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    Engaging shoppers: The key to retail success

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    With due respect to … it is a truth universally acknowledged that a person with money in their pocket must be in want of a shop to spend it in. Out of necessity, indulgence or any nuance in between – shopping is surely the meaning of life.

    Moreover, when it comes to shops, one is spoilt for choices (not to mention the burgeoning growth in online and mobile shops and shopping). The customer is most certainly the ruler in this domain and in response, retailers are seeking to understand how to create better retail experiences to keep shoppers more engaged.

    So what does shopping engagement mean? At its simplest, we can break shopping down to an equation that connects a brand to a customer in order to increase the likelihood of purchase. It is then a no-brainer to understand why retail design is important for retailers.

    At its best retail design makes the connection of brands to customers and the potential of a sale all the more possible and successful. This in turn drives exposure, footfall, dwell time and loyalty all resulting in sales and profit. And therein lies its importance.

    However, store design is not necessarily a walk in the park to achieve. Well-considered, conceived and supported by the entire retail business, it can however be a fundamental part of the mix and a significant catalyst. A small aside – good retail design will never be the only thing that drives retail success but understanding the building blocks of good store design and applying them will result in a differentiated and engaging shopping experience.

    So what are those building blocks?

    Retailers need to understand their customers. But today’s customer is a complicated beast who wants different things at different times, have multiple choices literally at their fingertips and the power to exercise those choices. What particular mind state is driving that customer to engage with any retail brand, what their shopping mission is and their response to the stimulus around them is a fundamental component of successful engagement at retail.

    Retailers need to differentiate themselves in often over-crowded categories, and store design is the medium through which they can express who they are: their brand. The old adage ‘the store is the brand’ continues to hold true, as for almost 70 per cent* of shoppers in India the physical store is the most important aspect of the retail experience. The store is where it is at.

    Further, as brands in their own right, retailers must create preference and drive loyalty by creating a unique offer within a marketplace. It is not enough to make a claim anymore: the store experience has to support this by understanding and expressing what is at the heart of the brand, what is the all-encompassing story and what are the proof-points that make that story believable, ownable and deliverable day in and day out. What are the retail experience signatures that will create the engagement that only that brand can deliver?

    Suggested pics – Lego and Ann Summers

    Our early 21st -century world is a social age and retailers have to infuse life into their brands to be relevant in this age. Brands must be inclusive, dynamic in their communication and marketing – they must enter into dialogues with customers and tell engaging stories. Relate that back to store design and at its simplest we are talking about products and services in context and at the other end of the spectrum the store as a narrative – a holistic and immersive experience. And this is precisely what the shopper wants. They want brands to share their histories and tell their stories, and to listen to them and respond in personalised ways.  They want experience beyond products. They want to connect and feel that brands represent some part of them.

    Suggested pic – The Arvind Store

    Retailers also need to engage beyond the physical store. Although critical, it is no longer the only way to shop. Moreover, in today’s world, customers employ multiple methods to engage, decide and transact. Retail design creates a journey and touch-points across the physical, human and digital shopping realms to ensure that all bets are covered in terms of a customer’s ability to be engaged at every opportunity.

    Suggested pic – Asian Paints

    A retailer has to ensure that operational and commercial efficiencies are satisfied – that the design adds value to the profit equation whether that be by driving footfall, offering convenience, educating and inspiring or up-selling to increase transaction sizes. With an understanding of what the key performance indicators are, the design process builds all of these principles into the overall shopping experience.

    Successful retail does not happen by accident. In today’s marketplace, it is a complex business and increasingly a balancing act of the emotional and the practical. A properly structured and considered approach to retail design can be extremely powerful in its impact on the final experience and positive customer engagement.

    There was recent news of Apple making a cut in their bid to trademark their store design in Europe (it already is present in the USA). Here we have a store that clearly demonstrates a commitment to creating a shopping experience that is simultaneously a proof point of the brand, an immersive narrative within which their products and services can shine, an efficient and a commercially sound operation and a place that people just love to visit again and again. What better proof could we have of the importance of store design to a retailer?

    * FITCH Joy of Shopping 2012