Even before the pandemic, we started to see an interesting shift in physical retail which has continued to become more prominent as customers seek out IRL experiences. We are now seeing new genres of stores emerging in terms of their design. Rather than simply being a transactional space that requires a traditional product showcase, stores are drawing inspiration from unexpected places to create unique and immersive journeys. Some more recent experiential spaces and brand concepts are more akin to a supermarket, café, post office or gallery.
Experiential retail spaces
Louis Vuitton who have a long history of working with artists, have designed their stores to deliver an art experience. Swarovski’s Wonderlab creates a sensorial space incorporating vibrant colours, textures, and materials that encourage curiosity about the brand and creates a complete product universe.
There are also a number of new design principles emerging, as well as experiential retail spaces. Whereas we previously saw brands utilise complex, layered design that could be over stimulating, retail designers are adopting a maximalist approach to create immersive spaces but through the adoption of a singular gesture such as the bold use of colour, graphic language or an architectural framework which creates a cohesive space and experience.
Jacquemus’ latest 24/24 pop-up in Paris is an all-pink retail space inspired by vending machines and convenience stores. It’s interesting in its boldness and completely erases what a luxury store means. Instead it serves as a 24/7 drop-in space to launch a single product.
Health and wellbeing have also come to the forefront and principles which would traditionally be applied within hospitality are now being implemented in retail to create welcoming and comfortable spaces that use tactility and texture to create muted experiences that influence the way customers feel. Inclusive design, a growing discipline, while still in its nascent stages continues to explore how a space can be open and welcoming to everybody as well as the people who work in store.
Non-traditional stores, particularly those that have diverged substantially from traditional models, create immense opportunity for social media sharing. In addition to unique design experiences, brands can also drive social media engagement by adopting a unique editorial point of view which is delivered through events programs or engagement platforms that showcase the brand’s values. There is also opportunity to drive both physical footfall as well as increase online engagement through the use of editions, collaborations and unique products that are only available in certain cities or specific stores.
While sustainability and inclusivity are likely to remain key areas explored within retail design as we head into the new year, we are also likely to see the emergence of physical retail that looks to go beyond instant gratification to create a deeper, more profound experience. Stores are likely to move further away from transaction to more intense, emotional connection through sharing of passions, values and learning. Brands will need to continue to maximise opportunities through design and a diverse range of instore activations that can create more meaningful and long-lasting relationships with consumers.
Credit: Asell Yusupova – Strategy Director, UXUS