Retail space design is a challenge for contemporary fashion businesses, with so many brands moving fully online, it may seem that the decision to manage a physical retail store needs to be heavily justified. In reality, however, the benefits that brands get from interacting with their customers are such that some type of retail is necessary no matter how successful your online brand can be. Here are some simple considerations on this matter:
At the same time, it needs to be noted that the rental of retail space can be extremely expensive and as such, brands need to be able to manage each square meter effectively to deliver a great purchase experience that enhances the value of your brand and converts into sales. It’s a subtle science, ad in this post we’re going to explore how to manage your retail space to achieve both goals of engaging your customers and converting retail space into sales profits.
Here’s the breakdown of the post, to help you find out what you’re looking for right away:
Let’s start with a metaphor capable of putting us into the right mindset as we imagine our retail store. Our store is a theatre. It’s a space designed not only to sell but to celebrate a relationship between the customer and brand, who come together to co-create value. Fashion Brands sell something much larger than a product, they sell a tool to showcase one’s identity, status, values, and more. When we talk about co-creation, we talk about the way that brands are able to build a narrative, a story than customer buys into, by purchasing a product. That product is a gateway to a world where the values of the brand are told and retold.
Sorry, I got a little caught up there, but the idea is simple, the retail store is a theatre, where this story is narrated to the customer. There is on a very literal level a distinction between the audience (the customers) and the actors (the brand ambassadors).
This is also very much the case for flagship stores which fully embody this theatrical nature and build brand values without caring too much about sales, which paradoxically are not the first goal of a flagship store. If you’d like to read up more about this element of fashion retail here’s an article that addresses flagship stores in more detail, especially in terms of the experience they are capable to provide.
In any case, we can summarise the experiential component of a retail store by looking into its 4 dimensions:
Before we move on to the next paragraph, let me reference another free resource on our blog, which delves in more depth into the development of a store atmosphere that can put your customers in the best mood to buy. If you’re interested here’s the link. So now that we went over the best principles to conceptualise your store spacial design, let’s get more practical and look into some more technical elements that can inspire your retail layout.
So now that all of these elements have been introduced, it’s time to consider a few principles that can inspire our store design. So let’s consider that there are two essential elements to balance as we think about our store design:
At the same time, we need to remember that customers will need to understand how to navigate our store and in this sense, we have two additional elements which we need to take into account when designing the store layout.
So where is it that retailers can operate to make these different experiences possible? We traditionally refer to 3 distinct layers of design:
Some additional “magic” can then be added by visual merchandisers who can optimise product display and add an intangible that may come from experience and professional insight.
It’s easy to be carried away with store design and focus entirely on the products, but we also need to remind ourselves that the functions of the layout are focused on customers too, as the ultimate goal is to put the highest number of products in the hands of the highest possible number of customers. In this sense, we should always remind ourselves of the goals that should be set for store layouts:
So here we go. At this point, we can see that the better we are able to manage and plan our retail space, the more crowded it will be, and this leads us into our next area of discussion which relates to how we can manage effectively a store at its full capacity.
Let’s think about a fully-crowded store in advance so that we can make sure we’re able to manage operations smoothly even in the busiest of hours.
The first elements to take into consideration relates to the division between hot and cold zones.
Research shows that customers tend to move towards the centre of the retail space, and in line with the natural movement habits of customers, the store design should be able to maximise permeability and allow access to all areas of the store.
This allows maximising hot zones or areas of the store where the merchandise has maximum visibility allowing stores to move the products faster. Cold zones, on the contrary, are the areas where visibility or traffic is minimal.
So we can see that:
Even the simple planning of hot\cold zones will help better manage the profitability of the store, making sure that each square meter effectively converts into profits for the brand.
At the same time, it is necessary to avoid excessive crowding as it will make the customer feel frustrated and uncomfortable, resulting in leaving the store and postponing the purchase. However, we must remember that the stress we perceive from crowding can have multiple causes:
Now that we’ve explored all of the different dynamics which need to be considered as we develop our store layout, it’s time to move towards some conclusive remarks to wrap things up.
So as we have seen so far, managing the store layout is a game of balancing opposites. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to store layout design, we need to work out what works best for us, considering how we cannot work on the potentially infinite store spaces and we need to make choices which enhance the profitability of each square meter while maintaining a positive and free-roam experience to our customers.
In this sense, when it comes to managing people there are two alternative approaches:
Despite all of these opposing forces, we need to remind ourselves that a store is not limited to one single goal, but is now required to build towards a variety of missions which cannot look simply into converting shoppers but delve into their customer lifetime value, which is a much longer-term relationship.
Make sure that as you make your choices in terms of your store layout design, you keep in mind the experience you want to provide, making sure it will be both meaningful and memorable, not only because of the tangible products you are selling but because of the intangible value your brand is delivering through every little thing that cannot be put “on display”.
MORE ARTICLES FROM OUR BLOG
How can your brand impact its word-of-mouth reputation? Simple, by focusing on these 6 activities which maximise brand reputation.
Emotions are central to managing a luxury brand. In this post, we’re looking at all of the implications of your customer’s emotive side.
Purchase intent is key to identify the most effective strategies to manage your fashion retail store, here’s our best tips on the matter