable. Make these practices visible to your shoppers.

Consider that this welcoming experience will be critically important during inclement weather during Summer or in Winter as temperature drop. Winter is coming and we don’t see us all going back to pre-COVID shopping anytime soon.


65% of women say they will not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, due to the Covid-19 crisis.

– First Insight

Browsing in a No-Touch World

We’ll be seeing careful watch on store capacity and staff to shopper ratios going forward. But in order to build and maintain shopper and store associate confidence consider that actual browsing, the real benefit of physical retail the ability to touch and feel the product, could be limited. Will shoppers be able to handle all the products or just one sample and then order their size and color to be shipped to their home? Showrooms have become increasingly popular in recent years. Everlane and Bonobos have seen successes with their formats and we believe this is going to grow exponentially in the future.

Creative ideas for your business:

  • You’ll need a plan to minimize product contamination from handling of merchandise (both stocking of product and shopping or fulfillment)
  • Build and maintain shopper and store associate confidence
  • Cut the crap and rethink your store assortment and categories carried. This simplification will also allow for ample space required for social distancing.

When Fitting Rooms Don’t Fit

The new in-store experience may not include trying on garments in tight fitting rooms. Retailers will have to re-think return practices to allow for trying on at home and then letting the garments “rest for 24 hours” once they’ve been returned to the store before going back onto the floor. How do your brand values play out in the scenario? Looking out for the safety of shoppers and store associates makes your brand both an advocate and guardian when done with transparency and honesty.

Creative ideas for retailers:

  • Clear messaging for shoppers is a must, let them know your new policies and how it helps them. Show them real benefits.
  • Make purchases risk-free by offering a return policy that encourages trying things on at home
  • Convert fitting rooms to spaces for products to “rest for 24 hours”

Each step along the new customer experience journey should reflect the personality of your brand and meet the shopper’s expectations for how your brand should behave, especially in this new normal. Because we already know the new normal isn’t normal, but your brand can be what the shopper expects, understands, and loves. Be true to who you are in your customer’s eyes.

More from the Preparing for Next series

Trust in Expertise

Necessity has become the priority, but as we look at a post-pandemic reality, brand love and trust will need to be earned even when consumers resume normalcy. Sharing of expertise will have a large role to play in the relationship between brand and consumer.

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Westerville, Ohio 43081

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