Store designers do so much more than their titles imply. They’re creative thinkers. Storytellers. Ideators. Collaborators. Tech advocates.
The results of Retail TouchPoints’ latest Store Design & Experience Survey reaffirm the evolution of the store design team — and validate the myriad of topics we plan to explore during the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo.
Takeaway 1: Store design teams are equal part brand storytellers and cultural anthropologists
Brand storytelling is integral to the life of a store design and VM executive. It’s no surprise then that 90% of respondents said experimenting with new, more creative visual methods to tell their brand story is a top design priority over the next year. Doing this successfully requires a deep understanding of the brand: its mission, values and what it represents in the world. But it also requires a deep understanding of the customer.
We all know how rapidly customer behaviors have changed, especially during the pandemic. For 42% of survey respondents, this rapid (and still ongoing) change was named a top challenge. Teams are collaborating with their peers in marketing, ecommerce, operations and IT to pinpoint behavioral shifts and identify the best ways to refine and elevate their store experiences.
Coach is a fantastic example of a brand that has innovated through powerful storytelling and tech-driven experiences. Store design, marketing and digital teams are closely interlocked to ensure they’re creating highly localized, yet on-brand, experiences. Want to dive deep into the brand’s story and lessons? Be sure to add this session to your agenda: How Coach is Blending Digital and Physical Experiences to Activate Local Engagement as a Global Brand, which is part of the Retail Innovation Summit program at #RICE23.
Takeaway 2: Tighter budgets mean store design teams need to be agile and data driven in their investments
Organizations of all sizes and across industries are feeling the weight of the current economic climate. Lay-offs are an organizational reality and C-suites around the world are prioritizing budget cuts. This pressure is being felt in store design teams that are tasked to push creative limits and design experiences that engage customers and drive conversions.
When asked to identify their top challenges, 38% of respondents said they were struggling to get executive buy-in for new concepts and investments. On a similar note, 38% said they were challenged by the rising cost of materials. Teams are responding with cost-effective measures such as reusing materials and embracing more modular formats that allow them to move components, adjust displays and incorporate new materials when needed.
Data is key to optimizing these modular formats, which is why our agenda incorporates discussions around how store design and experience teams can use insights to support in-store innovation. Two experts in this area, Melissa Gonzalez and Nicole Pokorny Forster, will host a workshop on how brands can use data to drive store design innovation on June 13, so be sure to register for those soon!
Takeaway 3: Tech integration is intentional and value-driven
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of survey respondents noted that better integrating technology into in-store experiences was their top priority for 2023, up from 51% in 2022. But because of the budget restrictions mentioned earlier, store design teams are focusing on technology that supports broader business objectives and challenges.
On one hand, store employees are juggling more tasks than ever, from providing high-touch service to stocking shelves and pulling orders for in-store pickup. But on the other hand, retailers are dealing with workforce shortages. These two realities point to one important takeaway: workforce efficiency and operational performance are driving many of these technology investments. Most respondents said they already implemented or plan to implement contactless checkout, QR codes, digital signage and customer-facing interactive kiosks and devices, all of which support employee efficiency and customer empowerment.
Purple worked closely with its design partner, FELBRO, to develop a store concept that closely aligned with the brand story and value proposition. Together, they developed a design that fully represented the business and incorporated technology that added value to the customer journey. Get detailed insights into the collaborative process by joining the session: Render to Reality: A Functional Framework for Bringing Your Brand Promise to Physical Spaces, which is part of the Design:Retail Conference program at #RICE23.
Takeaway 4: In-store innovation is accelerated by community
Retailers like CAMP have used their events and activations as key differentiators for their physical spaces. Other brands, like Fiture and Argent, use technology and modular design principles to ensure spaces support high-touch service, events and community engagements. With both approaches, brands transform their stores into destinations and spaces where passionate, like-minded people can gather.
This new wave of brick-and-mortar is being powered by community-driven commerce, and it is a key trend to watch this year. Half of respondents said turning their stores into community destinations was a priority for them in 2023, up from 44% in 2022. That is why we’re spotlighting several incredible examples in this year’s agenda. For example, Jack Stratten of Insider Trends (who is also our official Store Tours host) will facilitate a conversation with Esther Sarpong, Director of Experiential Retail for Brookfield Properties. Esther has helped transform shopping malls into true experiential destinations that bring food, art and commerce together into immersive experiences that bring communities together.
Join Jack and Esther for what’s sure to be a thought-provoking session: Unraveling the Experience Economy: Identifying New Opportunities for Engagement, which is part of the Retail Innovation Summit program at #RICE23.
Store design is central to the omnichannel conversation, which is why we have so many incredible brand leaders and strategists on our agenda this year to spotlight their new strategies and priorities. Register today for an All-Access Pass to get a front-row seat to their insights!