How a store can build brand awareness

17 Sep 2020

In a world where hundreds of online businesses are launched every day, what does it really take to stand out? For our latest masterclass, we learned that physical retail is an effective way to build brand awareness – whether you’re launching a business or expanding into a new market.

We were joined by Malcolm Dia, Founder and Creative Director of Manual NYC; Rebecca Morter, Founder of Lone Design Club; Ian Gourley, Creative Director at Barrows; and Sriya Karumanchi, Marketing & Communications at Catbird. Together, we identified several key ways that physical retail can be used to drive brand awareness.

Tell your brand's story

The panel agreed that a store can serve as the perfect opportunity to immerse customers in a brand’s story. Sriya told us about how important Catbird’s flagship store is to allowing visitors to understand their in-house manufacturing processes. “We don’t expect any of our first-time customers to leave having made a purchase, but we want them to remember how they felt in the store and what they learned about the makers. In this way, stores can be advertising, marketing, and educational tools.”

Rebecca also emphasised how important telling a brand’s story can be to emerging businesses. “We work with lots of small independent brands that often don’t have a retail presence at all,” she told us. “Something like having the founder on the shop floor is so effective – it builds brand credibility and loyalty.”

Use your space in different ways

A store doesn’t just have to be a store. To build brand awareness, consider how else you can utilise your space to serve your community. As a starting point, think about what will bring value to your customers: whether it’s an additional service, like Catbird’s Piercing Happy Hour, or an initiative that will give back to a community, like Manual NYC’s educational programs. Ian told the panel that the future will see more of these alternative uses for stores: “Retail is going to be about highly functional space, Lululemon’s in-store yoga studios are a great example of this. Don’t just be one thing – entertain, entertain, entertain.”

Explore a new market

A store can be a very effective method to build brand awareness quickly in a specific area, especially if you use temporary retail space. By doing your research and opening your doors near your target market, you can create a real buzz around your brand. “We love to pop up for two weeks at a time to get maximum impact,” Rebecca told the panel. “We also get a lot of brands looking into new markets, so through the LDC pop ups we can help them launch in a specific location. It’s a cost-effective and easy way to test the market.”

Complement your digital presence

Opening a store can promote your business in the real-world, but it can also boost brand awareness online. Whether you create a space that’s shareable on social media or you blend your e-commerce with your POS, combining IRL and URL creates an omnichannel experience for your customer. This is something Ian said is crucial to building brand awareness. “I find it funny how brands talk about their offline presence and online presence separately,” he revealed. “They miss the fact that the two don’t just touch, they’re absolutely infused.

Malcolm agreed, emphasising the impact that an IRL store can have on a URL one, using his friend’s furniture business as an example. “Their only presence was on Instagram, but I know for a fact that their sales went through the roof when they opened their new shop. Even as Manual’s Instagram grows, we’re still planning retail launches. We know we need those physical sales channels to create the community we want – that can’t come solely from e-commerce.”

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