As online shopping continues to grow, it is important for retailers to think creatively in order to drive traffic to their brick and mortar stores. Much of the success of online shopping is due to the convenience it brings to the customer. Merchants need to provide new levels of convenience to their customers to bridge this gap. One solution that is becoming more popular is to blend retail services with top-notch immersive experiences. However, it’s not as simple as dropping a park or restaurant into the middle of a parking lot and expecting it to draw a crowd. There are several factors that play a role in whether an experiential, mixed-use retail project will be successful.
Deciding on an Experience
There are many different paths to take when deciding on the type of experience to provide a community. It can range from a simple green space to a full-blown entertainment district. In order to find the right fit, some research needs to be done. Look into the local demographics, project location and other experiences that are available nearby. Walmart recently started several projects across the country that include these immersive experiences in addition to the traditional retail store. Check out their ideas online.
*Walmart & MMA are the original producers of this content and any images used in the above link.
For example, a large retailer or fuel station that is located along a major roadway may benefit from the addition of a green space with areas to relax and a place for pets to run. Whereas a retailer located in a growing suburb with a younger demographic may benefit from an entertainment area with regionally tailored restaurants, retail space with options for automated online pickup and even space for a small theater or venue for concerts and events. But research is needed to make sure the chosen option will be successful.
Is the Project Feasible?
After research is done and there is a game-plan established for the space, there are a few questions to ask about the feasibility of the project.
- Population: Does the location have a large enough population to support the proposed design or is there enough projected population growth to facilitate future expansion for a larger project? Make sure the scale of the project matches the population of the area.
- Existing amenities: What other amenities are closeby? Is there a lack of restaurants, green space or entertainment options? It would not be efficient to build something that is already available nearby. Look at the surrounding properties to see what is lacking and could be added.
- Transportation: Is there an established public transportation system in place? Do ride share services have a local presence? It’s important to make sure people can easily access the development. Whether it’s a park in an urban neighborhood that locals can walk to or an entertainment district that can be accessible by Uber drivers, just be sure there is a convenient way to get there.
- Weather: What is the local climate? Will it support a predominately indoor or outdoor setup, or does it need to be flexible with the seasons? Look at the climate of the proposed location and be sure to select a development option that will work year-round.
Next Steps for Execution
Once a decision has been made on the best project type for the area, it’s best to move forward with a phased approach. This is not only a cost-effective way to plan a project, but it can help build anticipation within the community. The first phase could be a regionally tailored restaurant with green space and an automated kiosk for online order pickup. Then, the project could conclude by adding smaller retail spaces to expose consumers to an online-only brand owned by the same retailer.
These items are crucial to the success of the project and must be considered by both landlords and tenants at each step in the development process to ensure no components drift out of alignment. By taking the time to conduct a deliberate and structured evaluation process from the start, retail developers are more likely to have success with their new immersive experience. This in turn helps owners make the best use of their capital investment and establish an experience that will sustain traffic and guest satisfaction for years to come.
About the author:
Scott Brown, Associate, AIA, LEED AP, graduated from Lawrence Technological University with a Master of Architecture degree. Scott has over 13 years of experience in the industry and has been with BRR for nine years. He helps lead a studio of more than 25 team members working on retail remodel projects throughout the country. In addition to being a leader on his team, Scott has been a key voice in enhancing the programs and support BRR offers to professional staff pursuing licensure. He serves as an Architect Licensing Advisor on the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Email him.