Distinctive and innovative products and services used to be the core focus for retailers to attract customers, gain loyalty and differentiate themselves from competitors. In recent years, more and more retailers are aware that there is much more to be done in retailing. The ambience of the retail outlets sets one apart from the others. Cafés are now operating in thematic feel, restaurants are designed with open kitchens and digital ordering devices, gym and learning centres become hang-out points – all efforts are on providing customers a positive shopping or brand experience. Nevertheless, the key is about branding the total experience, not just delivering a breakthrough or innovative idea. Retailers need to focus on delivering a connected journey from one brand.
Many retailers will focus on the customers’ purchasing and usage process to design their retailing business and yet neglect the crucial consumers’ buying journey of awareness, consideration, decision process, advocacy and upgrading. Retailers will need to offer brand experience that consumer cannot get elsewhere to differentiate themselves from others. It is all about the kind of experience you deliver to your customers with each and every interaction.
Consumers’ expectation can only get higher every day. They may know about your business or products better than you as information is just a click way. Hence, they have choices and information. They can choose freely.
I have always been equating branding = relationship. It is like dating with your consumers. Your girl/boyfriends expect you to read their minds, to find the solution for them before and without them asking for help, to provide the comfort and sense of security that they are your No. 1 priority, to love them with sincerity, to prove that you can be trusted, and much more. Consumers expect the same from retailers – nothing less.
Retail aesthetics are the key attraction today yet may no longer be in trend tomorrow. You may offer the most innovative products, delivered in the most creative and technologically advanced manner but what is innovative today will be a basic requirement tomorrow. The team you have, the values you practice and the culture you demonstrate are the ones your consumers appreciate the most. These are the elements that touch their hearts and gain their loyalty. Creating a sustainable brand experience is to invest in internal branding. It allows the brand offerings to evolve together with the market trend and consumers’ expectations.
You may be sceptical that such an idea would work in Malaysia. In this article, I will share how a local brand in a sunset industry transformed itself offer a great total brand experience that SELLS. The brand is FERUNI. Feruni Ceramiche is a leading brand in upmarket ceramic and porcelain tiles. It was established in year 2001 as a conventional tile retailer which we are familiar with as somewhat a hardware shop. But FERUNI now has seven concept stores delivering a whole new brand experience. Below is my brand experience visiting their PJ outlet and joined their culture tour.
The Team – We were welcomed specifically by our names which even appeared on their LED TV screens, and were energetically greeted by their happy team members with smiles. They then guided us how to choose tiles based on our individual preferences, and showed us the layout designs of our kitchen or bathroom, incorporating the tiles we had shortlisted.
The team member even offered us tips on selecting tiles with our partners, no selling just sharing. It was more about helping us to make our choice but less on selling FERUNI products.
I felt more at ease exploring their tiles, to ask more questions, and I grew in confidence to make my decision, convinced that I fully informed to make the right choice. Even though I decided not to buy, I will surely recommend that my friends come over to check out the store.
The Values & Culture – Open-office concept with a strong belief to deliver Happiness and closely guided by their 10 core brand values. The company’s detailed programmes to ensure the well-being of their team members gave me a sense of confidence that I will be well taken care too. Gym, café, study room, hang out area etc. are made available to the team members to make them feel at home. They even have their own version of the “American Idol” talent audition to select the best team members.
Seeing is believing – If you like what you see in IKEA, you’ll love what you experience in FERUNI. Certain tiles may look nice but they may not fit into your entire interior design scheme. Just like IKEA, you can see, feel and touch their products (in this case, tiles) in actual room settings. But they are doing more to educare customers on the “why” and “when” of choosing the right tiles. If you are still uncertain whether a particular tile will suit your own home, bring along your layout and they will digitise the image and show you how it would look like. They even demonstrate how to maintain the tiles. The brand experience? Total peace of mind!
Involve and enjoy – Many of us would like to design our own house but have doubts about our own creativity. The FERUNI team seems to know that too. By understanding our emotional needs, they design their products in a way that we can mix and match to create a unique home design despite using the same tiles. I got to be involved in designing my house and enjoyed the process, and that in itself is another brand experience which you don’t normally get elsewhere.
FERUNI is neither my client nor am I their customer. I need to qualify that. Yet, my brand experience with the team was so complete that I would recommend other retailers to look at how and what they have done. Retailing by just selling can only get you a customer once. But retailing by delivering brand experience gets you more mileage and your customers may end up selling for you too.
It takes a lot of effort and planning. Take small steps and just focus on the following three and you will be on the way to capture your customers’ hearts and loyalty.
If a brand in a sunset industry can do it, why not you? Maximise your Brand Potential!