The retail industry is easily one of the most competitive markets globally with so many dynamics coming into play especially with the overwhelming influence of the internet. In contemporary times, failure to connect at deeper levels with customers will result in a financial loss no matter the amount of marketing dollars spent. While shopping was largely an impersonal chore in pre-internet days, today, stores must meet customers’ expectation of a branded experience and a nostalgic one at that.
Where is Retail Shopping Heading?
Retail shopping has had its fair share of doomsday prophecies predicting the imminent end of walk-in shopping as the online alternative grows. However, predictions of the internet bringing an end to in-store store shopping are yet to materialise. A 2015 survey conducted by Oracle showed that 69% of Australians prefer in-store shopping over the online experience. This is a contrast to shoppers in Germany (57%), France(54%) and the US (50%). Forward-looking stores are actually fast adapting to consumer lifestyle changes with sensory experiences that stimulate customer desire to visit and make purchases the old-fashioned way albeit with a difference. According to Trent Innes, Managing Director of accounting company, Xero which commissioned a consumer shopping behaviour survey in 2016, “…70 percent [of shoppers] say they shop the same or more in-store now than they did three years ago,”
Where Does Shopfitting Fit In?
A popular saying states that you only get one chance to create a first impression. This may sound like a cliche today but it certainly fits the purpose of shopfitting which is to create a truly sensory and nostalgic in-store experience for shoppers. This entails engaging all the senses with the layout design and installed displays, showcases, wall fittings, counters, floors, fixtures and doors among others.
The ability to create this uncommon customer in-store experience is looking like a gamechanger for many retail stores in 2018. Already, some trends are evident. Here are just a few of them.
i.Smart Lighting Solutions
Easily one of the most critical elements of interior design, lighting is now being better used than before. Professional shopfitting now enables stores to creatively use indirect, natural and LED lighting to provide the right ambience for relaxed shopping. Small spaces look bigger while big spaces look intimate rather than intimidating. Shopper mood is typically affected by the presentation of the inventory and this is done by lighting them up in a subtle yet stimulating way.
ii.Complementing Online with In-store Shopping
The internet is not going away and stores that will remain profitable will learn to leverage the inherent power of the internet to complement and streamline both dimensions of shopping. Forward-looking stores are encouraging shoppers to complete their shopping experience in the brick and mortar stores. It may start online but for some products, it may have to be completed offline. The challenge lies in consistency and this can be handled with a good brand strategy that effectively harmonises both dimensions. Elements such as colours, typography and other brand elements should seamlessly blend both online and offline shopping environments.
iii.Creative Shop Formats
Uniformity of form design is a much-touted advantage yet in some instances, space sizes vary. Shopfitting professionals creatively use smaller spaces to achieve big effects without diluting the brand experience. A notable example is Nordstrom which has unveiled its ‘mini version’, just over 2% of its traditional 140,000 square feet space. Specially designed to meet the needs of highly mobile shoppers, it is changing the way shopping is done. According to GlobalRetail Data’s Neil Saunders, “The days of the one-size fits all store model are fading, and the future will require a more flexible approach with a variety of store formats designed to address different locations and markets.”
iv.Seamless Blend With External Environment
Screaming colours that are meant to attract attention are fast fading with time. Subtlety seems to be the emerging order as stores are employing the use of colours that integrate into the surrounding environment without any fuss or clamour. The result is serenity and this is typically accomplished through the use of natural elements like cork, wood and foliage.
The trend in contemporary design may be encapsulated with the statement, “less is more”. Simple yet succinct, it tells the story. Less is indeed more when a store has so much to display yet knows that customers are not looking to get intimidated. The WOW effect is best pulled off in a minimalist atmosphere and professional shopfitters are aware of this. First, it makes navigation around the store easy while individual items may be easily found. Additionally, clustered shopping environments make it easy to ‘crowd out’ the brand thus defeating the objective of inviting the shoppers in-store.
According to Sanford Stein, founder and moderator of Retail Speak, “The internet has had a flattening effect on the industry, and as a result, even the smallest retailer has tremendous opportunity to launch and thrive….Access to both software and hardware to empower selling is also cheaper, and it enables small retailers to develop a bond and an understanding of what their customers want. That, in turn, lets them offer a high level of product and service.”
Shopfitting is not just helping brick and mortar retail stores change the shopping game, it is keeping them ‘in the game’.