Building a strong retail brand

  • Opinion
  • July 28, 2016
  • Francesca Nicasio
Building a strong retail brand

Retail is a tough business to crack. Not only is it a crowded space, but tons of products are commoditised, many shoppers seem to want the lowest price, and gaining customer loyalty is no piece of cake.

But despite these challenges, several stores still manage to thrive. And some of them have secured such a loyal following that customers choose to buy from them despite cheaper alternatives. We see this in retailers such as Zappos, Whole Foods, and Sephora, just to name a few.

How exactly did they pull it off? While many factors come into play when it comes to retail success, one common denominator that these companies have is that all of them have built strong brands.

In this post, we’ll dive into retail branding strategies that make you more memorable, increase loyalty, and set you apart from your competitors. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to walk away with actionable ideas on how to build a brand that your customers love.

Let’s get to it.

Relate better to your audience by humanising your brand.

Your customers are people, and they want to interact with someone just like them. So don’t communicate with customers like you’re a robot or a big company in an ivory tower. Talk to them like a fellow human being.

Even better, interact with them like they’re a friend or a person you genuinely value. Enough of the “Dear valued customer…” spiels. Not only are they impersonal, but a lot of (unoriginal) companies are using the same language. You’re better than that.

Depending on the type of business you have, you can approach this in a number of ways.

For some SMBs, having a real person represent their brand is a good way to go. Allowing customers to associate a business with a real human may make the company more relatable and down-to-earth.

One business that does this is All their emails are signed by the company’s founders, Stephanie and Brett Parker. They even included their photo in their signature. This allows customers to put a face behind the brand, thus making SleepingBaby more relatable.

You could also humanize your business through the verbiage you use. Understand the language of your target market. What expressions do they use? What are the exact words and phrases that come out of their mouth? Figure those out and incorporate them into your emails, web copy, and marketing.

And if it makes sense for your brand, inject humor, or at the very least, some personality into your collateral. The key is making your voice unique, so you don’t look and sound like every other company out there.


Check out this email by Eat24. Rather than writing a generic message telling subscribers they have a coupon, Eat24 injected a lot of personality into their messages. They made jokes, referenced current events, and made it clear that there was a real person behind their email.

Wow customers by optimizing your brand across touchpoints, not channels.

Inconsistency can kill the bond your customers have with your brand. If you provided an excellent and warm experience in-store, but failed to do that online or on a customer support call, you’ll likely lose the connection you’ve built with them.

So, ensure that your brand strategy extends to all customer touchpoints (read: not just channels). Think about every interaction your customers have with your brand — be it in-store, online, or in their homes — and see to it that every touchpoint is consistent with what your business stands for.

One example of a retailer who maintains consistent branding across multiple touchpoints and channels is Birchbox. Aside from providing an enjoyable experience online, in-store, and on mobile, the beauty subscription company extends its branding efforts into its shipments.


Birchbox doesn’t just sell products that look great; it also delivers them in beautiful and exciting ways. So much so that Birchbox members often take photos of their boxes and share them on social.

Be committed and customers will have your back.

It’s easy to harp about what your company stands for, but if you don’t embody the values you claim to have, then people won’t stand behind your brand.

Walking the talk is critical to a brand development strategy. Don’t just tell people what your values are, show them. You can do this through the initiatives you start, the people you hire, and the companies you do business with.


Chipotle is a great example of a company that demonstrates a commitment to its values. As you may know, Chipotle’s motto is “Food with integrity.” The restaurant makes a big deal about cooking with whole foods and working only with ethical farmers.

The company is so committed to their values that last year, Chipotle stopped serving pork at a third of its US stores after finding out that one of its suppliers was raising hogs in inhumane environments.  

You can also show your brand values through your staff. Consider Zappos. One of its core values is to deliver WOW through service. And the e-tailer’s team has demonstrated this time and time again. Their reps are always pleasant and strive to go above and beyond for customers. In fact, at one point, a Zappos customer service rep spent 10 hours on the phone with a customer.

“Zappos’s first core value is deliver wow through service,” Jeffrey Lewis, Zappos Customer Loyalty Team supervisor, told The Huffington Post. “[W]e feel that allowing our team members the ability to stay on the phone with a customer for as long as they need is a crucial means of fulfilling this value.”

Keep these examples in mind when you’re mulling over how to strengthen your brand. Ask yourself,are you walking the talk when it comes to your vision, mission, and ideologies?

Having a brand isn’t just about creating a beautiful logo or defining your company colors. It’s also about the choices you make, the people you bring on board, and the companies you work with.

Involve your customers to get them invested in your brand.

Designing a new logo? Revamping your brand identity? Consider including your customers in the process.

Aside from being a good exercise in exploring new ideas, keeping your customers involved can deepen your bond with them. People will feel more invested in your brand because they contributed to building it.

A great example of a company that included its customers in brand building is Toyota. A few years ago, the automaker turned to the public to help them decide the plural term for their hybrid car, the Prius. They conducted a poll, and in the end, went with the term with the most votes — Prii.


Starbucks is also doing great things with customer involvement. The company has a site called where it allows customers to submit ideas and comment on other people’s submissions. Starbucks welcomes all types of input, whether it’s a suggestion for a new drink, in-store experience, or initiative in corporate social responsibility.

What’s great about MyStarbucksIdea is that the company actually does something about people’s submissions. When Starbucks deems an idea worthy of taking action, they’ll get to work to make it a reality.

Tap into emotions to drive loyalty and sales.

Strive to evoke emotion in your customers. You’ll establish a deeper connection with them, make yourself more memorable, and even drive sales. 

Don’t forget that consumers base their purchase decisions on how they feel. If you can strike an emotional connection with them, you stand a good chance of being their go-to brand.


Consider Dove. The soap company regularly puts out heartfelt campaigns geared towards its target audience (women), and this has helped Dove become one of the top soap brands in the market.

Note that tapping into emotions isn’t just about releasing poignant adverts. What you should do is figure what matters to your target customer. What are their desires? What do they care about? Figure out the answers to those questions and incorporate them into your branding efforts.

Don’t be afraid to evolve.

Your brand shouldn’t be etched in stone. Rather, it should grow and evolve along with the market.This doesn’t mean changing your core values; it does, however, entail that you examine all the components of your brand and company, finding out what’s outdated, and making an effort to keep up with the times.

Let’s say you’re a local business whose brand is deeply rooted to your hometown. One thing you could do is update your look to keep up with the changes that your town has undergone.

Or perhaps you’re a brand catering to teenagers. Ask yourself, do the teens of today still have the same tastes and interests from when you first started your business? If the answer is no, maybe you should consider updating some aspects of your branding.

Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert and blogger for Vend, an iPad-based point-of-sale software that helps merchants manage and grow their business.

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