PSFK founder Piers Fawkes describes eight pillars for modern retailers to guide their in-store experience design in an evolving and digital-first retail landscape

It goes without saying that retail has been undergoing a lot of change—and this turmoil is offering glimpses of innovative experimentation driven by DTV and Digitally-Native Vertically-Integrated brands (DNVB).

Many of these retailers have store experience design strategies that look beyond the transaction. Innovative brands and retailers are instead using the store more as a tool to interact with customers and build strong emotional connections in a way they can’t online.

A research team at PSFK recently developed the Store Experience Design Debrief report to help explore new leading approaches to retail. The team has a robust process and also helps the hardware teams at tech firms like Facebook and Google think through their retail strategies. They also help retailers like Target with an endless flow of inspiration on innovation within retail and along the customer experience journey.

Through inductive research, pattern recognition and expert interviews, the researchers identified in their analysis eight pillars for modern retailers to guide their experience design in-store:

1. Plug & Play Platforms: There are now turnkey solutions that are being developed by real-estate companies and other service providers. These plug and play options lower barriers to entry so that new companies can test and refine their retail strategy.

2. Architectural Storytelling: We are entering an era of great store design. In the future, books will be published that will feature the creative work of experience designers who build emotional bonds with shoppers. Retailers are using design to tell their own stories, define how unique they are and showcase the products they sell through special experiences.

3. Interactive Merchandise: As shoppers expect personalization and dynamic retail, retailers are responding with interactive displays and mixed reality demos, which not only create deep interactions with the consumers, but also provide a feedback loop with intelligence on consumer needs and wants.

4. Partnered Galleries: Did you know research shows that millennials are twice as likely to be shopping in an ‘entertainment mode’ than a Boomer—and 1.4 times more likely in discovery mode? Accordingly, retailers are working with their partners to create brand-led spaces that use touch, sight, smell and taste to surprise and delight as well as provide a moment of discovery. The senses are such powerful things, and they can’t be replicated online.

5. Co-creation: As merchants, we know that the products people buy are used to help define their identity. But how do people build unique identity when everyone else has access to the same stuff at the same time? Customization stations in stores help shoppers develop one-of-a-kind products that they can wear or display as extensions of their personalities.

6. Service Marketplace: When everything is available at the touch of a screen, progressive retailers differentiate themselves by offering in-store services that drive engagement beyond the transaction, increase foot traffic and help retailers and brands integrate into their lifestyle.

7. Liberated Spaces: As technology replaces and reshapes the services and features of the store, retailers have the opportunity to rethink what happens during the shopper journey. What could take the place of the space that used to hold the cash register, I wonder?

8. Micro/fulfillment Centers: As consumer expectations around delivery speed and efficiency increase, stores are being used as part of that delivery system. Some retailers are even remodeling their space so that they can provide customers with same-day delivery.

Each of these pillars could be leveraged in different ways to evolve your retail experience and drive engagement. Potential takeaways you could take from the Store Experience Design report include:

  • Let the space tell the story—stimulate the senses and educate in a way that digital doesn’t
  • Measure experiences, not sales, per square foot—create lasting emotional connections that you can’t online
  • Be flexible and responsive—use the store as a testing ground, collecting data and continually refining it
  • Elevate the store beyond the transaction—deliver services that increase engagement, add speed and build an emotional bond

If store and experience design is important to your work and business, consider signing up for PSFK Professional Membership to gain access to our full, in-depth Store Experience Design Debrief report and up to 200 other research papers in the PSFK library.

Lead image: stock photos from Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock