Retail Design Future-Proofing

Retail design is ever-changing, and is almost exclusively led by customer habits. If a customer has an experience in one store, they'll expect it in others, and the trends of convenience in every other aspect of their lives should begin to translate into retail too. 

Interactivity can be an incredible tool for retail, whether it be in-store or online, so including it in shop designs are really important. Screens can be installed for customers to browse products or order items that are out of stock, or even provide inspiration for purchases with look books or examples. This could link in with the explosion of virtual reality onto the market - car showrooms, gaming stores and sportswear brands are just a few examples of retailers that could make use of this modern tech. Shoppers being able to experience products in virtual reality gives them the idea of what it might be like to live a certain lifestyle, instilling a strong urge to be part of it, resulting in more sales.

Another example is having RFID (radio frequency identification) tags interacting with mirrors in stores, enabling shoppers to see items related to ones they're trying on and suggested items. It's been happening online for years - 'people who bought this item also bought...' and 'we thought you'd be interested in these products...' are familiar phrases on websites such as Amazon and Ebay. It continues with the use of cookies on your browser - if you've been on the IKEA site, related IKEA products will appear in the sidebars of other sites to grab your interest, triggering impulse purchasing and, again, boosting sales.

Technology can be used in other ways too. Almost every person has a smart phone in their pocket, and therefore is in a constant state of fear that it'll run out of juice halfway through their shopping trip. Providing secure charging points in-store will attract lots of people, and if there's free Wi-Fi that enables them to tweet about their fab experience, then all the better. In addition, apps related to the store that include features like personal shoppers, suggested items, or the ability to upload an outfit or item and get opinions from other users would go down well. 

In terms of the store aesthetic, new ways of displaying products are being introduced all the time. One of our personal favourites is using metal framing to hang items of clothing, with integrated shelving to display other items. When erected in the middle of a shop, it makes a big immediate impression, but allows a view through to the rest of the store, giving a sense of scale to the entire space. They can also be at multiple heights, to create a more interesting display. Using different materials for different zones of the store can help to guide people from one area to the other, and help customers navigate, subtly introducing them to the next section of the space. 

How to future-proof retail design:

Convenience: Brands that focus on convenience will win when vying for our time and attention. Live it through technology, but keep things simple, easy and enjoyable. 

Collaboration: Not just for offices. Make it easy for colleagues & customers to talk to each other and solve problems together. 

Think like a shopper: What do you like to see when you're out and about? What makes your shopping experience easier or more enjoyable?

No stock: Having smaller versions of traditional stores where stock is browsed & ordered using interactive screens, with help from staff. 

Make it personal: Personal shopping, whether it be for cars, clothes or food. Customers will expect a certain level of customisation of their experience.

Pre-order: Lots of stores have a pre-order service, so retail design needs to cater for that with design of pick-up points etc.