Chobani, Spanx and other brands are learning valuable lessons by launching their own brick-and-mortar stores, writes CBX executive in online column for CPGmatters.
By opening storefronts focused exclusively on their own brands, the likes of Chobani Greek Yogurt, McCormick seasonings and Spanx hosiery are showing other consumer product manufacturers how brick-and-mortar real estate can be used creatively to strengthen ties to consumers, writes Joseph Bona, President of Branded Environments at brand agency and retail design consultancy CBX, in the early September issue of CPGmatters, a twice-monthly e-zine designed to help makers of consumer packaged goods build brands through retail.
“By opening retail stores, brands gain the opportunity to experiment with their storytelling,” writes the veteran store designer. “The store is, in a sense, a lab in which the company can tinker with product offerings, tweak marketing messages, and absorb data related to the behavior and preferences of loyal customers.”
In the column, titled “From Shelf to Storefront: Brand-Building via Retail,” Bona notes that few consumer product manufacturers aim to blanket the country with retail stores along the lines of Dollar General or Walgreens. Rather, the focus is on sharpening the brand and learning as much as possible about the tastes and preferences of their loyal customers.
“When Chobani launched its New York City yogurt store back in August 2012, it created a kind of church dedicated specifically to the conversion of legions into Chobani evangelists,” Bona writes. “At the bustling Prince Street store, Chobani fans—foodies, dieters, health nuts and everything in between—delight in sampling and buying all kinds of yogurt creations whipped up on site by highly trained associates. The store may or may not turn a profit, but it definitely tells a good story.”
Likewise, Baltimore’s McCormick World of Flavors gives McCormick & Co. the opportunity to highlight all of its products in a colorful space filled with the sights, sounds and aromatic smells associated with cooking, baking and grilling, Bona writes. “It’s one thing to see an ad for McCormick brands like Old Bay, Vahiné or Grill Mates; it’s quite another to taste expertly seasoned food spiced up on site in the McCormick store,” he notes.
Question marks continue to loom over the ultimate fate of brick-and-mortar real estate, with critics pointing to the efficiency and tremendous growth of Amazon and the rise of mobile commerce via smartphones and tablets. “But after talking with a few Chobani evangelists about their experiences with the New York store, it seems clear that something clicked for these consumers once they spent some time in that space,” Bona writes. “With its clarity of message and novel offerings, the store took the brand loyalty of these customers to a new level.”
Even tech giants like Apple and Google see the upside of brick-and-mortar, Bona writes. Rumors are swirling about the possibility of brick-and-mortar stores focused on selling Google’s Android products and Google Glass, the eyeglasses-mounted computer set to go on sale next year, he notes. “And look at how profitable and jam-packed Apple’s stores happen to be. It all speaks to the advantages of brick-and-mortar real estate.”
Through their experiments as commercial real estate leaseholders, manufacturers can export the most successful experiential elements from their stores—imagery, themes, displays, samples, demonstrations and more—back to the supermarkets or other outlets where their products are sold, Bona adds. Indeed, these companies appear to be embracing something similar to retailers’ increasingly popular “omni-channel” focus. “In other words,” Bona writes in the conclusion to the piece, “they see offshoot retail locations as just one of many points of consumer contact, along with the likes of YouTube videos, Facebook pages and, of course, the all-important shelf space in other companies’ stores.”