Brand as Friend: Do Brand Friendships Matter in Retail Marketing?

Retail is an omnichannel experience — a seamless series of touchpoints that enables consumers to explore products through a variety of different resources before ultimately completing that path to purchase. What does that mean for brands? It means they must be able to perform in multiple arenas, where and when the customer seeks information or validation for a pending purchase. Through the lens of Brand as Friend® (our philosophy around helping brands make real connections with people through affection, relevance and trust), we can borrow a lot of ideas from friendship when it comes to creating relevance at retail.

Let’s look at the omnichannel experience an example — brands are connecting with consumers across a variety of platforms, just as people connect with their friends across a variety of platforms. We all have friendships that we maintain through social media — pictures on Facebook, moments shared on Snapchat, meals shared via artful Instagram pics and the daily banter of a casual text thread – but the moments that mean the most are still the ones that happen in person. Call it Girls Weekend or the annual golfing trip with the guys or whatever it may be, but what it comes down to is validating those connections with people up close and personal.

It’s no different in marketing. While people connect with brands across all these same platforms, it’s still a fact that in-person interaction trumps all when it comes to decision time. eMarketer reported that 72% of consumers rely on the traditional in-store experience as the most important part of making a digital purchase. In fact, 75% of retail growth comes from IN store.

While brick-and-mortar stores still play the dominant role in retail, that does not lessen the role that other channels play. Consumers expect flexibility in shopping and fulfillment — the ability to purchase something online, but return the item to a physical store location. In terms of friendship, think of it as being able to start a serious conversation via text message before agreeing to meet for coffee to resolve an interpersonal issue. It comes down to convenience, but also personalization — recognizing how consumers want to interact with the brand and following suit, to begin building trust and inspiring brand loyalty. In friend terms: you must handle things differently with different people in your life based on those unique relationships. This attention to detail builds trust between you and each person, thus advancing the relationship from acquaintance to friend.

Bottom line: Brands must leverage the omnichannel experience as a way to create meaningful moments with consumers across a variety of touchpoints. Yes, these touchpoints can help brands share promotions and information with consumers, but like a friend, they should also be about finding opportunities to make things special and personal for people engaging with your brand—anytime, anywhere.

Check out EMA’s Retail Digital Trends webinar to gain a better understanding of how digital media is impacting omnichannel trends.