Thursday, July 30, 2015

What your “space” tells about your brand.

In architecture and interior design, branded environments enhance the experience of a company’s brand. Whether it is in the physical space (retail, office, trade shows, museums, showrooms, etc.) or digital space (website, app), these branded environments instantly reinforce a company’s position, communicates its identity, and delivers the brand experience to customers.
In a digital space, the brand experience is achieved through UX and UI design, to make the platform as engaging, intuitive and user friendly as possible. Think of boring websites where you have a list of products listed as soda drinks are placed on a shelf in a supermarket, where you have new idea what/where/how to look for? On the contrary, think about how Amazon’s website is intuitive and friendly, prompting product suggestions based on what you are looking at, based on your purchase history, based on what other shoppers who purchased the product you’re looking at have also bought. Have I mentioned customer’s feedback available with the product description? 
In the physical space, a branded environment is the combination of many components such as architecture, layouts, finishing materials, lighting, environmental graphics, way-finding devices, signage, and d├ęcor elements that reflect and reinforce the personality of a business.
While particularly effective for retail, museum and exhibit design, branded environments can support the success of many organizational types, from corporate to institutional and educational. The designed environment can reflect or express the attributes of a community or the competitive advantages of a company’s product or service.
The benefits of a branding your environment are many. Internally, better environmental design leads to happier staff. Happier staff generally means higher retention rates, increased productivity, and a better understanding of your organization’s mission, vision and values. In other words, a branded environment engages employees.
Externally, it leads to improved position and communication, better customer recognition, differentiation from competitors, and higher perceived value from your customers, investors, partners, and the media.
Retailers such as PIRCH have partnered with experiential design agencies like Fitch to transform the shopping experiences. PIRCH stores offer customers the opportunity to test products and enjoy using them before purchasing - 'try before you buy’ becomes something new and powerfully branded. Shoppers enjoy the opportunity to cook with a real Chef while testing the kitchen’s appliances. For other, they can reserve a time at the “store’s spa” to test showers and bathtubs. After testing products, shoppers “can enter a 'dream room' to meet with a designer and plan their homes”.
The Robin Report delicately describes what the Apple or PIRCH experience is about. “These brands are not retailers. They are neurologically addictive experiences, co-created by the brand and their dopamine-addicted consumers”. The brick-and-mortar retail business has a bright future provided that it transforms its physical space into an experiential space. The Robin Report suggests that such retail brands stimulate their visitors’ dopamine. It is almost like a sport performance-enhancing drug, except in that case dopamine is “a chemical in the brain that gets released every time we have an elevated experience. It provides feelings of euphoria, self-satisfaction, wellbeing, and can lead to addiction. The dopamine-releasing brands headlining this report (and there are others) are such because the experience they have developed requires that the customer participate in creating or shaping that experience to satisfy their own personal desire at the moment they engage with the brand”.
No matter what happens in the physical or digital shopping experience, successful brands know that the key is to build brand loyalty. The store experience is an important component, among others. But the way brands communicate across various channels with their customers is critical. Loyalty requires communicating brand values that people want to be affiliated with. Consumers today have many options, and more than ever they choose particular brands to communicate something personal about their own beliefs and priorities. The best way to establish and reinforce common values is to create content so highly specific that it defines not only the brand, but the customer.
When organizations look at extending their brand experience to digital and physical “space”, many see the different platforms (or “spaces) in silos, whereas they should carry out the efforts in a symbiotic way. The customer experience should be the same whether (s)he is online shopping, in a store trying out outfits, at a car dealer’s buying a car, staying in a hotel after making an online reservation, etc.
Again, think of Amazon. Online retail, drone delivery, pick-up locations…