Drapers asks five top store design agencies how shopfits will evolve alongside changing customer habits in 2018.
‘Online and in-store integration’ – David Dalziel, group creative director, Dalziel & Pow
We’ve seen a move towards more expressive, more distinctive solutions that create more of an experience – something that justifies the investment in operating a store. And we’ve seen two ambitious web brands take physical space: Boden and Joe Browns – very different brands, but both comfortable and thriving in the stores we’ve created.
Operating with a connected-store approach will challenge fashion retail in the next five years. We’ve seen an attempt to integrate online and offline sales in a connected space, but that’s in its infancy in fashion, and is far more prevalent in the service sector, as seen in our work for O2 and Nationwide. Online sales account for 50% of some of our fashion clients, so it must be embraced in the total offer.
This year won’t be a vintage year for new openings, but clients are stepping up to invest in the new reality we face. We have three or four incredibly ambitious projects launching this year. As new stores open, old ones will need to step up and refresh. In the future we will inevitably see fewer and better shops.
‘Localised personalisation’ – Jeff Kindleysides, founder, Checkland Kindleysides
Differentiation will really drive footfall in 2018. Disruption is rife, consumers’ time is increasingly limited and new expectations continue to be created – whether through artificial intelligence or direct-to-consumer retail models – so offering something truly original will be key.
Consumers can see through mass-marketing tactics and are more interested in consuming experiences than products, so if brands want to drive footfall, long-term engagement and ultimately increase sales, they need to think culture, not commerce.
In terms of design, this has resulted in an evolution of “localisation” to full-blown cultural spin-offs offering authentic and tailored consumer engagement. This informed our thinking when designing the American Eagle Studio in New York, which introduced in-store services distinctly relevant to local New York University students, such as a free in-store launderette, which can be used while they study or socialise in the in-store lounge.
‘Interaction not transaction’ – Irene Maguire, founder and director, Caulder Moore
In a time of uncertainty, consumers are demanding products and services that have a positive impact on the environment and their mood. This creates a more anxious, discerning and demanding consumer, so gaining personal data is key to understanding their behaviour inside out and creating personalised experiences.
This year, retailers will need to focus on whether their store experience amplifies their brand message, and building stories on a stage that promotes interaction with products.
For example, we recently collaborated with Sweaty Betty on its Carnaby Street flagship, combining fashion, fitness, food and beauty to create a cohesive lifestyle vision. We also worked with Aspinal of London on its Regent Street store, weaving in highly detailed signature brand elements throughout its design.
Although very different, both of these provide experiences that create communities around a brand hub – promoting interaction, not transaction.
‘A sharp focus on customer service’ – Anshu Srivastava, director, MRA Architecture & Interior Design
We are working with retailers such as Schuh, which is turning away from cash desks to go cashless, redefining both the customer journey and store associate experience.
In line with this, retailers will be sharpening their focus on customer service in 2018. Those that make it easy for their store associates to respond quickly to their customers’ needs, say on product availability, or the collect-and-return experience, through training or helpful technology, create a crucial commercial advantage.
They will do this by ensuring back-end design does not inadvertently diminish the store associates’ ability to serve the customer. If they feel that spending three hours a day on handling collect and returns means they will “lose out” on commission, for example, it will have a negative impact on face-to-face customer service.
’Shops as engagement platforms’ – John Courtney, director, Bobblehat
Many brands are looking at their costs and that has become a challenge for us, in terms of delivering the very best solutions for them. However, we are very upbeat about 2018 and there are signs that despite the uncertain climate, our clients are looking to grow and find new ways of exciting their customers.
Physical stores are not going away any time soon – they are becoming more and more engaging and experimental. Online is growing every day, but it cannot compete with a true shopping experience – retailers know this, and are therefore increasingly pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
We’re currently working on a very diverse project for 2018 that will embrace an array of brand engagements for four major technical, performance fashion brands. Memorability, high-tech and experiential will all play a part, but at this stage it’s a work in progress.
We are seeing an increased demand for pop-up shops and brand experiences, not just as pure retail opportunities but as engagement platforms. Some of our clients see it as a way of tactically engaging with their customers in a means that traditional retail cannot always deliver.