By: William Harris for Entrepreneur
As more and more retail brands and department store giants close shop and reduce locations this year, the rest of the retail industry is scrambling. They've got to find ways to unlock the keys to survival and growth.
What is happening to the retail side of things?
Needless to say, retail isn’t what it used to be 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. Trends and shopping behaviors have changed dramatically. New technology has been introduced, and there are more competitors in the market than ever before. The playing field has been leveled.
To compete and grow, retailers have to work harder than ever to reach, attract, and engage with shoppers online. But how do you do it? Having a website and an active presence on social media sites used to help, but it’s not enough anymore.
Today, it’s all about using content to build community, provide value, and establish trust with your customers and target audience.
Here are four examples of retail brands that are doing it right:
Beardbrand is a beard lifestyle company that was founded in 2012 by Eric Bandholz. Bandholz started the company to create more community around beard-growing, and, according to the company mission statement, “To change the way society views beardsmen.”
Beardbrand sells a variety of beard-growing products and tools to beard enthusiasts all around the world. Bandholz and his team have successfully built an active and passionate community around their company and products by investing in content and education from day one.
Bandholz explains on his website: “We first started off with a blog, a YouTube channel, and a Tumblr blog. On these platforms, I shared my knowledge about growing a beard and provided style inspiration for others. Ultimately, the goal was to provide the tools necessary for men to feel confident about growing their beard, and I also wanted to end the negative stereotypes about beardsmen being lazy or unkempt.”
Today, Beardbrand works with brand advocates and bearded influencers all around the world to creat content that serves and educates thousands of followers, builds brand awareness, and promotes their growing line of beard grooming products.
lululemon athletica is a yoga-inspired, technical athletic apparel company for women and men that was founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson. The company is now run by current CEO Laurent Potdevin.
lululemon is another company built with a focus on education and community, as illustrated on their website:
“Our vision for our store was to create more than a place where people could get gear to sweat in; we wanted to create a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living, mindfulness and living a life of possibility. It was also important for us to create real relationships with our guests and understand what they were passionate about, how they liked to sweat and help them celebrate their goals.”
In the past few years, the athleisure trend has exploded, and lululemon has responded by doubling down on both product design and education for their community of followers.
The retail brand has over two million followers on Instagram, over 18 million video views on YouTube, and regularly publishes original content that educates their community on topics that relate to yoga, travel, nutrition, and their products.
YETI is an outdoor lifestyle brand that was founded in 2006 by Ryan and Roy Seiders. The company designs and manufactures high-quality coolers, ramblers, travel bags, and other accessories for outdoor enthusiasts.
To differentiate from a fairly saturated and competitive market, YETI invests in experience-based storytelling. They describe their products in the following way:
“Built for close calls in far-flung places. Built for tall tales and epic adventures. Built for finding comfort well outside comfort zones. Built for the wild.”
To connect with and relate to their target audience, YETI has been, in recent years, producing extremely well-produced stories that feature interesting people living interesting or extraordinary lives. These stories are usually comprised of rich editorial write-ups, video footage, and photos.
This type of storytelling ultimately helps YETI not only attract those seeking adventure and spending time outdoors, but also focus in on connecting with those willing to spend top-dollar (their smallest cooler currently sells for $199) for products that last a lifetime.
Bonobos is a men’s clothing brand founded in 2007 by Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly. The company was recently acquired by Walmart for $310 million.
In an effort to connect with their audience and differentiate from other men’s clothing brands online, Bonobos manages a digital editorial publication on their website called Equateur. They describe the publication in the following way:
“At Bonobos, we strive to make great clothing. With Equateur, we tell the stories of the humans who wear it. The places they go, the things they do, the people they meet -- everything that gives meaning to what otherwise would be just fabric and thread.”
The original content created for Equateur allows Bonobos to educate their target audience while also promoting their own products. You can see this strategy in action by visting the Groomshop section of their webiste, where you’ll find a natural mix of helpful wedding and honeymoon tips, clothing for sale, and information about their consultation services.
The retail game is changing in a big way. To survive the unsteadiness that a lot of brands are feeling right now, they have to focus less on “selling products” and more on investing in your community.
Think about who your customers are, what they care about, and what you need to do to create a movement and community that they can actively support and participate in.
Focus on creating original, unique content that provides value for your community, and actively work to position yourself and your brand as a resource that your customers and target audience can trust.