Retail Branding: Build a Memorable Brand

retail branding brand identity

Retailers are no longer just product suppliers. They are lifestyle partners and entities with which consumers build relationships based on memorable experiences. 

2021 survey confirms this, revealing that 66% of consumers expect more meaningful experiences from brands.

The starting point for all this and more? Retail branding.

Not only does it help attract your target audience, but it also gives you the opportunity to stand out from the competition and foster customer trust and loyalty—all while growing revenue.

For retailers with brick-and-mortar shops, though, branding goes beyond just having a brand identity. You have to bring that identity to the shopping experience.

Not sure how to do that? This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of store branding, its importance, and nine ways to build a strong brand that improves the customer experience.

What is retail branding?

Retail branding is a strategy for building a strong perception of your store in your customers' minds.

It’s the deliberate steps you take to evoke positive feelings and encourage customers to see your business in a certain way.

Generally, a brand is an identity: the story you tell customers to connect with them.

This “identity is truth,” points out Faith Hope Consolo, Chairman of Douglas Elliman’s Retail Group. “The brand is the aspiration the customer wants to buy; it’s the core truth of the brand.”  

Adrienne Weiss of Adrienne Weiss Corporation, who is behind brands like Build-A-Bear Workshop, DiGiorno, and Baskin Robbins,agrees. “Your brand is a story you tell to the world with the hope that it will resonate, and consumers will want to associate themselves with your brand.”

Free Download: From Clicks to Customers: How to Measure Your Retail Store's Marketing Success

Every marketing campaign is an investment of your time, energy, and money. Do you ever wonder if your efforts were worth it? Read this guide and build a framework to plan, track, and measure the success of retail marketing campaigns.

Retail branding vs. product branding

It can be easy to confuse store branding with product branding. But where the former creates a perception of your entire store, the latter focuses on the look and feel of a particular product.

Store branding targets a main market. But product branding goes deeper, targeting a specific submarket within the main target audience.

Take McDonald's, for example. Its overall brand targets adults needing a fast, cheap meal. However, its Happy Meal targets a submarket, children.

 retail branding brand identity


One thing to bear in mind: although product and retail branding are different, the former falls under the umbrella of overall store branding.

Look at the McDonald's example. Although the Happy Meal targets a submarket, the product’s visual identity (the signature red and yellow colors and fonts) are the same as the main brand.

Meaning: product branding has to follow the same visual brand identity so products don’t clash with each other, and customers can still recognize them as part of your brand.  

Increase store foot traffic with Shopify

Shopify comes with built-in tools to bring more online shoppers to your store. Manage your Google Merchant Center listing without leaving your point of sale, show each product’s availability across all store locations, offer in-store pickup, and more.

The importance of retail branding

Why bother putting all this effort into creating a unique retail brand? Because store branding can help you in more ways than one.

Let’s look at a few of these benefits:

Stand apart from the competition 

“Brand identity is crucial, because that’s what separates you from your competition,” says Weiss.

In fact, the stronger your store identity and the more it resonates with your target audience, the more customers will choose you over competitors.

Think about it: would a customer choose Brand A with a signature, relaxing-to-the-eyes, lavender brand color, or Brand B, which uses random colors for their product packaging, store, and website?

They’d always choose brand A, wouldn’t they? And they’ll remember it better, too.

Connect with your customers/the community 

Strong retail branding can easily make your store "Instagrammable." This, in turn, encourages shoppers to take pictures of your store/product and talk about their experience online. 

This kind of user-generated content is guaranteed to drive more awareness for your store. 

It’s even better if you can use available space in your store to create a creator studio, where creators and influencers can shoot content for their social media. Not only does this help you tap into creators’ followers, it also gives you top content to share on your own social feeds. 

Craft a story 

Store branding is incomplete without a story that reveals who you are and the values you stand for. A brand story that resonates with your customers is memorable, helping you connect with them.

It’s also what helps earn customer trust and differentiates you from competitors. Ultimately, all this drives more revenue.

Create an experience

Branding also helps define customers’ experience with you.

Essentially, what you stand for and how your store makes customers feel is the starting point for providing unique experiences.

If you can take this a step further and host in-store events for shoppers, you’ll win not only their cash but their customer loyalty.

In fact, a whopping 81% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for good experiences that upgrade their shopping.

Strengthen your omnichannel presence 

Finally, store branding helps blend your online and offline identity, creating a streamlined omnichannel presence.

Interestingly, 59% of consumers say they’re likely to browse products online but buy them in-store (technically called, webrooming) in the coming year, according to a Forrester Consulting study conducted on Shopify’s behalf.

The same study also found that 54% are likely going to experience products in-store and buy them online (a.k.a. showrooming). 

This makes it clear: it’s uber important for brands to take creating a consistent, branded omnichannel presence seriously.  

9 ways to incorporate your brand identity into your retail store

Convinced you need to work on building a strong store identify? Let’s look at the elements that can help you do so. 

1. Signage 

Signage is often the first interaction a consumer has with a brick-and-mortar store, making it crucial for retailers to showcase their identity here.

Even the store name above your entrance is important. “It’s the greatest opportunity to leave a memorable first impression,” says Jess Brown, Digital Creative Director at Planit, a creative branding agency. 

Signage also includes window displays. Not only are window displays one of the first things to attract shoppers, they also influence purchasing decisions an average of 24% of the time. 

It’s why Consolo suggests, “At the entrance to the store, the brand identity needs to be strong; customers want to feel like they are entering your world.”

A creative and inexpensive way to create that first impression is to use a chalkboard placed on the sidewalk out front. Retailers can lure in foot traffic, especially pedestrians who may not have even noticed your window displays. 

If your brand identity is funny, make a joke. If you’re aspirational, put an impactful quote. Should the sign be distinctive enough, it could make an appearance on Instagram, getting your name out there even more.

In the store itself, use signage to help shoppers find what they’re looking for. Add digital signage to your retail store. This includes screens and signs that display digital videos, ads, or other messages you want to share with customers.

Retailer Five Below has a fun way of greeting customers. The “dollar store for tweens,” as Weiss calls it, is playful, and its signage reflects that.

retail branding brand identity


“On the floor, in the entry to the stores, is the message ‘Admission Free, Everything Else $1–$5.’ What makes this such a great expression of brand identity is that it establishes, at the very first moment that the customer walks into the store, that she should expect more than just finding cheap stuff — she should expect an experience.”

2. Logo

Another essential component of your store identity is your logo. 

As part of your brand identity process, you will have a logo that embodies that identity. And that logo needs to play a part in the in-store experience.

“A brand’s identity should be anchored in a strong logo, but the whole package needs to work together to be successful,” says Amy Lanzi, Managing Director at retail marketing agency TPN.

Add your logo to product displays, receipts, shopping bags, price tags, and more.

Keep in mind though, that it’s important to balance logo placement in your in-store experience. "It’s not a matter of slapping the logo everywhere there’s a space for it. It must be strategic," Lanzi advises. 

So how can you strategically add the logo to your store branding? The answer lies in your brand identity. 

A brand like Coach, for example, incorporates the logo in its product design. Their stores have a minimal design, with lots of white space, bright lights, and little branding. But the products speak for the brand. 

Discount retailer Target, on the other hand, takes a more in-your-face approach to incorporating its logo into the shopping experience.

Need some help with your brand's logo? Try out Shopify's free logo generator

3. Color

In a survey of 2,500 consumers, 67% recognized Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, from a display of their iconic blue and yellow colors. That’s how colors improve brand recognition.

Smaller retailers can use color to establish their brand identity as well. The first step is to choose colors strategically, based on the psychological impact they have on customers: specific colors evoke specific emotions.

For example, red evokes excitement, boldness, and youth. Health and wellness retailers often go for grays or greens to spark feelings of peace, calm, balance, and health. 

Blue is associated with trust, purple with creativity, orange with friendliness, and yellow with optimism. Men's retailers typically opt for black and gray interiors.

retail branding brand identity


Choose colors based on how well they represent your identity and the impact you want to have on your consumers.

4. Music 

Having the right music and sonic strategy can also enhance your brand identity through the shopping experience. It goes beyond the type of music—think about volume as well.  

If you’ve ever gone into an Abercrombie & Fitch, you’ve likely had to shout to your friend to ask their opinion of a shirt that caught your eye. That’s because the music is loud, embodying the cool, young vibe of its customers and its own identity. 

While you may not want your storefront to sound like a nightclub, the point is to create a soundscape in your store that further solidifies your brand identity. So give due consideration to the background tunes playing in your shop.

5. Scent

Another thing Abercrombie & Fitch and its sister stores do is use scent. If you pass by the store in a shopping mall, for instance, you might smell it before you see it. They spray fragrances in the stores because it creates a specific identity and emotional reaction for customers. That’s the power of scent marketing.

Research confirms this; scent marketing can raise sales by 11%. How so? By impacting mood and perception — just as colors do. Scent can also have strong effects on emotional reactions. That’s why yoga studios often use calming lavender scents to create an experience for students.

Think about how you want your customers to feel and identify scents that will evoke that feeling. Bonus points if you sell those fragrances!

6. Lighting

Lighting doesn’t only help customers see your products, it also contributes to the shopping experience. While some retailers may think bright lights help the products shine more, they may not be an accurate representation of the brand.

Darlene Susco, Founder of iDsusco, points to the moody lighting of Restoration Hardware as a direct reflection of the brand. They’re edgy, moody, and masculine.

Children’s stores can get more creative and playful with the lighting, while Sephora needs the bright lights so customers can test out cosmetic products and see them clearly.

Put simply, if you want customers to feel relaxed and calm, dim the lights. If your identity is more energetic, go brighter.

7. Product packaging and display 

Everything from the fixtures you use in your store to how your products are displayed reflects your retail branding.

To begin with, work on your window display as discussed above. Use anything from mannequins to displaying a sale sign. 

“Once inside, make sure the brand’s identity influences all signage, from merchandising to wayfinding. Retailers have the opportunity to display their brand identity on everything from the employee wardrobe and hangtags to floor treatments and shelving units,” suggests Lanzi. Keep the fonts, colors, voice and tone the same — and aligned to your identity. 

Also important is how you display your products to highlight their features and benefits — a process known as visual merchandising.

retail branding brand identity


To this end, experiment with the product positioning, lighting, and store layout. For example, spotlight new products, bestsellers, or items you’re trying to sell.

You can also work in experiential elements to get customers to interact with your products. For instance, by letting customers try sample products.

Take Lush, a fresh handmade cosmetics brand. All Lush stores offer packaging-free products that customers can smell, touch, and try. As a result, Lush has become famous for its colorful, fragrant in-store experience, which customers can recognize from afar.

Lastly, product packaging is also a crucial retail branding element. It’s also one that influences purchasing decisions for seven in 10 customers.

A simple idea is to use reusable bags. Or offer a unique unboxing experience—booklets, branded tissue paper, stickers, and ribbons are just a few ideas for creating the experience. 

8. Retail staff

Sales and retail associates on the floor personify your brand. They are what brings the retailer and the products to life. It’s imperative that they’re considered an essential component of the brand identity. 

When onboarding employees, train them well. Introduce them to your brand identity: help them understand what it is and how they can embody it. Keep this in mind when vetting potential new hires as well.

Susco points to the associates at REI as a perfect example of retail staff who embody the brand identity. They’re all outdoor enthusiasts and share that passion with REI customers.

Lululemon also does this well. In fact, they call their associates ambassadors. “Lululemon has created a retail environment that is a manifestation of their brand purpose of mindfulness,” Lanzi explains. “Wayfinding messaging guides the shopper to find what they need and the ambassadors can assist them in finding the right option.

💡 PRO TIP: With Shopify POS, you can assign different roles and permissions and set boundaries on what store staff can do in your POS system without manager approval—like changing a product’s price or applying a custom discount to a sale.

9. Consistency

To nail your brand identity, pay attention to “consistency and impact,” says Consolo. 

“All the customer touch points need to tie back to it—the same logo, the same fonts, look, and feel of the marketing and of the stores. You hammer home the message when it’s unified.”

Every time a consumer has an interaction with your brand—in-store, by email, on social media, on your website—the experience has to evoke the same emotion.

“Without a consistent system in place, the brand’s identity will get lost in the myriad of communication touch points,” echoes Lanzi. 

Synergy across all channels makes the brand identity resonate more powerfully, and that makes your brand more relatable.

Here are some ideas on how you can ensure that consistency: 

  • Document your brand identity: Include things such as your voice, your mission, and guidelines for logo usage. Make sure this documentation is circulated throughout your company. Don’t forget to provide examples of both good and bad to help employees understand.
  • Police your brand: With the proper training on your brand identity, empower your employees to be the brand police. Let them know that it’s okay to bring anything that they see is off-brand to your attention. Some businesses even have a team dedicated solely to ensuring all channels adhere to brand guidelines.
  • Encourage cross-department communication: Retailers that are large enough in size have teams dedicated to different business functions. Make sure store managers, the marketing department, PR, product managers, and other facets of the business are aligned and have open lines of communication to stay on the same page. This could take the form in a weekly all-hands meeting or regular status updates via email. 

Ready to work on your retail branding?

At the end of the day, retailers need to know their consumers well and build a brand identity that reflects who they are as well as resonates with their target audience. Aim to create experiences that help establish relationships with customers.

After all, focusing on the experience, not just the product, goes a long way in today’s omnichannel marketplace.

Increase store foot traffic with Shopify

Shopify comes with built-in tools to bring more online shoppers to your store. Manage your Google Merchant Center listing without leaving your point of sale, show each product’s availability across all store locations, offer in-store pickup, and more.

Store branding FAQ

What is an example of a store brand?

A store brand is a product made by a retailer and sold under the retailer's own brand name.

What is shop branding?

Shop branding involves creating a unique identity for a retail store. This includes developing a name, logo, and overall look and feel that will make the store stand out from the competition. The goal is to attract customers and create loyalty.

How do you brand a retail store?

There are many ways to brand a retail store. Some common methods include using a logo, using specific colors, using a certain typeface, and using a tagline.

What are the 4 principles of branding?

The four principles of branding are:
  1. A clear and consistent brand identity
  2. A focus on the customer experience
  3. A focus on the brand story
  4. A commitment to continual brand evolution