Consumer sentiment analysis shows that retailers with leading-edge store designs are seen as most innovative

In the latest results from the Retail Innovation Tracker, PSFK researchers found that brands, whether digitally native or legacy, that have invested in enhanced store design and experiences are perceived as industry leaders, taking their places at the top of our survey that ranks experts’ perceptions of 150+ well known consumer-facing brands.


The above chart shows the top 10 retailers that were ranked most innovative. Six out of the 10 are digitally native brands that have designed innovative brick-and-mortar spaces, while the other four are established retailers that have been industry leaders when it comes to reinventing their stores through tech-enhanced and community-focused experiences. Based on these results, we are seeing three major themes come through:

Theme #1: Direct To Mortar
Digitally native brands Bonobos (73) and Allbirds (71) ranked at the top of the list this month, and both are retailers that have opened brick-and-mortar showrooms designed to serve as the physical embodiment of their brand ethos. Their spaces are not only designed to be real-life gathering spaces for their community of brand fans, but also offer shoppers a seamless, consistent brand experience no matter the channel.

Digitally native menswear brand Bononos (73), which ranked as most innovative retailer this month, calls its physical footprints ‘Guideshops,’ which offer customers personalized appointments with store associates, referred to as ‘Guides,’ to try on items. Shoppers can place an order online while in the store and have it sent to their home. The space kept costs low with minimal inventory by using the website as a virtual back room.

Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer organic shoe retailer Allbirds (71), which ranked in second place behind Bonobos, designed its flagship store to be divided into themed sections across its minimalist space, with each section representing a material used to make Allbirds shoes, including wool or sugarcane.  

Theme #2: Experiential Storytelling
The second major theme PSFK researchers are seeing is how retailers, such as Casper (70) and Sonos (70), are creating inspirational environments to build shopper confidence and create an emotional connection, with the experience they offer being as important as the goods they sell. By injecting theater, storytelling and uniqueness into the physical footprints, the store is positioned as much as a marketing channel as a place to buy.

The Casper (70) store in New York City, called The Dreamery’, is a playful activation that not only promotes Casper mattresses but also positions the company as a sleep brand. The space features a napping lounge that invites guests to take a 45-minute nap inside one of its nine sleeping nooks furnished with Casper products.  

Similarly, consumer electronics company Sonos’ (70) concept store in New York features two custom-built glass listening rooms designed to replicate the home environment.

Theme #3: Dynamic And Community-Focused Fitness
Another major theme PSFK researchers are seeing is how sportswear and outerwear retailers, such as Adidas (68), REI (68) and Patagonia (68), are engaging shoppers’ larger lifestyle needs with services and experiences that leverage personalization, convenience and community. Beyond this, they’re leveraging mobile apps and sensor-enabled technologies to make the in-store experience more tailored and responsive, enabling shoppers to choose the products that best fit their fitness goals.

Adidas (68) designed its flagship location in New York to highlight its sports-centric culture rather than its gear, and aims to immerse visitors in a “stadium retail concept” by featuring an in-store track and bleachers for customers to watch live sports games. Customers can also customize shoes with NYC-only options and use a fitting application, Run Genie, to find the perfect shoe based on their unique running gait.

Outdoor gear retailer REI (68) hosts educational and inspiring classes and workshops at its stores, seeking to foster a sense of community within the REI customer base. REI also extends the experience of its brand through outdoor events such as sunset hikes, adventure skiing and forest therapy sessions, which are led by REI expert associates.

 

We are seeing that brands are coming to life through their physical store designs, and therefore giving customers an opportunity to not only engage with their products in person but also interact with the brand through a level of immersive engagement that is impossible to achieve online. This is an exciting time for both retailers and customers, with many DTC brands in their adolescent stages of life and customers being introduced to the story of these brands for the first time.

As such, brands have an immense opportunity when designing built spaces.  As consumers continue to show that they want to establish a personal relationship with their favored brands, it may be helpful for retailers to consider how to create multisensory experiences as if the brand were indeed a person.

For example, how would they look, feel, smell, taste and act? How would they connect with people and make a positive and memorable impression? And lastly, how could they continue to build upon established relationships in valuable ways?

For further exploration of how these themes are manifesting, see the PSFK NYC Retail Innovation Guide.

In the latest results from the Retail Innovation Tracker, PSFK researchers found that brands, whether digitally native or legacy, that have invested in enhanced store design and experiences are perceived as industry leaders, taking their places at the top of our survey that ranks experts’ perceptions of 150+ well known consumer-facing brands. The above chart shows the top 10 retailers that were ranked most innovative. Six out of the 10 are digitally native brands that have designed innovative brick-and-mortar spaces, while the other four are established retailers that have been industry leaders when it comes to reinventing their stores through tech-enhanced and community-focused experiences. Based on these results, we are seeing three major themes come through: