retail space v cyber space – the final frontier?

PwC has found that while 27% of consumers buy something online at least once a week, some 40% of consumers also still buy in a physical store each week.[1]

The reasons for preferring to shop in-store include being able to try on and ‘feel’ the products, the ease of returns, and access to better information. Many shoppers say they’re already shopping in the location anyway, so they might as well walk into the store.[2] Many shoppers also believe that buying in-store is safer and more reliable.[3]

That’s not to say that everything has been rosy in retail-land, but as Pam Danziger said in Forbes magazine recently, “the signs are promising. Retailers have come through a time of trial, and many of the ones that have survived have made the necessary adjustments to align with evolving consumer needs and desires.”[4]

With this in mind, it’s worthwhile considering the factors that will help retail stores evolve and adapt, to stay relevant.

“Retail success in 2018 will be about how well retailers adapt to the changing market around them and the evolution of their customers’ needs.” – Rupa Ganatra, founding partner, Millennial 20/20

Step 1 – Know thy customers

The key to continuing to attract buyers is to get to know who is coming to your store and why. Create customer profiles built on their past purchases and shopping behaviour, reward them for completing surveys, hold events and be active on social media, and ask for online reviews.[5]

And don’t just gather the data, use it. Segment your email lists and target those segments with offers, create newsletters that speak to the habits, desires and purchasing patterns of each segment. Use social media to conduct short, sharp promotions aimed at certain groups and track the response.

Staff training is also crucial in better personalising the in-store experience for the customer. Give your staff incentives for getting to know the people that come into the shop, to understand their habits and interact with them without being overpowering or insistent.

Step 2 – Make the brand experience your customers’ number 1 take-away

Define your brand offering and the market segments it targets, and ensure that every aspect of the customer experience, whether online or in-store, feeds into and reinforces the brand experience. Consider the store layout, the choices on offer (too many? too few?) and the customer expectations when walking into the store.

You may need to consider relocating to a smaller store, or to an area where your preferred markets are better represented. You may even consider specialising rather than trying to broaden your offering so much that your brand identity is lost.

The objective is to take the stress and confusion out of shopping for your customers, so make shopping in-store easier for them. That means ensuring that the online components of your marketing match and promote the physical experience, and making the act of shopping with you a pleasure, wherever they encounter you.

Step 3 – Give customers good reasons to visit your stores

The in-store experience needs to be sufficiently interesting, exciting or rewarding enough for customers to overcome the compulsion to take the easy way out and shop online.

This begins with your retail space. Does it give customers an easy, enjoyable and positive shopping experience?  Does it enhance their impression of the brand and encourage them to repeat the experience? If not, consider ways of making the retail space more inviting, more efficient for shopping and more memorable.

Also create a buzz in the store through events, incentives and appealing atmospherics.

“Savvy retailers are already starting to offer gifts with purchase and in-store discounts to try to break the new online-only consumer spending pattern. To justify the expense of their brick-and-mortar stores, retailers need to start giving time-starved consumers a reason to travel and shop in-person.” – Marcia Layton Turner, founder and executive director, the Association of Ghostwriters.

Conclusion: in-store shopping is not dead, but it does need revitalising

As Neil Stern of retail consultants McMillan Doolittle says, “2018 will be the year of execution.”

The way to win the battle of retail versus cyber space is to create synergies between your online and offline presences,[6] to make the shopping environment and experience as attractive, stress-free and rewarding as possible, and to do it now.

If you need to, get professional help on the various aspects of improving, re-aligning or even reinventing the store space. It’s an investment that will pay off.




does my bottom line look big in this fitout?

But there’s one excellent reason for going through the pain and cost – and that’s the bottom line.

These days, shoppers are going online to do their research, but almost two thirds of people still want to go in store, “to see, touch, feel and try out items.”[1] The trick is to give them a shopping experience that they enjoy, where they feel valued and where their loyalty is rewarded.[2] Importantly, the look and feel of the store plays a major role too. An “exciting store design and atmosphere” and the way it contributes to the Brand Experience is one of just five factors that contribute to a “Great Shopping Experience”.[3] And a great shopping experience usually ends in a satisfying spend-up.

So the bottom line is – a great store fitout can make you more money.

Planning makes all the difference

A successful fitout isn’t just about bright colours or interesting furnishings – although they can play a part. It’s first and foremost about planning to make best use of the space, managing traffic flows, creating a focal point that will draw customers into your store, and, yes, generating that all-important first impression.

The best design in the world won’t save a dud location, but a smart design can make an average location sing. There are simple things you can do, like:

  • Ensure the entrance is wide and inviting. If customers have to squeeze past each other to get in or out, they probably won’t bother.
  • Consider how your range is organised. Is there a logical flow? In most cases, customers should be able to walk through the shop and intuitively know where the product or range they’re looking for will be.
  • Give them generous signposts for all the categories.
  • If you have limited floor space, try floating shelves or other creative ways to display products.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a corner store, make the most of your space by placing the entry on the corner to encourage walk-through traffic from both directions.
  • Use the exterior of the premises as a big, beautiful brand billboard, to create an irresistible first impression.

Look into your customer’s minds

Base the design, the colours, perhaps even the scents you’re using, on the psychology of your shoppers. Are they looking for a logical progression, as they would in a hardware store, or would it be more fun for them to visit a store that’s laid out for “pinball” shopping?[4]

Colour is important too, as it’s well established that colour can influence our emotions. “Customers want to emotionally engage and connect with a brand and the simplest way to do this is through colour, as it’s colour that triggers our emotional responses.”[5] Everyone recognises the big food outlets because they use red – a well known “hunger” colour that’s also useful in creating a sense of urgency, and so is often used for “Sale” signs. Blue is calming but also instils trust and security and is common with bank interiors, while purple is often associated with luxury and premium products.

If possible, you should integrate your online presence with your in-store experience too. Consider things that your customers might not expect but will appreciate, like connectivity in-store, on site screens or even in-store tablets, self-pay points and other things that mirror their online experience with your brand.[6]

Don’t just guess, though. Talk to store planners and designers who understand all the elements you’re trying to bring together – shopping centre presence, traffic and display flow, and shopper psychology and expectations.

Investing in a fitout is an expensive and sometimes challenging process, but if you get it right you won’t have to do it again for some time, and it will improve your bottom line.



why eco-friendly retail design offers more than just the ‘feel good’ factor

Start with energy efficient design

Depending on how much control you have, you may want to begin with the design of the building construction or refurbishment, the fittings and materials used. Aim for low impact design with features such as:

  • Good natural light orientation and large windows – tinted if necessary; even better, double glazed.
  • Skylights, which can be a beautiful design feature as well as allowing good natural light.
  • Concrete floors sustainably made from limestone, which can be polished, coloured, and stencilled with geometric patterns or even custom-made designs that contribute to your branding.[1]
  • LED lights, preferably teamed with motion detectors, timers and dimmers.
  • Thermal insulation – choose environmentally benign insulating materials such as cellulose, wool or cotton.[2]
  • Low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints.
  • Natural, renewable flooring such as cork and bamboo, or recycled timbers.
  • Renewable energy sources such as solar panels, or the renewable package option from your energy supplier.

Follow through with the fitout

This is where it’s crucial that you work with a design and construction team that understands your objectives and how to achieve them. You need to be clear about the style and look you’re after, and that where possible the work areas, displays or other components are reclaimed, reused or repurposed. And if some work needs to be done to make all that ‘re-whatevered’ stuff look brand new, so be it – it’s still better than starting from scratch. If there are some things that you can’t find a use for, like old metal displays or racking, send them for recycling and pick up some spare cash for your trouble.

You can also consider green but sophisticated and economically beneficial items like:

  • Indoor gardens and vertical green walls that help increase oxygen content and create a calming, natural ambience.
  • Digital menus and receipts.
  • Electronic point of sale displays, which can be updated quickly and inexpensively.
  • Printers, copiers, fridges, registers and other business appliances with high Energy Star ratings.[3]

And stay green day to day

Once you’ve started down the green path, stay on it. Let your customers know what you’re doing and why, and they will respect you for it and will usually be happy to comply. Things to consider include:

  • Reduced packaging and optional bags.
  • Low or non-toxic cleaners and bathroom soaps, towels etc.
  • Compostable ‘disposable’ cups, plates, cutlery and containers.[4]
  • Non-toxic pest control.
  • Recycling everything that can be recycled, and working to find ways to reduce your landfill waste.

You can operate a perfectly sophisticated, technologically advanced and efficient business while caring for the environment and the impact your activities will have on it, without overdoing the cost. And it all starts with your choice of premises, design and fitout.