Designing for the Future of Retail

With the changing landscape of retail, brands are forced to rethink the customer experience. Now more than ever, brands are looking for creative ways to engage customers and strengthen their presence.

Continuing with this trend, BRR recently held a company-wide design charrette in the spirit of producing fresh ideas for the customer experience. Participants were tasked to create a window display and reimagine the store pickup for a fictitious urban retailer which will encourage customer engagement from the sidewalk and expand the physical boundaries of the store. We challenged our team members to envision what trends they observe as stores rapidly adapt, and what changes may become a staple element of retail design moving forward.

A few designers who participated in this charrette, Kate Chilton, Harp Cosgrove and Ethan Dorning, discuss their top takeaways from the experience.

Elevating Customer Experience
A customer’s experience typically consists of what they see, feel, and hear as they explore a store. Now, brands must think creatively on how they define the store experience and look for ways to expand their presence beyond the physical boundaries of a brick-and-mortar building.

Redefining the limits of a store starts at the exterior by enhancing the identity through materiality and using elements that help define a space like canopies or outdoor seating. This can include using natural materials that create an inviting feel to contrast with an urban environment.

Window displays curated for a special season and shaded outdoor seating areas create a sense of community around the business and draw customers in from the street. Adding outdoor seating and bringing product displays to the sidewalk draw people in and offer a new place to engage.

Strategic lighting and landscaping draw your eye to the entrance. Brands can use these techniques to capture attention and engage with customers from the sidewalk. Lighting draws attention to the store itself and can highlight a specific product display. Landscaping frames the storefront and brings a pop of natural color to the area. Both techniques draw the customer’s eye to the desired areas.

Storefront Engagement
Eye-catching graphics communicate a brand’s identity from a distance. It is important to address the varying scales that people interact with a storefront, including from a distance on the street, in passing by foot and up close when entering a store. Each scale offers opportunities to attract customers with different techniques.

From a distance, a strong, simple message is crucial. A message that’s quickly communicated and unique to the store is most effective – for example, utilizing a window display or the storefront as a canvas for the brand’s message. Digital media and interactive technology like augmented reality (AR) can also offer a connection with people passing on foot and draw customers in with a ‘virtual try on experience.’ Lengthier messages or those with special instructions should be limited to the in-store experience.

Order Pickup Options
Online ordering continues to gain popularity as it allows customers to make sure an item is in stock before they make their way to the store. In the future it will become a way to encourage customers to enter the store and explore other items they may have missed online. Reconfiguring the layout, or flow, of a store will allow for a seamless addition of a new program element. Pickup windows offer an easy solution allowing customers to grab their orders quickly. While a window alone is effective, taking the idea a step further to include a pickup station within the store reinterprets the concept and cements it as a long-term feature.

We expect to see this trend of expanding a brand’s presence beyond the physical store grow as we look to the future of retail. Our design team continues to find innovative solutions for our retail clients utilizing new technologies and different strategies which encourages a customer’s interaction with the brand.