Image Source Selfridges

It comes as no surprise to me that we have more brand and retail concept based projects on our books than at any other time. In Selfridges alone, we have recently installed new designs for Christian Louboutin and Urban Decay, with another two brands following in the same store in the next few months.

What’s so interesting to see is that retail brands while understanding the power and importance of branding, some premium retailers such as Selfridges, are also zealously pursuing something unique from every brand they work with

So, of course, if the brand is new or exclusive, then that works. But if the brand is already in retail elsewhere, then a more synergetic concept will be mostly likely what the store will looking for.

When I talk about concept, I am not just referring to style and architecture. Rather, I am referring to more fundamental attributes that make up the DNA of each brand. The process we go through, which we refer to as ‘strategy,’ unravels each brand and orders their attributes so we can clearly see what makes them unique.

Brands, like humans, are complex and have personalities. They have several attributes and depending on which ones we choose to elevate, we can establish an innovative way for a brand to spark conversation with their consumers that embodies their integrity and established identity.

This process made me realise just how much has changed in retailing and branding since the early 1980s. Since we began this business, the retail landscape has evolved drastically.

Put simply, there was only one image for a brand; whether it was luxurious or basic, ornate or simple. This stayed the same wherever the product went in the shops, big and small, in the UK or overseas.

But now that we have so many alternative channels alongside bricks and mortar from which to sell. It is therefore vital for brands to recognise the commercial success that can come from leveraging different platforms. A brand’s identity should be consistent across all touchpoints that the consumer interacts with. However, the faux pas would be to embrace all channels. The key is to understand which platforms are relevant to consumers and how and why they are using them. Highlighted at the Retail Expo this month, retailers are recognising how complex the consumer journey is. The lines between retail, marketing, product, social media and digital are becoming increasingly more blurred. We have moved from a ‘omni-channel’ to something much more ‘multi-channel’.

Consumers are also so much more demanding today. They want a constant array of new products, broader brand activity and at the same time, they want to live and breathe the brands, to be part of their community. Thus the rise of brand communities reflects the value-driven nature of consumers. It is essential that this be expressed within the brand’s retail identity.

And this is why retailers increasingly want something different from the brands they stock to their rivals. As I mentioned, we recently fitted out a new site for Urban Decay at Selfridges and were told by the directorate that they wanted the counters to be in a more premium material than the laminate used elsewhere. The result was a purple seamed marble, giving the beauty brand a d ifferent image and edge to the one they have when displaying in other stores.

We’ve also noticed how so many beauty brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, KVD and Urban Decay are far bolder in their use of colours and materials for their products and display areas – they want to stand out from the crowd. Their use of colour promotes a tone of voice that is rooted in experimentation and confidence, thus reflecting their target consumer. Yet at the same time the classic legacy brands – Chanel, Dior and YSL – have maintained a uniform even minimalistic style and are still selling as strong as ever.

What is important, for both legacy brands and newly launched, is that they continue to strive for relevancy and resist complacency. What is interesting is how retailers realise that online shopping is no longer the enemy they once feared. Rather, it’s just another channel which they can use to attract even more customers and will become a normal part of a retailers’ overall sales.

What’s also fascinating is that the latest research suggests that bricks and mortars will still be the main vehicle for sales for years to come while online will be just one of many distribution channels.

Recent figures show that 93% of all sales are still made in physical space. And while online shopping’s recent rise has been steep, it’s expected to plateau over the next few years and then by about 2025, is likely settle at around 80% of total shopping.

As regular readers will know, I’ve always thought that the doom and gloom over the death of the high street and traditional shops was over done. There’s space for all different forms of shopping and if I were to look into the future, I predict that physical and online retailing will come together even more as retailers learn how to integrate their operations.

If you look at the growth of click and collect, this new service has already given traditional shops a wider audience. At the same time, click and collect services have given online retailers a way of adding stores to their postal services. It’s made shopping for customers so much easier and better because they have much greater choice over where they can shop and how.

John Lewis has consistently led the way with click and collect but other retailers such as Marks & Spencer‘s are learning fast and expanding their different channels too. Amazon is already playing with drones for deliveries. And Uber, which has turned the taxi business upside down and is now also working in the US on a food delivery service, has its eyes on flying cars.

To summarise, brands have personalities and are complex. The retail landscape has evolved. The ways to communicate with a consumer has diversified due to technological advancements. As we are living in the Internet Age, brands need to ensure their brand story is not diluted across the multiple channels that they can interact with consumers.

Through a strategic process, opportunities to express brand communication within retail, whilst projecting a competitive edge can be identified. Highlighting and celebrating brand’s unique stories has never been more crucial.

As aforementioned, our strategy offering is intrinsic to our business. Due to the success of our strategic offering, we have evolved our blog to communicate knowledge and innovation surrounding industry knowledge, consumer data, insight innovation, visual inspiration and trends. This month we explore the need for utopian thinking, the rise of Millennial Mums, nature inspired design and neo-kinship.