January 19th, 2024

50% of brands say that opening a physical store has encouraged new audiences - Shopify

In this article, we’ll be discussing:

• Why considered store design is essential for retail in 2024
• 5 benefits to investing in store design
• How to turn your ideas into reality.

Online goes offline

Over recent years, we have seen the rapid increase of e-commerce, with advancements in IT and the rise of marketplace giants, such as Amazon, giving rise to e-commerce’s convenience and accessibility and its subsequent popularity among consumers. However, this lacks tangibility and fails to go beyond simply transactional, leaving bricks-and-mortar stores as bastions for truly experiential moments. Brands cannot rely on the interest and innovation of their products alone to ‘wow’ their customers, especially when we consider that “73% of Gen Z & Millennials are valuing experiences over products” (Savvy).

Retail is an ever-changing landscape, and there will always be a host of influences giving reason for its need to continually evolve. Brands and retailers that anticipate consumer attitudes and wider industry trends in their retail strategy are always the most exciting as they remain at the forefront of change and lead the way for others, but here are some of the benefits of designing a store that responds to the wider retail landscape.

[Image: AI Generated]

Benefits of Store Design

# 1 Offers opportunity for testing and trialling

Buying a product can sometimes be a bit of a gamble in a variety of industries. For example, when it comes to sporting and lifestyle apparel and equipment, when it’s all about improving performance, or beauty products when it’s all about colour matching, or home furnishings when it’s all about touch and feel. To cut out the lengthy process and hassle of buying an item online, testing the item at home, and then returning the item if it isn’t appropriate, which isn’t always possible, especially with beauty products, having a physical store can allow customers to trial a number of products all in one place.

Some brands even go to the extent of introducing specific trialling labs into their stores, such as Nike, which launched their largest basketball-focused store in Beijing, which is home to the Nike Trial Zone. Spanning nearly a full half-court, the space features an adjustable hoop and digital screen powered by a gaming engine to give real-time feedback on performance during the nine-minute drills. Basketball enthusiasts now have the opportunity to test and compare trainers in a real-life court environment where they can then make an informed purchase. With Nike + app integration, customers can trial and save their favourite footwear styles, including store exclusives.

[Image Credit: Nike]

#2 Increases purchasing confidence

Introducing a physical retail activation such as a store offers a more considered and structured approach to a brand’s identity, bringing a sense of trust and credibility to their customers. As I’m sure many of us have experienced before, when we find a new brand online, we may be hesitant to trust them and their products, especially if reviews are not readily available, combined with online scams being so prevalent. Seeing a brand move offline and being visible on the highstreets almost offers a sense of confidence and reassurance in that brand compared to when purchasing online.

Relatively new furniture brand Moustache has acknowledged this notion by saying, “Over the last 10 years, we have observed our users and realised that the nature of the objects we sell requires a special approach and a physical interaction in order to build trust with our customers, having previously exclusively selling online”. They have responded to this by opening their first-ever physical concept shop in Canal Saint Martin, Paris, selling the most popular products from their online offering.

[Image Credit: Moustache]

#3 Aids brand storytelling

Stories spark an emotional response. Storytelling is human and creates relevance. With brands forever evolving the way that they tell their brands’ narratives, the consumer-facing message needs to be more engaging and pertinent than ever before, and a brick-and-mortar store offers the perfect platform to do just that. Brands need to think carefully about the why, the who, the what, and the where. However, telling a rich and compelling brand story without overloading a customer with information can be challenging. A physical store is supportive of brand storytelling as it allows brands to reveal more with each step that a customer takes when exploring the space, facilitated by a number of in-store touchpoints, overall helping to build a solid relationship between a brand and their customers.

Pet Store, Bibu, in Guangzhou, combined commercial and community factors that master the art of storytelling in their retail strategy, from the compelling and visionary message that it delivers to its methods of delivering this message through innovative touchpoints in-store. In China, spatial design and the world of pets are gaining immense momentum, and this futuristic pet space is proof of this movement. Departing from the typical design approach for pet shops, this concept shop provides a new perspective on the sector by creatively introducing space-themed motifs combined with nostalgic and experiential styles.

[Image Credit: Bibu]

#4 Creates an experiential moment

A large segment of consumers are no longer shopping at bricks-and-mortar locations out of necessity and convenience but rather for the experience that they offer. Therefore, brands that hope to continue trading via brick-and-mortar must offer something additional within their store that goes beyond purely transactional to ensure they set themselves aside from the fierce competition on the high street.

A brand or retailer might choose to do this by providing experiential touchpoints in addition to the retail environment’s existing format to give customers a choice between shopping convenience and shopping experience by providing touchpoints that customers have no choice but to experience in order to complete a purchase; or by providing a rich brand experience absent of trade and transaction via guerrilla marketing tactics in the form of an experiential marketing activation or event.

Luxury French fashion label transformed Selfridges’ iconic Corner Shop into a surreal interpretation of founder Simon Porte Jacquemus’ own bathroom by taking everyday items and displaying them in a disproportionate way…and it’s all blue! The space offers exclusive colourways of the brand’s popular bags as well as a handful of apparel from their latest ‘Le Splash’ collection. In addition, Jacquemus is the first brand to take over the Selfridges Mews…and its open 24/7!  A key feature within this space is the vending machine stocked with the famous Chiquito and Bambino bags which customers can purchase at the push of a button. To complete the trio is “Le Vestaire”, an immersive 3D locker room installation staged in the old Selfridges hotel, which offers customers an experience centred around sensorial discovery.

[Image Credit: Jacquemus]

#5 Generates essential exposure

Whether you’re an industry icon or next-gen newcomer, there will always be room for growth, and to do that, it is essential that a brand increases its exposure, which will not only reaffirm a brand with its customers but expand its audience to demographics which may not have been reached before.

Online athleisure giant Gymshark took the plunge into brick-and-mortar retail to take the step towards a more omnichannel retailer. It was a bold move for the brand, with only being a decade old, but with having such success online, founder Ben Francis felt it was the necessary step for further growth of the brand, especially being in such an iconic location – Regent Street.

[Image Credit: Gymshark]

It’s a consumers’ market…

So, how these brick-and-mortar stores look and feel are, and should be, ever-evolving to respond to consumers’ wants and needs. Consumers can and do refrain from spending their money (and time) with brands that do not align with their aspirations and immediate needs. Why? Because for every brand that doesn’t, there is a brand that does; for every brand that can’t, there is a brand that can; and for every brand that won’t, there is a brand that will.

Therefore, retail formats of today respond more closely to how the consumer wants to buy rather than how the retailer wants to sell. Having a good understanding of wider societal, political, and environmental issues will be crucial to the success of your brand in 2024 and the store that you design to promote it.

Ideas Made Possible.

We understand how important it is for retailers to differentiate themselves from their competitors by using their store’s aesthetic to tell a narrative which reveals the brand’s unique personality. If you are a brand or retailer with a vision to execute a best-in-class store or retail activation that responds to the future of retail and creates hype within your respective industry and the wider retail sector, we would love to help you bring that vision to life…

Let’s talk!