6 Ways Retailers Can Ensure Branded Interactive Experiences Don’t Overpower Their Brand
The relationship between vendors and retailers has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Retailers used to design a merchandising solution around the voice of their "own brand products" first. So when introducing a new vendor product to their location, retailers maintained ownership of the experience, with the vendor viewed as a partner.
These roles and the retail landscape have since evolved, especially in the consumer electronics space. Consumers can choose from hundreds of products, which requires vendors to be smarter, faster and cleverer than ever. Previously, a retailer strategy might have involved comparing similar products, but vendors today generally want to differentiate their products and showcase experiences that stand alone — and above the competition.
How to Integrate Your Own Brand Products
Retailers that sell their own brand products alongside competitor brands have an increasingly difficult task of working with vendors while positioning their own product competitively for consumers to have the best in-store experience. The customer experience should always be the North Star for both vendors and retailers.
Target, a client of Harbor Retail, has often had to balance vendor needs and requests against its own brand of consumer electronics. When creating on-shelf displays for wireless speakers, for example, Target was inundated with a variety of display requests from potential vendors. Target created a visual design guideline to provide a consistent presentation. Vendors could differentiate their products while still conforming to the required color scheme, size limitations, lighting, and functionality required by Target.
Keeping Your Brand Prominent
There are several ways retailers can ensure their own brands aren't watered down by, or hidden behind, vendor brands:
- Dare to compare. Ensure your overarching brand experience is reflected in the prospective vendor solution. This consistency lets consumers know you advocate for these competitive products. If there's a co-branding opportunity, keep clear messaging that reinforces your brand perception and doesn’t conflict with the voice of your brand.
- Lay down the law. Develop specific guidelines for vendors in cases where you incorporate interactive displays. Include as many requirements and details as necessary to ensure vendors are clear on your expectations for deliverables. This eliminates wasted time and any confusion in the development/approval process.
- Stay inside the lines. Involve your marketing team when developing in-store display strategies, and never assume that a vendor display developed for a different retailer will be a good solution for your brand. For video game consoles, for example, Target’s store design team contracted a display provider that created a solution that was visually appealing while still differentiating the vendor products. This approach also lowered the overall vendor contribution needed.
- Stand on your own. Differentiate your own brand display. Own brand products don't need to be displayed in the exact manner as larger brands. Focus on your value proposition rather than trying to provide the same experience executed by the competition. Private-label brands are most successful when they're in sync with the messaging of the master retail brand. Target has had much success with with its private-label designer brands (Isaac Mizrahi) and exclusive product lines (Converse One Star).
- Have a voice. Develop direct relationships with manufacturing display vendors instead of relying on your product vendors. You will have the ability to discuss brand goals with the display vendor, turning it into a partnership and allowing negotiation for display programs.
- Make it so. Execute on brand promise by keeping all in-store technology functioning as intended. When interactive displays stop working, consumers walk away with a negative experience. Your display solutions need an accompanying merchandising support program and an accountability plan for each location.
Retailers don’t have to hide their own brands or cater to their product vendors. With strategic planning and implementation, products can co-inhabit the same space successfully while still keeping on-brand messaging.
Tom Schneider is an interactive experience consultant at Harbor Retail. He has more than 25 years of experience in the development, deployment, and operational support of interactive technology experiences for retailers, corporate environments, museums, and public space projects.
Tom Schneider is an interactive experience consultant at Harbor Retail. He has more than 25 years of experience in the development, deployment, and operational support of interactive technology experiences for retailers, corporate environments, museums, and public space projects. Before coming to Harbor, Schneider worked for 13 years at Target and 24 years at Best Buy, bridging the gap between IT and store design. Schneider has industry knowledge across a broad spectrum of technologies related to retail, consumer electronics, and their supporting infrastructures.
Schneider created technology experiences for children at Target House, a housing facility associated with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and consulted on the technology platforms to support interactive experiences at Robert J. Ulrich's Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.