Personalizing the Online Experience (2016 Summer NAMM)

After purchasing Milwaukee’s Cream City Music in 2013, Brian Douglas’ first order of business was revamping the company’s website. Specifically, he aimed to create a more personal online experience—one that rivaled the in-store experience. During the “NAMM Retail Summit” at 2016 Summer NAMM, he sat down with NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond to discuss how this has been critical to Cream City Music’s success.

“I’m a big believer in what I call personality branding,” Douglas said. “Every one of our stores has its own unique identity. We all have a story to tell. So the goal was, ‘How can we find a way to express our story, our journey and who we are through the imagery, the words and the design of what we could do online?’”

He explained that personality branding fundamentally begins with a well-designed website that inspires customers to purchase. Personality branding also includes a smooth buying experience and making Cream City Music’s staff accessible, so customers feel encouraged to call or email with questions.

“That was the key to the messaging that we wanted to send, and it’s been very effective for us,” Douglas said.

“I’ve had to train my guys in terms of how we them to write. And when you look at our product descriptions, we write all our own product descriptions. We take all our own product photos. We don’t use any of the stuff that the vendors provide per se. You can really pitch something with that tone and the way that you’re describing a product.”

He added that communicating with customers in a consistent fashion, across all platforms, is critical to effective personality branding. 

“A key goal for us, and something I would encourage to all store owners: You want to make sure that your shop has a very consistent image and branding and voice across all your sales platforms,” Douglas said. “Because you want to send a message of consistency to your customer base. That’s really important. It shows reliability. It shows honesty. It shows commitment to what it is that you’re doing, and I think people really connect to that.”

According to Douglas, his company achieved double-digit growth last year. “And that was a function of that online component really stepping up a notch.” He added that his company is split 60-40, online retail to brick-and-mortar sales. “I’d love to see it 50-50, but online continues to grow.”