Suggestions on How to Reformat Store Design to Successfully Adapt to Today and Tomorrow’s Realities.

Rethinking the Fibers of Store Design

By Melissa Gonzalez, CEO of The Lionesque Group and principal with MG2

How Stores Will Be Reformatted to Flex for a More Connected Consumer

With consumers increasingly adopting technologies that enable self-guided exploration and check-out, store digitization has become more prevalent in the physical retail environment. These hybrid experiences are reshaping consumer behaviors and forcing a re-evaluation of how we plan for customer journeys in-store. Some expect a seamless “click-and-collect” situation, while others will want a more discovery-driven excursion. In order to accommodate every choose-your-own-adventure option, retail store design will need to encompass a more fluid framework, one that is grounded in a flexible foundation and allows for the ease of change, much like that of an e-commerce site, in order to cater to our rapidly changing world.

Transition Between Fulfillment and Experience
“Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store,” “Buy Online, Ship-from-Store,” “Buy Online, Return In-Store” and “Curbside Pick-Up” have become ubiquitous with the first phase of store re-openings that we are seeing nationwide. These conveniences are becoming more expected by customers and will remain an omnipresent reality going forward. They’re setting the tone for a new level of efficiency required for retail store design in order for transactions to be executed in a healthy, safe, and seamless for customers.

Brands will need to deliver on quick-serve metrics as much as they do on customer service. As order volumes vary, the allocation of square footage between the front-of-house and back-of-house will be required to seamlessly flex, morphing so that stores can accommodate and support the journey of a package as much as it does the journey of the customer. To make this a reality, the incorporation of modular wall systems will enable brick-and-mortar spaces to quickly deconstruct and reconstruct an environment that best suits its needs at any given moment.

Display windows may also evolve in their purpose, requiring the ability to modulate from a point of visual display and storytelling to one centered around a purchase and/or pick-up. Brands and retailers will need opportunities to make their exterior real estate more interactive. During the week, for example, when traffic is lighter, having fully merchandised window displays with a QR code may be most impactful. However, during higher traffic weekend hours or event days, the checkout and pick-up moment may take precedence and become the window’s focal point. Shifting from visual to shoppable storefronts will be key in increasing the ability to monetize space, as well as add scalability in design investments.

Non-Permanent, Freestanding Fixtures for Metamorphosis
Flexible and modular fixtures will also be a staple in fluid retail spaces. Their strategic incorporation within the physical retail environment will be more important than ever, allowing retailers to modify their floor design to account for shifting social distancing guidelines, changing needs or desires of customers, and adaptive layouts. They will also give brands and retailers freedom around how to approach merchandising strategies, granting flexibility between fully merchandised floors geared to cash-and-carry, to intentional spotlight displays and shoppable showroom environments, to pop-up shop opportunities that showcase strategic collaborations or complementary collections.

Those That Want to Check Themselves Out
Pre-COVID, there was friction around the adaptability of contactless payment options like Apple or Samsung Pay. But as customers look toward the future, they’re all but demanding limited contact interaction at checkout, pushing for adoption of contactless mobile payments via NFC, RFID or QR codes. As human contact waxes and wanes, the desire for self-checkout begins to eclipse that of the more traditional full-service checkout. The adoption of contactless payment methods will accelerate a shift around customer expectations on how they complete a purchase. The cash wrap will need to be less of a clunky, singular moment with a store employee in the store but rather a more malleable and fluid opportunity where it’s most convenient to a customer at the exact moment of their purchase intent.

With a store design that can be continuously updated via interchangeable elements and can accommodate flexible retail formats, brands and retailers have the opportunity to plan for spaces that can harmoniously shift between store models, and in many instances, become a physical representation of the brand itself. As we transition from doors closed to a new norm, successful retail spaces will evolve to cater to tomorrow’s reality.

Visuals by Mitch Pride and Alyssa Joy Taylor

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