March 22nd, 2023

We continue by taking a look at a the final FIVE design facets that brands could use to create their next contemporary retail space…

Due to more recent shifts in consumer attitudes, brands have simply changed their approach to bricks-and-mortar retail by instead creating a retail destination that prioritises a consumer’s experience and shopping journey. Upon embracing this approach, brands have learned that they can form more meaningful connections with consumers, thus benefitting from a more loyal customer following whose identities are befitting with the brand. There are several design facets to explore to achieve this which provide tangible avenues to consider when curating a physical space that respond to this shift…


Designing a store that is stripped back from clutter and noise goes much further than aesthetics. It is well known that a minimalist environment can be beneficial to our wellbeing – increasing both headspace and breathing space. The design rationale behind this is so that customers can better focus on the brand and products. This might be achieved through configuring a store to have wider than average aisles or an open plan concept inclusive of ‘white space’, through the use of endless aisling to display more without compromising store aesthetic, or through reducing the number of products displayed at one time by featuring only carefully curated collections.


In the new IKEA small-format store in Hammersmith, for example, the brand has strategically positioned interactive tablets and PCs throughout to allow for customers to shop for items that are not instore, alongside being able to plan their dream space. Keeping product display to a minimum in this smaller-format store is vital to ensuring that the retail space is successful in its city surrounds – offering the space for customers to focus on product and feel confident in their purchasing decisions.


Play is universally human. Research by data tracker NPD suggests that over the last two years there has been a sharp upturn in adults, or “kidults” as they have been dubbed, purchasing games, arts and crafts, and building sets for their ability to support mindfulness and mental wellbeing. As a result, “US toy sales have soared by 37% over the past two years”. Gamification is an effective way to respond to this new type of customer. It is the application of gaming elements and principles, such as point scoring, rules of play, competition, incentivisation, and so on, to a traditionally non-gaming activity.

Gamification has the ability to increase engagement at retail and with the gaming market continuing to grow with a forecasted compound annual growth rate of 8.94% between 2023 and 2027 (Mordor Intelligence) supporting the idea that gamification is an effective tool to incorporate into a brand’s store design.


A recent, and very impressive gamification activation which looks not only to bridge the gap between our digital and physical worlds, but also to engage younger hotel stayers, is the unique ‘Moxy Universe, Play beyond!’ AR experience that you can find at 12 of the Moxy Hotels by Marriot International in the Asia-Pacific region. Although this is a hospitality example, the premise still remains the same, and one that can be translated into retail. This AR experience transforms the hotel into a phygital playground. To activate the gamified guest experience, guests simply need to scan a QR code to unlock the games and interactive challenges across the hotel. Moreover, guests can create digital avatars and take photographs that combine  computer-generated overlays with the backdrop of the hotel to share their experience on social media.


Data Driven

Less of an aesthetic approach is using data to inform your store design. Data-driven retail is the notion that a retail strategy or business model is influenced by a relevant data-set that is available to the brand. It could be argued that all retail is data driven to an extent, but few brands and retailers base their entire retail strategy or business model off one or more data-sets.
Referencing consumer data to design a store is arguably a more informed type of retail as it allows brands to spot trends, opportunities, and challenges ahead of time, and perhaps more importantly, ahead of the competition! Theory suggests that brands and retailers using data-driven retail can better predict the success or failure of their current retail strategy and adapt it as necessary to ride the highs and avoid the lows, respectively.


Seattle-based brand and drinks giant, Starbucks, is thriving! Why? Because like all large corporations, Starbucks analyses several data sets to predict the growth potential of each existing store and planning in any new stores such as location, traffic, area demographics, and customer behaviour. Furthermore, Starbucks gathers insight from the 90+ million transactions per week that is generates and uses this data to deliver a personalised experience to its customers. This might include its tailored digital rewards scheme that becomes increasingly intuitive as it gathers more in-depth data based on customers’ buying habits and purchase history.

Meditative Haven

Digital transformation is a trend that has swept and defined the 2010’s & 2020’s, however the constant distraction has eroded attention spans. Consumers are therefore seeking spaces that force self-discipline and disconnect from their digitally native lifestyle. Stores that depict this empathetic experience are meditative havens, which are inclusive of colours, sounds (or lack
thereof), and furniture encouraging customers to use their store visit as an opportunity to rest and recuperate as they browse.


London designer, Louisa Grey, has curated a series of meditative spaces inside Danish lifestyle brand, Frama’s Copenhagen store inspired by the body’s five senses. Using a mix of the brand’s furnishings, scents, and artistic objects Grey has built a multi-levelled sensory experience for Frama’s customers. Each room, dedicated to one of the five senses, has been carefully designed to complement the sense in its colouring and material choice. The concept behind the store is to integrate slow living into our lives and sometimes make things inconvenient and a little bit difficult, rather than everything being so efficient to allow consumers to take time with the ordinary, in their busy lives.

Conscious Design

Global climate action is stepping up a gear as the crisis magnifies. While there is increasing scrutiny into products and production, the physical retail space is becoming more and more accountable. Retail spaces can be very material hungry, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their impact. As we move towards 2030 we will have to be a lot cleverer in how we reduce waste and create more sustainable stores. It is crucial that brands make a step towards more conscious design in order to achieve positive change and ultimately a greener future. The big question is, how can brands design a store that’s not only good for the planet but one that also offers an immersive experience for consumers…


Eyewear brand, Ace & Tate, have demonstrated how in their recycled Antwerp store. The entire store is clad with terrazzo made with colourful chips of recycled plastic which is sourced by locally Dutch start-up Plasticiet as part of their push to become more sustainable. The brand pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030 and from the end of 2020 all of their glasses are made from 100% bio acetate. The terrazzo is punctuated with white display boxes for the glasses, and neon lighting, contemporary furniture, creating an attractive and impactful store.