Top Takeaways from IRDC 2021

Our designers at BRR have always put a priority on tracking the latest retail trends and design initiatives throughout the industry. It’s crucial that our team stays up to date on the upcoming trends in each of the sectors in which we work in order to bring the best ideas possible to support our clients. One of the best ways we can do this is to attend annual retail conferences to hear real world success stories from the best in the industry.

Recently, several team members attended the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC). This show is presented each year by VMSD Magazine and is one of our favorites. Here is a summary of our experience from IRDC 2021 in Denver, CO. The top takeaways focused on blending the digital and physical store experiences, enhancing the in-store experience to encourage guests to linger, and strengthening the relationship between the retail and customers.

Reimaging the Brand Experience
How do we engage customers beyond the standard interaction of purchasing? Many retail brands are out of touch when it comes to engaging customers on a digital level. Current digital interfaces and platforms can be difficult to use and may be outdated within a few years of implementation. The identity of a retailer is starting to shift from how a customer perceives a brand in person to the “digiscape” or “metaverse.”

To keep up with the age of social media where many individuals are hyper-focused on perfecting their online personas, it’s crucial for retailers to digitally connect with customers and meld the experience between online and in-store. There is no single, perfect solution a retailer can apply. Several brands have implemented different strategies to try and link these two worlds. Retailers should think about the storytelling in the rebranding experience and identity. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and start fresh to yield innovative ideas rather than modifying or adding onto an existing platform or design.

Changing the Experience with the Community
Successful brands during the pandemic rethought their relationship to their customer base. Toni Roeller, the Senior VP of In-Store Environment for Dick’s Sporting Goods, shared how the brand shifted focus to enticing customers to linger longer in the stores. By creating new experiences or activities, rather than designing for the traditional shopping progression, it positively rebuilt their image and customer base. The company’s goals aren’t focused solely on the amount customers purchase each visit, the bigger focus is creating a positive experience for the customer and building a relationship with them.

Due to the pandemic and other events over the last 18 months, many smaller retailers struggled to stay in business and keep up with lease payments. Mall of America (MOA) decided to help local retail proprietors by taking one large space and dividing to house 16 different tenants. The open sales floor had signs along the back walls indicating each vendor. MOA was able to leverage their social media to highlight each member and help these businesses reach a wider audience. Some vendors were able to become financially stable to move onto different spaces within MOA or back to their home communities.

Uncovering New Perspectives
The closing keynote speaker, Zach Duenow, focused on the connection between the brand and customer and explained how to design with an addicted mind. The traditional relationship of how retailers approach consumers is similar to how addicts approach their addictions. Everything needs to be very quick and fast-paced, and everyone wants it right now. When we think about the current shopping experience, it’s very one way. It’s about the retailer overanalyzing data and looking at the consumers for a transactional financial relationship. To flourish in the new competitive market, it will be about the relationship with people, not merely an exchange of goods. Retailers need to think strategically as to how they can build better relationships with their customers in order to succeed in the new world of retail.

The retail industry is constantly evolving and the trends from 2021 have proven that once again. We will continue to see changes to the formula that makes up great retail design in physical stores. Our team has designed and implemented many new design strategies in the past year. Our internal design process allows for exploration and pushes boundaries to align with these new trends and technologies. With these takeaways and inspirations from IRDC, BRR continues to influence innovative design solutions with our designers and partners as we collaborate with our retail clients.

About the author:

Jessica Kim, RA, LEED AP BD+C, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. She joined BRR in 2019 and brought 10 years of retail design experience to our team. Jessica has worked with a variety of luxury retail brands in New York City and across the country. She currently leads a team working with one of our confidential retail clients as they introduce a new store concept nationwide. Jessica has experience working on both the client side and the design consultant side of the industry which gives her a depth of knowledge and allows her to think about each project from a holistic approach. She continually challenges our clients to elevate the everyday design experience and how that affects the brand and the consumer. Email her.