The retail industry is constantly evolving. Brick and mortar was once the only way to shop, but as the retail experience moves online, it's up to brands to maintain in-store authenticity in their digital culture.
Here are three ways that brands can embrace their company culture in their online experiences:
Influence digital design and e-commerce strategy
Brands invest a lot of time and resources into their offline culture and retail experiences. Some great examples are the Aesop store, with site specific designs built around a unique sink, or the warm, woodsy Americana in a Ralph Lauren retail flagship, or an Adidas activation built around new collaborations. These experiences imagine the customer journey through physical space, creating an emotional connection by utilizing all the senses.
There is no reason this deeper experience can’t happen in a digital space. Digital experiences can personalize content through flexibility. You can’t necessarily do that in the retail environment, people aren’t always going to ask the questions that create that richer experience. By letting your customer control their journey you get more than conversion, you get a brand ambassador.
It’s important to apply this thinking in developing brand identity as well. Asking the right questions to get to the “why” behind the brand will support your customer in doing the same. Then staying brand-focused in every decision allows your audience to connect. Digital is just one part of an ecosystem. We work to build a system of components that allow for a cohesive brand experience on every platform.
Translate brand heritage and customer loyalty into digital experiences
When a brand comes to us we spend a lot of time upfront getting to know why they exist, what they believe and where they want to be. Often on the journey to solving the challenges they present, we see other opportunities. We are launching a new website experience for Heath Ceramics, and it’s a great example of that process. Heath is best known for their beautiful ceramic tableware and architectural tile. We teamed up with their internal team to build an e-commerce platform that brings their handcrafted story and unique vision forward. They challenged us to consider an evolving brand, support revenue growth and help with operational efficiencies.
To build the brand and represent their identity we established a new heritage-inspired design language that reflects the identity and company values. Taking key inspiration from their brick-and-mortar experience and product design philosophy, we brought the concept of open exploration and simplicity to heart of our experience. Users can now explore and discover their product offerings, events and story in a way that feels seamless and integrated. The journey has been built to be as special as the first moment you pick up one of their pieces and begin the process wanting to know more.
Apply culture through digital experiences, beyond web design and e-commerce
Experiences are not always digital -- they may be ephemeral.
Nike’s run club supports local communities with their products. The user-generated content is completely organic but curated by Nike to both support the communities and their brand. REI’s project showing a daily timeline of campers using their gear in specific situations was a great tool for the campers and utilized UGC to tell an authentic story around their products. Patagonia’s Action Works helps train environmental activists and works with local communities where stores are located to host meetings and events all in support of their company values. During this year’s all-star weekend, Adidas and Alexander Wang created an event that had NBA stars and DJ’s, and the event premiered local artists work that could only be experienced by the public through social media.
These activations and initiatives are the basis of an experience economy. For a majority of your audience these campaigns are only digital, despite not happening in any digital space.
Matt Faulk is the CEO and CCO at BASIC, an experience design agency that lives at the intersection of culture and commerce.