How Aeropostale and Sephora Enhance the Customer Experience With Store Design
Every online retailer knows the importance of having an optimized and easy-to-navigate website. They know they need to streamline processes, offer exceptional customer service and have an efficient checkout process. But what about brick-and-mortar stores? How can they be designed to create an optimal customer experience in-store?
The Retail Design Institute (RDI) announced the winners of its 41st International Store Design Competition at the National Retail Federation's BIG Show on Tuesday to highlight how retail environments — whether big box, department or specialty store — are continuing to define the customer experience through store design. Tim Anderson, vice president of store design and construction for Aeropostale, and Paul Loux, vice president of design for Sephora (both companies were honored as winners), were on hand to discuss some of the details of their store layouts.
Aeropostale was honored by the RDI for the exceptional shopping experience it provides consumers at its Times Square store. Anderson said Aeropostale wanted its biggest location (200,000 square feet) to pop. After all, the storefront and its sign provides the backdrop for the popular morning show "Good Morning America."
Aeropostale also understood consumers' shopping behavior in Times Square is dramatically different from any other of its store locations. Therefore the company offers a variety of design concepts in the one location. There's interactive storefront signage; a dorm room which, in fact, looks just like a dorm room; a denim room which is an open space that's clear and free of clutter; a SoHo room inspired by the artsy shopping neighborhood in Manhattan; and the game Dance Dance Revolution can be played in the store's hallway (be careful, the dance you do will be broadcast to the street). The store also offers cameras on its balcony to people watch in Times Square.
"You can be part of the store by being part of Times Square" says Anderson. The design concepts seem to be working. Aeropostale is expanding store operations into Dubai and Turkey, just to name a few countries.
New York City created a challenge for Sephora. "How do we make a splash in such a huge and unique market?" Loux recalled asking himself. "We wanted to respond to the character of the area, but still wanted to stay rooted in our brand codes."
In order to reflect the city's personality while staying loyal to the Sephora brand, the retailer started outside of the store. Its first brick-and-mortar location was in an artsy neighborhood that's home to many art galleries. To show that Sephora belonged in the neighborhood, it made sure the leadoff space was combined with a curated art installation — a metal Sephora logo. The logo is also the design of the ceiling. "We're making the statement that we're treating this as an art gallery to beauty," says Loux.
Sephora also offers an array of digital experiences at this store. There's a digital interface at the back of the store that helps consumers find what fragrance they prefer; an interactive video wall; an art beauty workshop in the very front of the store; and a lash bar, where consumers can use the store's technology to picture themselves in fake eyelashes without even trying them on.
Sephora prides itself in the fact that its customers can try on any of its makeup in its store aisles. To help with this process, the retailer implemented a drawer system to better organize its products. "We felt that is who we are as a brand, but it needed an upgrade," said Loux. Another upgrade were light-adjustable mirrors that let consumers see what they would look like in the brand's makeup in daylight vs. at night.
For those looking to create amazing customer experiences that make your customers say "wow," you must understand and know that you need to adapt and evolve with technology. Never stop innovating and optimizing the customer experience.