3 Ways to Use Store Design to Provide an Effective Customer Experience
Despite growth in the direct-to-consumer and e-commerce models, when it comes to longevity and success for retail, the physical store remains in the pole position. In fact, only 11 percent of sales are expected to come from e-commerce in 2019. However, stores can't just rest on their laurels and wait for sales to roll in; they have to engage customers and provide a great experience to keep them coming back. A vital component of that is good store design.
Effective store design is an essential building block in garnering strong relationships with customers. Design touches every aspect of the retail experience. It narrates the brand and product story, it educates customers, it inspires and entertains, and it leads customers to make a purchase. Retailers that place a high importance on design innovation are the ones that will thrive.
A Case Study on Innovation Through Design
Target is a retailer that's found success by focusing on strong store design principles. The retailer continually reinvests in building a narrative that’s relevant to customers. From the beginning, it has adopted a story line of “cheap and chic,” meeting customers’ need for an affordable price point while fulfilling their desire to stay current and fashionable.
Target doesn't shy away from making the first move to incorporate innovative store design strategies. In the '70s, the retailer adopted then-new racetrack store layouts to provide more space to display products. Today, Target has been remodeling its stores to provide a more personalized experience, including offering two entrances: one geared toward browsing and another geared toward convenience.
Target has grown into a department store that's embracing the future of retail store design.
How to Differentiate Your Brand Using Effective Store Design
Successful retailers must attract and inform customers as well as be thoughtful about each interaction to create a harmonious experience across the store. One component of creating such an experience is to implement design strategies in a way that truly engage customers. Here are three steps you can take to tap into your design power:
1. Get to know your competitors’ stories.
Great brand designers don’t invent in a vacuum; they have to pay attention to all the other information and narratives that are swimming around consumers’ heads in order to differentiate their own. Consider all the alternatives consumers have access to, and ask why they should want to dwell longer in your store or purchase your brand over others — that's the story you need to be telling through your design.
For example, to relate to internet-native consumers, Target has taken care to fill its shelves with internet-first brands like Harry’s razors, Quip toothbrushes, and Casper mattresses. It knows these brands appeal to modern consumers’ aesthetic tastes and their desire for quality and convenience.
2. Integrate a narrative into the customer experience.
Moving from good to great in retail design means building narratives that help people understand how your store or product will solve their needs — some simple, some complex.
Storytelling should be a part of a design strategy that immerses customers from their first point of contact to the moment of purchase and beyond. A piece of inspiring digital content can lead a consumer to stop by the store. A well-designed display that builds on that narrative can entice the consumer to browse further. A friendly store associate can provide personalized assistance to help the consumer find exactly what she needs.
The harmony of all of these moments and opportunities results in a truly remarkable customer journey that can then inspire customers to share the brand story with others. This is one aspect of what I refer to as "Harmonic Retail."
3. Don't leave the human touch for the history books.
Even with the industrywide focus of delivering an ideal "omnichannel experience," online and physical retail are often pitted against each other. The truth is that digital and a human touch are inexplicably linked. Consumers who are surrounded by digital stories still seek human connection, and the social aspect of shopping is something that's unique to the in-store experience.
In fact, 68 percent of Gen Zers shop in brick-and-mortar stores most of the time, and 28 percent say they're likely to talk to a sales associate about a product (only 21 percent of other demographics say the same). These younger shoppers enjoy the curation that physical stores offer. Therefore, make sure your store design organizes products in an easy-to-navigate, thoughtful manner, and include engaging displays shoppers can interact with. Furthermore, be sure to have accessible, knowledgeable associates on the sales floor who these consumers can talk to.
The future of retail is all about engaging customers through good store design. If you can relate to the new shoppers who are filling streets and screens, you can look forward to a longevity that rivals Target’s.
Walter Miranda is the president of Harbor Retail, which works with brands and retail companies to create Harmonic Retail™ through designing and building innovative physical retail solutions at scale, including point-of-purchase displays, pop-up shops, and store planning and design.
Walter Miranda is the president of Harbor Retail, which works with brands and retail companies to create Harmonic Retail™ through designing and building innovative physical retail solutions at scale, including point of purchase displays, pop-up shops, and store planning and design.