Insight: making stores fit for the future
Ahead of The Omnichannel Futures Conference on 6 February, Sasha Cuff, marketing executive at rpa:group, highlights the issues and trends that are currently influencing store design.
Understanding the frequency of change
The speed at which things change visually with shopping websites and the constant advancements in technology means that customers have come to expect the same frequency of change in physical stores. 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. When it comes to retail environments, innovation, change and 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 they are used, are more important than ever.
Encompassing the retailer hierarchy of needs
It is during the design process that the need for flexibility first needs to be considered, and it is both the designers and retailers who have to fully understand what the customer motivations are. There is essentially a hierarchy of requirements that have to be considered; delivering engagement, experience, flexibility, convenience and using quality materials that are fit for purpose, which when implemented collaboratively, will generate well designed, flexible and engaging retail environments.
The juxtaposition of experiential and sensory environments
Selling space is morphing into experiential space – and the proportions of purely sales versus engagement space, needs to be adapted as such. We are seeing stores becoming show-rooms and distribution centres, as well as conventional purchasing platforms. The plethora of customer data available, gives designers the insight to create stores that drive local relevance, which retailers can stock with merchandise that is pertinent and appealing to them. It will ultimately lead to high streets becoming more individual. As we are sensory creatures, sight, sound, touch, taste and smell utilised synchronistically,delivers 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”.
Transitioning the online to physical environments
An increasing number of online retailers are migrating to physical stores. The function of these is not necessarily to buy product, but to provide a testing ground in the physical realm. Pop-ups are a popular choice for the very nature of their flexibility enabling an ability to experiment. An actual selling space provides an all important physical interaction with the brand, which serves to strengthen the customer relationship with it. For this to truly work, the design and environments need to bridge the gap between the online and physical stores – creating an identifiable synchronicity between them.
Embracing technology to deliver engagement
Technology, when used appropriately, will continue to go a long way to deliver engagement. The correct combination of touch screens, AI, 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 locative technology, to “push” information specific to them. The ability to capture data from customer interactions with technology, offers a wealth of insights, so that designers can create environments that are not just relevant, but that build a deep affiliation between brand and customer.
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 allow them to be a key part of the delivery of the full sensory experience to shoppers.
Ultimately, a store is a reflection of its brand. Therefore any design or redesign needs to reflect its brand values. It is the responsibility of the designer to help the retailer realise and achieve total brand alignment. This is what will increase sales and security in a challenging market place; ultimately what any retailer is striving for.
To learn more about improving the customer experience in-store, attend the Retail Bulletin Omnichannel Futures Conference on 6 February. Book now to secure your half price early bird tickets at £125 using the discount code RETAILER50
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