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What’s Happening in Retail Store Interior Design and Experience?
The pandemic (because every story begins with the pandemic now) necessitated changes in the way people shop, introducing ecommerce and BOPIS businesses that had never considered either service before and to customers who had never used either service before. Many brick-and-mortar stores did not survive the pandemic, and online retailers moved in to take up that space. It seemed like the days of the physical location were over, that everyone was going to shop from their couches on their smartphones, interacting more with the FedEx driver than any salesperson (or just waiting until the truck pulls away before opening the door—any kind of social interaction is too taxing).
But that didn’t happen. As soon as it was safe to do so, shoppers flocked back to stores and malls. What is it that they got from an in-person experience that they couldn’t get online? And how can brick-and-mortar retailers design their stores to meet the needs of the technologically connected, post-pandemic shopper?
A Sense of Community
Shopping is as much a leisure activity as a necessity of modern life. We spend our free time at the mall. We walk through downtown shopping districts just to have something to do on a weekend afternoon. Even when we don’t need something, we still go shopping because it’s fun and it’s a way to spend time with friends and family.
The stores we frequent can become like friends and family, and we come to love them as part of the fabric of our community. That sense of community is not something you can really get online, especially as more people come to realize the value of real, physical interactions. The retail experience in 2023 and onward should reflect these values and desires.
We often hear that customers want “experiences,” and this is what experiences are: a sense of community and social interaction. Design your retail space not only as a place to display products but also as a place to facilitate meet-ups, classes, and workshops.
In an omnichannel approach, design and branding should be consistent across all platforms: website, social media, apps, and physical location. Shoppers should get the same experience in-store that they get online. If you’ve got a clean and minimalist web design, make sure your physical space matches that. If you’ve created a warm and welcoming physical space, bring that same energy to your online presence.
If your online presence is built around community engagement, soliciting customer reviews on your website and photos on social media, bring that same philosophy to your physical location. Arrange your displays and décor to make your products extra photogenic and to encourage selfie opportunities.
An integrated experience isn’t just about continuity between your online and brick-and-mortar aesthetic. It also means incorporating technology into your in-person shopping experience. Apps like the VDB Sales Genie allow you to display both in-store and virtual inventory and allow customers to interact with products before they can get them into their hands.
We’re all probably tired of so much change and uncertainty, but they’re both going to be with us for a while. Minimalist design offers the most flexibility to try different things and see what resonates with customers. It also lets you adapt your space for different purposes, such as community-building events.
Another advantage of a minimalist design is to give shoppers a little relief. Shopping online comes with the stress of information overload. There are so many brands selling so many products, and online marketplaces are stuffed with so many low-quality offerings from brands you’ve never heard of with wildly divergent customer ratings that it’s hard to know who to trust. It can be overwhelming. A calm, organized, minimalist store can be a refuge from all that, a place where a curious customer can speak with a knowledgeable, trustworthy salesperson.