Identity Crisis: Optimizing a Brand While Pursuing Omnichannel
Over the past decade we’ve seen the rise of e-commerce and the drastic shifts this has caused in the landscape of physical retail. Now, we are seeing businesses merging the two, pursuing omnichannel strategies that combine online and physical commerce. Following in the footsteps of e-commerce giants such as Amazon and smaller businesses such as Shopify and Warby Parker, an increasing number of businesses will pursue omnichannel strategies throughout 2019.
Pursuing an omnichannel strategy is a significant investment. But for e-commerce companies that want to raise brand awareness or have a place where potential customers can physically interact with the brand and products, it can be a sound one. This is especially true if an in-person experience is important in truly understanding the value of your product or service. A storefront may be expensive, and may even operate at a loss when viewed using the traditional metrics of product sold valued against operating costs. But when viewed as a way to raise brand awareness and impressions, a clicks-to-bricks move can still net an overall gain—if the traffic from the retail space driven to the website costs less than what it would to purchase those impressions through online advertising. The end goal of an omnichannel strategy is not only to engage customers with an experience that isn’t available online but also to use this unique experience and brand awareness to boost online sales.
Many brands that are considering an omnichannel strategy will already have a well-established reputation and clientele, and it’s important to maintain brand identity while splintering the business into different channels. This will be a crucial element of success in any omnichannel strategy, but it can be challenging.
It’s important to have a clear objective on what you want to accomplish across multiple brands/channels, and this will be a foundation for building out strategies for each. Have an overarching theme for your brand’s look and feel that is broad enough for your design team to have fun and run with it but that is also sufficiently synthesized to make sense across channels. Details such as logo placement in ads, fonts, and relevant company mottos, catchphrases or other branding can serve as guidelines that offer enough room to maneuver to create unique identities for your various channels while remaining under the umbrella of your already-established and recognized brand.
Without these guidelines, it is all too easy to make choices that follow different priorities that don’t serve the overall strategy. For example, when we were building out our omnichannel strategy for 2019 at StickerYou, some of the creative assets that the design team came up with as options for marketing our Shopify store were more pleasing aesthetically as standalone pieces, but were too different from the overall branding scheme to benefit the omnichannel strategy as a whole, so we had to make choices that were more in line with our original StickerYou branding.
Part of the strategizing process should include the ways in which your channels will intersect with and promote each other. Consider the various avenues through which potential customers will arrive at your website and convert. Will they pass by your store on the street and be intrigued enough to look it up online? Will they see a post on Instagram and be inspired to visit your store? Will they look up YouTube videos of your products while in front of them in your retail location? The answers to these questions will inform how you create and curate your customer experience so that it is a seamless transition between all channels.
Once you’ve settled on a strategy and spent time planning the execution of it, implement it and don’t look back. Stick with the plan unless a fundamental flaw is exposed that needs to be changed in order to move forward. It’s incredibly time-consuming to retread any kind of branding initiative, and especially so with one that is as integrated as an omnichannel strategy. So make sure you’ve got a solid plan before moving forward.
Omnichannel is the future of e-commerce. As more businesses move toward integrating e-commerce and physical retail, understanding how to manage a brand identity across multiple channels will become an even more crucial element of success.
Andrew Witkin is founder and president of StickerYou. As the founder of a global e-commerce leader in custom-printed, die-cut products, Andrew Witkin is widely recognized as a leading authority on e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy. Witkin has also served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel.