Why being bold is more important than ever for retail success

In a fast-moving retail landscape being bold in order to inspire and excite customers is essential to standing out, and delivering experiences that truly set you apart, and inspire an emotional response.

It is understandable why being bold and putting clear markers in the sand feels like a risky strategy, however it is clear that customers are exhibiting a huge appetite for the new and inspiring, increasingly rejecting the homogeneous, the vanilla, and the bland.

Being bold would be, rather than shaping your strategy around what your customers have told you they want, often described as driving with rear view mirrors, to being creatively bold, intuitive, instinctive, in crafting experiences that surprise, delight, and answer the unarticulated and unrealised desires of your customer tribe.

These initiatives should be emotionally resonant, based on a strong confident, creative vision in order to genuinely move the dial, by creating sensorial, seductive, memorable moments for customers to fall in love with.

In a recent report from Kantar, it talked about the importance of brands having cultural capital, and successful brands adopting a clear standpoint, one which is credible and authentic. This cultural capital as they describe it is vital to accelerating brand value, and relevance.

They talk about a ‘VIBE’ metric to measure, track and value a brand’s cultural vibrancy, and have trademarked a methodology to benchmark a brand’s cultural VIBE.

VIBE is represented by being visionary, inspiring, bold and exciting.

Boldness, as Kantar describe it, brands with ‘swagger with substance’ is evidently a key metric.

Having the courage to carve out your own distinctive, ‘ownable’ emotional territory is clearly more vital than ever, particularly in the retail landscape of tomorrow.

It is evident that those brands who fully embrace, inhabit and amplify their respective brand world, by truly ‘owning’ a distinctive space, have a clear advantage in being harder for competitors to copy or imitate.

This can arguably be easier for new and emerging brands, as they seek to reinvent a category.

One new and disruptive concept is Seekology, a beauty and wellness store on Richmond high street which we were involved in the design of.  The idea was inspired by the founder’s vision of a gap in the market, where there is an appetite to discover new and emerging brands – brands that have a strong story, purpose and narrative.

The traction they can gain online is limited, when it is clear that there is a desire to touch, smell, test, try, play and engage, with the product, and therefore physical retail is the most powerful way to achieve this.

The brand mix is constantly changing, with new products being introduced driving frequency with customers coming in to discover what is new. Dwell time is activated by ensuring that the physical retail space is more than just a retail store, but also a place to engage with and ’meet the makers’ through in store events. The Seekology model fulfils a space in the market which conventional beauty and wellness retailers simply do not have the agility nor vision to deliver.

In the increasingly competitive athleisure space, Sweaty Betty's experience store in Carnaby Street helped to express and amplify their brand world in a way that although included retail, went ‘beyond’ to include, beauty, studio and food, that has articulated their purpose and personality in a way that provides a richer, more immersive, exciting experience for their customers.

Buddying up with like-minded brands, as in the case of Sweaty Betty, Farm Girl, Duck & Cover for beauty, and Heartcore for studio, depends on possessing a clear point of view, in the first instance, and possessing a bold, distinctive brand purpose.

An inventive collaborative approach is a rich seam for brands to explore as many bricks and mortar retailers look to new ways to energise their shopping experiences, in ways that are aligned with the core brand purpose, and in the way the fashion world brands are pursuing collaborations with a vengeance. Dior/Stussy, Virgil Abloh/Louvre, Supreme/Louis Vuitton, are only a few examples, as they explore new ways to retain the interest of customers seeking the new, and enhance their cultural capital.

However, it must be done in a way that makes sense to customers, where the collaborations are more that the sum of their parts, and say more about the brand, its purpose, by whom it sees itself playing alongside, as co-owners and participants in expressing brand culture.

This approach, both creatively inspired and strategic has infinitely more value than many of the initiatives adopted by retailers desperately seeking to fill their floorspace with questionable and confusing brand alliances often diluting the core brand.

After all, as we now all are too well aware a brand is not who it says it is, but how it makes sense to, and is perceived and experienced by its customers.