Department Stores Differentiate With Exclusive Brands

10/03/2011 04:17:00 PM

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It's no secret: the continuing rise of web commerce, combined with the rapid evolution of smartphones, gives shoppers the option to do extensive research and make decisions based on price, location or just plain preference. In fact, 2 out of 3 moms shops with a smartphone in hand! And while this offers retailers numerous opportunities to reach their customers, it also means that moving units requires more differentiation than ever to stand out from the well-researched pack.

But department stores are responding to the evolving landscape by signing exclusive deals with brand names, famous designers, and of-the-moment celebs, in the hopes that stocking unique products will give consumers an incentive to visit specific stores, while simultaneously providing retailers with a selection of merchandise safe from the info-fueled wars.

Such changes are happening fast and wide: according to the recent New York Times piece linked above, major retailers like J.C. Penney and Kohl's already see such exclusives driving up to 50% of their sales, while many other major stores are scrambling to follow suit.

The exclusives vary from entire collections focused on budget consumers, to stores that offer their own special versions of the highest-end products. For example, J. Lo and Marc Anthony just launched a line of affordable apparel and home decor exclusive to Kohl's, while Neiman Marcus is the only place you'll find this rather amazing Christian Louboutin sandal.

Such an array of exclusives offers a wide variety of choices, but often leaves consumers confused as they try to figure out where to go for which products. Sure, it's easy enough to remember that the Kardashian Collection is only available at Sears - but it's a bit harder to keep straight that the Kardashian-endorsed Skechers Shape-Ups are actually available at multiple stores. And what's the difference between Martha Stewart Living (only available at Home Depot), and the Martha Stewart Collection (only available at Macy's)?

When the ever-increasing myriad of options overwhelms consumers, they turn to the web to help sort things out - and it's imperative that stores with exclusive offerings establish an online presence around them. This includes:

  • Running specially-tailored Creatives that emphasize exclusive brand offerings
  • Investing on Search terms related to designers/celebs whose lines they carry
  • Staying alert for Display and/or Video opportunities on related content, especially for lines driven by celebrity endorsement or design (after all, if someone can't stop rocking out to "Party In The USA", it's a decent bet she'll also want to rock Miley's Fringed Suede Boots, available only at Wal-Mart...)
  • Establishing a Mobile Search campaign to reach those smartphone-using shoppers out at the mall trying to figure out which store carries which exclusive brand
  • Coordinating promotions between web and brick-and-mortar stores so that consumers can access their favorite exclusive brands from every angle, and get consistent messaging/pricing as they do so
Posted by Brian Crocker, The Google Retail Team