Retail Design Looks to a New Era

November 17, 2020

Jamie Cornelius, Executive Creative Director, talks to Chain Store Age and Progressive Grocer about the shifts in retail design for the future.

One thing 2020 has taught us is that we’re not in the prediction business. But we are in the business of change, and it all starts by knowing what changes and what never will.

When asked by Chain Store Age how COVID-19 will shape in-store environments in the future, here’s what I shared.

I see two strategies for retail design moving forward — a stop-gap strategy to implement for the here and now and one of innovating for the future.

In the short-term:

Look at the current design and rethink how to break down barriers to put shoppers at ease:

  • Keep the exterior and entry moment clean and clear with messaging. The first impression will set the stage for the customer’s shopping experience.
  • Make the space feel larger and open. Take out fixtures and declutter and give shopper signals of cleanliness – transform sanitizing from a must-do task for employees into a positive, memorable moment for the customer.
  • Use digital interactions to be transparent with customers about how busy the store is and great times to come in. Is there a way you can make your business more appointment-based?
  • New in-store signage is going to be essential, but don’t become overly reliant on it. Be sure to not program shoppers to go on autopilot while in the store. Instead, make their experience a breath of fresh air and remind them of the joy of shopping. [from sidebar]

Looking at the long-term:

We will need to re-evaluate the moments along the customer journey and adapt to new consumer priorities, behaviors, and expectations. 

Consider how to use the outside space and entry point more effectively, or even bring the outside in with more natural cues to put shoppers at ease. If your business is (or is moving to) an appointment-based model, consider adding chairs for an outdoor waiting area. As a first impression, it will be more critical than ever.  

Rethinking the drive-thru is also a prime improvement opportunity. There’s so much potential for efficiency, experience, contactless payment enhancements, but also drive-thru only locations could unlock even more potential.

Bright lighting will be critical — primarily because dark, moody spaces have the perception of being unclean. Brightly lit areas will play a key role in creating open, more welcoming environments

Also, expect a boom in post-pandemic materials and finishes born out of necessity. There will be new takes on anti-microbial and hydrophobic surface finishes applied in new ways to new mediums. The key will be a balance of conveying to shoppers that they are in a pristine space, but without feeling sterile. Be intentional about where customers are placing their hands and rethink how those spaces might come to life with a focus on materiality.

Color and pattern always help bring people out of a funk. Use it to communicate the joy of shopping, infuse personality, and get shoppers out of the survivalist mindset. 

Read the full story in both Chain Store Age and Progressive Grocer.