Brand convergence seems to be the new normal in retail—but partnering with another business that has its own image and needs comes with pitfalls as well as rewards.
Target very well might have been the one to make collaborations mainstream decades ago, bringing high-end brand diffusion lines literally to the masses, but today brands and retailers are working together in new ways and with new goals.
Because so many established brands are cozying up to direct-to-consumer darlings, the brand convergence trend might seem to be all about capturing the millennial and Gen Z consumer. But that’s hardly the full picture, says Doug Tiffan, chief merchant for business software maker Infor. Today, every retailer needs to keep—not just capture—every customer, regardless of their demographic or generational cohort, he adds.
Not that Gen Z is to be ignored. The generation coming up behind millennials will “keep you honest with what’s important today,” Tiffan noted. They’re making a lot of noise about the pressing issues of social and environmental responsibility, he continues, and influencing older generations (whether they realize it or not) so Gen Z is “great to have in your crosshairs.”
When it comes to brand convergence today, “nothing is off the table,” Tiffan said. The common thread for successful brand partnerships is “shaking up the apple cart and rethinking things,” he continued. While the old-new aspect of established retailers working together with young brands has instant appeal, even legacy retailers can pair up to “as long as they understand that it’s not going to be the same old, same old,” Tiffan added.
Brands and retailers that don’t think carefully about their convergence strategy could succumb to any number of downfalls. But most of all, no brand or retailer wants to become so mainstream and undifferentiated that it loses sight of its unique value proposition to its target customer, Tiffan said.
Amazon can be a partner in brand convergence, too, though many business continue to question whether the e-commerce giant is a friend or a foe. However, Tiffan believes the rewards of working with Amazon outweigh the risks (namely, the Seattle company creating low-priced competitors to your products). The best starting point? Offering products on Amazon that are separate and distinct from the items customers can shop in your own store or on your website—an approach that’s worked well for Nike, for example.
Regardless of where they beginn, all brands and retailers should be thinking about how convergence can enhance their business and attract new customers. As Tiffan said, with willing participants on board, “the possibilities are endless.”