In today’s highly competitive retail industry, every store must stand out from the crowd. From omnichannel marketing, to social media selling, and smartphone applications, retail trends are reflecting a more connected and educated consumer base.
However, in all of these platforms, perhaps the most compelling element that speaks both to Baby Boomers and Millennials is customer experience. The layout of the store can have a big impact on how enjoyable the shopping experience can be, and we’re seeing the evidence in our clients’ design trends.
In the article, “Retailers Prepare for Aging Baby Boomers,” on VOAnews.com, retail expert Georganne Bender references some customer experience changes that drugstore chains already are making to improve experience for elderly customers, a rapidly growing population. “They’re re-setting their counters, not putting things too high or too low, [and] they’re putting carpeting in the store,” she told the publication.
Some retail stores take this notion even further by providing exceptional amenities to all customers. According to a story by S.C. Bhatia in Retail Management, elements of store design and layout should “provide customers with a sense of comfort and sense of belonging” by including features such as lounge areas and refreshments. We have seen this trend recently in some of our high end retail clients who provide areas for customers to sit and chat amongst themselves or with sales representatives while enjoying a cool beverage.
Our client Kit and Ace provides a “supper club” table in its stores. The spaces include a large, informal supper table meant for bringing people together, set in a comfortable oasis in the middle of the shop that provides customers a place to sit and look at products or just relax. It also serves as a table for special events, including a literal monthly “supper club,” where artists, influencers and people doing creative things come in and have dinner inside the stores.
Kit and Ace also provides a carbonated water dispenser for customers to quench their thirst while shopping. In a few stores, we are designing a small coffee shop within the retail space. But lounge areas and coffee shops take up valuable space for showcasing products. Bhatia suggests that retailers can help offset costs by harnessing technology. By using modern distribution systems and operating procedures, non-selling space can be minimized.
The size of retail stock rooms and backstock areas have been shrinking for some time. Technology has allowed retailers to know what items are being sold and at what rate. With this information they are better able to ship only those items needed to restock the merchandise on the sales floor.
According to vend University’s “Retail Trends & Predictions for 2016,” merchants will adopt in-store mobile devices such as kiosk centers or even sales associates carrying their own smartphones and tablets to assist shoppers with questions.
This is a service that was perhaps first seen in Apple Stores, and has spread to other tech retailers. Customers are greeted as they enter the space and quickly have their needs accessed so that they can be routed to an associate specializing in their need. While there are the traditional point-of-sale areas, each of the associates are also able to close your purchase at any location in the store, using their mobile device to a credit or debit card, and then can email your receipt to you. This saves the customer time, reduces paper receipts, and more quickly places the customer with the specific service they need.
But not only does this method increase efficiency; it decreases stress. Smaller checkout lines reduce the sometimes crowded and hurried feel that traditional rows of lines near the entrance or exit of retail spaces can create.
By using the right technologies and creating consumer-centric store layout, retail spaces can become places that customers want to go for an easy and fun shopping experience.
Ted A. Reeds II, AIA, is a Senior Associate for The McIntosh Group. His broad project experience covers restaurants, lodging, offices, urban mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, and healthcare facilities.
Bruce Horgen, Associate AIA, is an Associate Principal for The McIntosh Group. His expertise is in project, program and rollout management.
This article was originally published in Commercial Transformations, a McIntosh Group publication in Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine. View the original publication: Commercial Transformations Issue 2.