If you think that retail marketing strategy and social media have nothing to do with one another, come again. We asked Master & Dynamic's Vice President of Sales & Channel, Carolina Clouet, to spill some secrets of the trade to shed light on how the two areas are complimentary.
What are your first impressions when you walk into a retail store? What feeling do you get? Do you ever wonder about what rulings have been made for specific nooks? How displays all look like they're conforming to a mold? Breaking news: the marketing decisions that lead to that in-store presentation trickle down from a brand's core strategy. Yep, the same one that your social media efforts come from.
While these two areas of marketing seem to be at polar ends of the commerce spectrum, the more you know about your department's other company branding activities, the more clutch you can make your Instagram. While the two might not appear to overlap, there's no question that nailing one helps nail the other to achieve true brand identity osmosis.
The behind-the-scenes efforts required to build and execute a product development marketing and retail strategy are a rigorous exercise in multitasking, perseverance, and expertise. That goes for whether you're at a fledgling startup, a multi-brand department store, or a power conglomerate. This hustle contributes to a brand lift just as much as a social media activation does.
To enlighten us on how product design and development influences retail strategy and consequently social shareability, we enlisted the expertise of Carolina Clouet, the VP of Sales & Channel at luxury electronic accessories brand Master & Dynamic. We discussed everything from the process of getting a finished product onto a retail floor to what happens during and after the fact.
Carolina is essentially a market superstar with an accomplished background. Her career began while interning at Teen Vogue ("many moons ago") and quickly realizing that she was "most interested in how to turn the creation into a market-ready product, aka how to sell it and make money." Can't think of a better person to learn from.
Keep reading for priceless insights on the retail world, and how everything comes full circle with social.
1. Take Initiative
There's no doubt about it, to succeed in retail strategy, you must be self-sufficient as well as a self-starter. At the beginning of her career and fueled by drive, Carolina "convinced a small accessories showroom team to let me develop a private label division so I could sink my teeth into the process head-on." Not an easy feat in a profession where the use of the word 'no' is standard, especially for someone in a junior position with no prior experience.
The process allowed her gain an understanding for how much retail strategists need to juggle to complete a project from the early development stages to brand recognition. "You need to come prepared with thick skin, persistence, determination, and laser focus," she counsels, "this job is not for the faint of heart."
But the promise of a priceless accomplishment can make all the hard work worth it. Carolina describes seeing her "'product baby' come to life in the market as "no greater victory." Put in the work, reap a high reward.
2. Relationships Can Make or Break You
When you're wholesaling, your product's life depends on third parties. That means there is a grey zone over which you have no control, and it's where the importance of relationship-building comes in. This doesn't come without its hurdles, especially for a younger brand that still has to prove itself.
This is when genuinely believing in your product can go a long way to get a buyer excited about it, and ultimately lead to them taking it in. But "more importantly, [for it] to stay in," quips Carolina. Thus the importance of both building and maintaining ties with those buyers.
These relationships are also one of the job's great rewards, and strong lasting friendships can form from these professional rapports. "Some of my closest friends to date are people I've had the privilege to work with, and that makes the process all the more special and personal," she reflects.
3. Have a Local-First Mindset
If you're an international brand, penetrating world markets is an essential part of your retail strategy. While establishing a presence abroad might represent a significant chunk of your business, your priority needs to be your own territory. "Your local market should be your main market, so always place the bulk of your efforts in growing your own grass first," stresses Carolina.
If you're looking for international reach, enlisting the services of a local specialist who will be your eyes and ears on the ground is a must. "You can only know so much about a foreign market from afar," she explains.
Partnering with a local agent is the best way to learn about offshore territories, and building those relationships (point #2!) is essential to your foreign success. "You have to trust them to offer you proper guidance and be willing to spend as much time as you can on the ground with them learning as much as you can about your outside market." We sense a lot of travel might be involved.
Nonetheless, Carolina asserts that "your grass should always be greener." Goals for your own life too, amiright?! Just sayin'.
4. Everything Is Tied Together
Just when you thought that a retail strategist couldn't have a more different reality than that of a social editor, it all comes crashing together. How, you ask? Carolina mentions that the toughest part of the job happens after you've secured relationships with buyers because your brand has to "stay cool and relevant for your stuff to sell." Point taken.
So it's not only about being innovative with your product, but it's also about how it's displayed to keep the consumer engaged and interested. She calls it—wait for it—"The 'IG moment'." The modern consumer craves an experience and needs an in-store surprise and delight moment, the greatest achievement being to trigger emotional reactions. "You want them to feel something," she muses. And, the holy grail, "maybe even take a pic for the gram."
In fact, the arrival of channels like Instagram have changed the industry and play a big role at the retail strategy level. "The way your product is captured on social and by whom is super important," reveals Carolina. It plays into brand relevancy, emotional triggers, and serves to "ultimately build enough equity to turn that social relationship into a sale."
5. Left and Right Brain Must Unite
The alchemy of creativity and data strikes again!
Here at Dash Hudson, we firmly believe that they make for a perfect marriage and that the two remain separate too often. We think that yielding the best possible results (in any industry) stems from this paradoxical alliance. Spoiler alert: not everyone's brain is wired to process both types of information.
A retail strategist must be one of those unicorns. "The role is both very analytical and oddly creative at the same time," explains Carolina. "You need to be able to identify a trend and also be able to analyze it." Just like a great social media strategist.
Those relationships, that hustle, that market strategy, those store displays—they all inform the image that's also being portrayed on social media by the opposite side of your brand's marketing department. The retail strategist's job is to make a lasting impression and prompt consumers to share their experience on visual channels like Instagram.
Just like social, retail strategy is a fast-paced environment with a lot of moving parts to wrangle. Having an understanding of this process will undoubtedly enlighten your own marketing perspective, and consequently, your Insta approach.
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