01. UNDERSTANDING THE FREQUENCY OF CHANGE
The speed at which things change visually with shopping websites and the constant advancements in technology, mean that customers have come to expect the same frequency of change in physical stores. This means that with the exception of grocery stores, (where customers want and expect familiarity), “Bricks and mortar” retailers need to allow for the customer journey and experience to be refreshed regularly. Because, when it comes to retail environments, flexibility drives engagement so there is a very real need to create environments that are easily adaptable. This means that the displays, the spaces around them and how these are used, is more important than ever.
02. ENCOMPASSING THE RETAILER HIERARCHY
It is during the design process that the need for flexibility first needs to be considered, and it is both the designers and the manufactures who need to fully understand what the retailer motivations are. There is essentially a hierarchy of needs to be taken into account. These are: delivering engagement, experience, flexibility, convenience and using quality materials that are fit for purpose, all of which when implemented collaboratively, will generate well designed, flexible and engaging retail environments.
03. CREATING BOTH EXPERIENTIAL AND SENSORY ENVIRONMENTS
Store design must support experiential and personal environments, that resonate with each consumer on an individual level. We are sensory creatures and sight, sound, touch, taste and smell when utilised synchronistically, deliver an engaging sensory experience that naturally leads to empathy. This in turn creates longevity of a relationship with a brand. In other words, stores need to be created to “sell from the inside, as well as the outside”.
04. ADAPTING TO SHRINKING SELLING SPACES
With many physical retailers continuing to pay premium rents, stores need to be designed to allow for the maximum use of space and purpose. With customer perspectives of physical space in stores also changing, selling space is morphing into experiential space – and the proportions of purely sales versus engagement space, needs to be adapted as such.
05. ENABLING THE CHANGING FUNCTIONALITY OF STORES
We are seeing stores becoming show-rooms and distribution centres, as well as conventional purchasing platforms. Offering fulfilment services such as “click and collect” is increasingly important and innovative physical retailers are merging online and offline experiences with the offer of convenience and ease of access. Here, customers can choose how much they wish to engage with the store. They can obtain product information directly from knowledgeable staff members face-to-face, (something online shopping cannot provide), or simply pick up a pre-ordered online purchase from a locker, while passing by.
06. TRANSITIONING THE ONLINE TO PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS
An increasing number of online retailers are opening physical stores. The function of these are not necessarily to buy product, but to provide an all important physical interaction with the brand, offer customers product trials and the opportunity to acquire product knowledge from informed brand representatives. This strengthens the customer relationship with the brand but for this to truly work, the design and fixtures need to bridge the gap between the online and physical stores – creating an easily identifiable synchronicity of themes and colours that are inherently recognisable within both the online and the physical stores.
07. EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY TO DELIVER ENGAGEMENT
Technology used accurately, will continue to go a long way to deliver engagement. The use of touch screens, in-store tablets, virtual reality and devices such as smart mirrors, are all helping to deliver this. Mobile usage continues to grow and retailers are increasingly seeking to capture the attention of customers in-store by utilising tools such as iBeacon technology, to “push” information specific to them. Some brands are opting for portable tech, which continues to create opportunities for brand interaction, even when the customer is no longer in the store. Tommy Hilfiger, for example, is using smart tags in their clothing, that the customer chooses to activate. These then track how often and where the item is being worn, rewarding the wearer accordingly.
08. RECOGNISING THE IMPORTANCE OF SERVICE DESIGN
If anything, good service interactions are as critical as well-designed environments and also need to be “designed” to form part of the entire store experience. Training and support is becoming increasingly essential, to ensure that staff have the brand and product knowledge that allows them to be a key part of the delivery of the full sensory experience to shoppers.