Grey HTK Outline
Grey HTK Outline

Co-op rebranding: retail looks back to the future

This article originally appeared on Retail Times.

Last week the Co-op announced it would be reverting to its iconic blue and white logo as part of a re-branding project. The move will see 2,900 of its sites ditch the ‘Co-operative’ brand to adopt the shortened ‘Co-op’ name alongside the logo synonymous with the company’s 1960s glory days.

As part of the initiative, Co-op members will pocket an automatic five per cent discount on all own-brand products – including food, insurance, legal services and funerals – starting in the autumn. The group also hopes it will boost loyalty as currently only 25% of sales are made to members.

There’s no doubt it’s smart to move back to the values of the collaborative, consumer-led high street experience that made the Co-op of the Sixties such a success.

However, while a return to old fashioned values may restore short-term trust in the brand, the Co-op needs to do more if it wants to change the company’s fortunes long-term and avoid the fate of Woolworths, HMV, Blockbuster and, now, BHS.

The key will be gaining knowledge – and using these valuable insights to give customers the experience they want.

In the pre-digital era, retailers such as the Co-op could rely on robust in-store customer service to meet expectations. A basic offering and a relatable ethos allowed the brand to build loyalty quickly from less-demanding consumers.

But this approach stagnated while everything around it moved forward and consumer demands increased. As supermarket giants innovated and introduced smaller format convenience stores such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local, the Co-op chose to bury its head in the sand.

It could look to Sainsbury’s and its impressive new store-format, introducing new till systems and an app to help consumers get around quickly and find the products they want. It is this type of innovation that can make the difference in today’s marketplace.

Digital has revolutionised the way consumers engage with their favourite brands and retailers, and the Co-op must embrace technology and innovate its offering to give consumers the experience they expect.

While the proliferation of connected devices means that retailers have more opportunities to engage with consumers, they still must ensure that they’re engaging them with targeted and relevant content.

A typical customer today is time-poor and promiscuous when it comes to the high-street. They are searching for speed, choice and convenience so retailers must know their customers and what they want.

Using digital, retailers must build consumer profiles based on basket-data and preferences – only then can they reach consumers with the messages and offers that they want to see. By understanding what consumers want, how they want it and most importantly, when they want it, the base for continued growth can be laid.

Armed with such knowledge, the Co-op could guarantee targeted engagement with each consumer.

Research firm, Kantar Worldpanel, announced recently that Waitrose has captured a record 5.3% of the UK grocery market over the past quarter, following its adoption of a personalisation strategy – a commitment to engaging consumers with relevant and timely offers.

The increased competition in all marketplaces means that consumers have a wealth of choice and are not constrained by price alone – they want to feel valued and expect brands to get to know them.

Being a business with community at its heart, the Co-op must engage its customers to forge relationships, and in turn, earn their loyalty.

Brand loyalty can no longer be bought with mass price-cuts and BOGOF deals – the longevity of the Co-op brand relies on building personal connections.

If it can achieve this, the Co-op will surely be a business Britain can be proud of once more.

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