Why Culture Is Key for Retailers to Build a Strong Identity

In today’s highly saturated consumer marketplace, the key for retailers to stand out in a sea of sameness is to cultivate their own brand image.

That was the message at the National Shoe Retailers Association conference in Las Vegas today, where consultant Scott Deming shared advice with storeowners and managers on how to create brand distinction.

A number of factors play into the process, he explained, and they touch on all aspects of an organization. One of the most crucial, though, is developing a strong internal culture. “You cannot create a passionate feeling on the outside unless the people on the inside already feel it,” said Deming.

As an example, he pointed to the Wegman’s regional grocery store chain that has managed to thrive, despite the fact that its prices are higher than its competition. One of its secret weapons, according to Deming, has been an intense level of training for employees in order to offer a better shopping experience for customers.

But a cohesive company culture relies on staff buy-in and commitment, which Deming said can be achieved when leadership changes the way it thinks about employees. “It’s the difference between function and purpose,” said Deming. “Everybody in the organization has to have a title; it’s required. But when we say, ‘This is your title,’ they start to think that is as far as they are expected to go.”

Instead, he added, focus on a person’s role in the team. “They’re role — everyone’s role — is to make the brand the best one on the planet,” said Deming. “When you prioritize purpose, then they open their minds and start to think. Executives have to inspire and empower their people to think about becoming more.”

With a strong culture in place, there is greater opportunity for innovation and disruption, which are other key facets of a successful company. And engaged employees are essential for generating customer loyalty, said Deming. “You don’t want people talking about the shoes they bought from you,” he said. “You want them talking about the people who helped them with the shoes. Remember: You are the brand.”

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