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4 Retail Design Trends to Watch

Leading retailers are creating personalised customer experiences

Technology has allowed shoppers to become more educated, more prepared and more discerning about their purchases than ever before. In turn, this has prompted retailers to focus on creating unique experiences that entice customers into their brick-and-mortar locations.

The world's leading retailers are busy creating personalised shopping encounters that comprise a combination of physical and virtual worlds (hybrid experiential spaces); the opportunity to talk with knowledgeable sales staff; or the chance to interact with products via experience-enhancing elements powered by technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.

Here are three design trends coming soon – and one coming back – to retail stores.

1. Hybrid experiential spaces

Today's leading retailers are looking to elevate every aspect of the shopping experience in an effort to entertain customers during their shopping excursions. The retail trend is for innovative, fun, in-store experiences that blur the line between shopping and entertainment.

Here, think the use of virtual reality headsets with no obligation to buy, boutique coffee shops, top-class food outlets, and Bluetooth-enabled in-store beacons that communicate with a shopper's smartphone to guide them through a store. People want a reason to make the trip to a physical store, and retailers are hoping a mix of such offerings will be enough.

2. Shopping as lifestyle

We can also expect to see more convergence, where one or more complementary services are incorporated under one roof. High-end fashion brands have already supplemented their offerings – Dolce & Gabbana has a bar attached to its store in Milan, while Gucci has a restaurant at its fashion outlet in Tuscany – not to mention the on-site butchery at Curtis Stone’s Gwen restaurant in Los Angeles.

Many shops want to be more than just somewhere where people go to buy stuff. They are becoming places that are integrated with other aspects of a customer's lifestyle.

3. Multi-sensory branding

Most branding appeals to just one sense – sight. However, this is changing fast as retailers look to appeal to all of a shopper's senses. Sensory marketing guru Martin Lindstrom believes businesses have the power to create a compelling physical connection between people and a product or a brand. So, watch the smart retailers offer more smell, taste and sound cues for customers to experience on future visits to their stores, even if these enticements are not especially obvious.

Some recent examples include fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch spraying its signature scent in-store – with some unintended consequences – and retail chains Zara and H&M playing club music to quicken pulses and spur customers to buy.

4. Specialty stores – with great service and a compelling backstory

One crucial point of difference for smaller brick-and-mortar stores has always been their capacity to concentrate on a range of quality, niche products. Combine this with personalised customer service from knowledgeable sales staff and information about the brand’s sustainability practices, and you have an irresistible formula for today's more discerning shoppers.

People make the niche selections of specialty stores (such as local wares and artisan products) part of their identity. These specialities help them stand apart from the crowd, and many want to develop direct relationships with such brands.

And is there any better feeling for a shopper than when they ask a question about a product which a store attendant can answer in terms they understand? Armed with the right knowledge, shoppers can make informed purchases from stores that understand their needs.

Many people also want to know more about the products they are purchasing. Transparent, socially responsible companies such as Warby Parker have sparked a move among retail brands to tell consumers more about where their money is going rather than simply what it’s buying. People want the backstory about the product: Where is it made? Who made it? Under what conditions?

Expect retailers and retail design to put more focus on those compelling experiences that draw shoppers to their bricks-and-mortar outlets. These initiatives will become more prevalent as brands seek to draw people away from only shopping online and to build a long-term relationship with their customers.

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Published
18th October 2017
Author
Tania Dalton, Research & Innovation, Initial Hygiene
Categories
Big Ideas, Take Control
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