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5 Essential Principles for Retail Store Design

18th Dec 2015
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Online shopping is increasingly big business, which means it’s increasingly difficult for smaller retailers—especially those that don’t have an online presence—to get their share. The physical shopping experience starts with good design, so take a good, hard look at your retail space, and perhaps with the help of a retail design agency, determine if there’s more that you could be offering your customers.

1) Define your Space

First things first, defining your space is all about your brand and image, how it gets people into your store, and what they do once they’re there. This is the big picture—what are you selling, and who are you selling to? There needs to be a consistency of style and function in your store that reflect all of these different factors, to tie the whole shopping experience together.

A good example of this is Starbucks, a brand that has built its empire by focusing not so much on coffee, but on the experience of drinking it, by providing customers with cosy, comfortable chairs and free wifi, to encourage them to linger for long periods of time, and potentially make multiple purchases in a single visit.

2) Organizing the Space

When a customer shops online, they have an entire store at their fingertips, with the ability to look at multiple different types of products at essentially the same time. This isn’t the case for the in-store shopping experience, so it’s important that the space is well-organized, and as intuitive and easy to use, as possible. A customer who enters a store should have a clear path to follow, with different categories of products clearly sign-posted, logical and clear product groupings, and a means of quickly finding help if they need it. A well-organized store is one that makes customers feel safe and comfortable, and is structured so that they can get what they need without wasting time.

3) Offer a Sequential Experience

Successful stores deliberately plan the customer experience, both figuratively and literally. Literally, it’s about planning the store’s layout for the optimal customer experience; figuratively, it’s more about the chronological path a customer takes to get there—awareness through advertising that encourages them to stop by (whether print, online or a store-front window), the visit to the store itself, exploring the store and browsing products, and finally, making a purchase.

4) Provide Visual Communication

Visual information includes signage, branding, and other written and graphical information that communicates essential information to customers. It should be clearly legible, and provide only important information that will actually enhance the customer’s experience, and ideally, each element should conform with the store’s visual branding design.

This is a good place to take inspiration from the world of exhibition design, where the focus is on providing information quickly and succinctly, to people whose attention is typically divided between multiple different brands at once. Visual communication needs to be immediately recognizable, and provide information that can be interpreted and used quickly.

5) Invite Customer Participation

Good visual communication invites customers to participate actively in their shopping experience—for example, by ensuring that staff members are available and clearly visible as such, and providing the opportunity for the customer to have different types of experiences within the store. With the massive shift that online shopping has brought, this part of the store design process is also about offering experiences that the customer can’t get online, whether it’s one-on-one help and advice from staff, or the opportunity to try products out before purchasing.

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By ElliotStephens90
20th Oct 2016 11:55

Enjoyed the article, loved the point about encouraging customer participation, very important.

I was reading a similar article which goes into mapping out your customer's pathway and I felt intersect into this. -

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By Wilges
13th Dec 2017 08:58

The key to grabbing the attention of passers-by would be a simple and clear ad or sign on the retail store front. People would be enticed to enter the store if they happen to see something that catches their eye as they walk past. The ad needs to be something significant and full of impact which should be in graphics instead of purely words. Anything boring needs to be eliminated as that tends to drive consumers away.

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