In general, we recommend a simple process with a few fundamental components:
Research the Market / Your Customer
This is one of the areas of real weakness in many retail plans which is understandable given the difficulty of acquiring quality data. However, that is no excuse for not using every avenue available to gather sound data on your customer profile and what they need/want. After all, this data will be the basis for your brand and product strategy. You need to get this right.
We often ask retailers if they have a business or brand strategy and the answer is usually yes. However, when we ask to see the strategy document clients are frequently unable to produce one. Your strategy is the reference point for most future decision-making. Write it down, share it with all your staff, explain why this strategy has been chosen, get your senior management team committed to it, operationalize it and convert it into a culture! This is the most critical reference point for decision making so it needs to be crystallized, documented and shared.
Strategy is a largely internal function while branding is the external representation of that strategy. This is where you must think like a customer: what is the physical or experiential expression of your strategy relative to your consumers lifestyle? A simple brand strategy platform would include pillars, character, essence, positioning and desired customer response (simple to say, often more difficult to agree upon!). Again, this needs to be clearly articulated and communicated to everyone, especially your advertising and design consultants. Be prepared to think laterally and be creative as your strategy needs to be unique and compelling. Be aspirational, your goal should be to impress, amaze and captivate your customer. Think WOW!
This is where you receive the benefit of the hard work in the first 3 steps: converting strategy into design. If you have good documentation of the process and a design consultant who is strategic, you will quickly receive a concept that accurately reflects your business objectives. This is the true “value-add” to be gained from this process: effective and focused design solutions. We have found that without a clear strategic direction this phase can be fragmented, contentious and slow. In projects where there has been a solid effort earlier in the process this phase is dynamic and profound – the realization of the vision.
Although a tactical function, the execution of the concept requires diligence and carefully managed compromise. Of course, there will always be issues that need revisiting, but in general the core objective is to ensure continuity with Phases 1 – 4. As issues arise it is a simple exercise of revisiting the strategy and brand using it as a reference point for decisions: identify the issue – review in the context of the strategy/brand (does it fit in with your strategy and brand? Yes? Then it’s in! Does it waiver from your strategy and brand? Then it’s out) – discussion of viable options – decision. Simple.
A new concept is rarely, if ever, perfect right out of the box. All concepts need refinement and adjustment of some kind. If nothing else, changes in market conditions or the behavior of consumers dictates that you review the performance of the concept and adapt as required. You always need to be thinking about how to make it better. Consumers are always evolving and changing their shopping patterns, so you need to as well!
Read Part 1 here