How Tech Enabled ‘Store-Ex' Is Redefining Retail Design

Visual Merchandising and Retail Design|October 2019

How Tech Enabled ‘Store-Ex' Is Redefining Retail Design
Experience is an integral part of store design today, so is story telling that visually communicates the brand narrative.

Consumers today seek product stories and want to have a joyful experience within the store. To provide a more immersive customer experience, brands and retailers today are not only using advanced tech elements like AI enabled virtual mirrors, AI enabled robots, heat mapping etc. for various back-end and front end purposes, but are also integrating technology at the inception process. VM&RD spoke with a few brands, retail designers and tech solution providers to find out how technology is redefining store design to offer a better customer experience.

Making customer experience as personalised and relevant as possible is where retailers are placing the most emphasis on these days. As consumers choose to invest in experiences rather than products, it has become increasingly important to create an experience around the product than selling it off the shelf.

Why go experiential?

“Experience is undoubtedly the greatest player in store design. Whatever a brand decides as the experience they want to provide to the customers, the same is converted into store design and served to customers through actual execution of the concept,” says Gajpal Singh Rathore, Head VM & Projects, Arrow, Arvind Fashions Limited.”

Aasheesh Verma, Head – Store Planning & Development, Levi Strauss & Co, says, “The role of space design is to elevate the experience for any consumer, hence it’s an inherent part of the design deliverable. It deals with ambience, character of space and functionality which can’t be compromised. This is very challenging as it deals with the intangible aspect of space design.”

Experience is being clearly defined today by consumer expectations. As Surender Gnanaolivu, Lead Strategy and Development, Four Dimensions Retail Design India Private Limited points out, “For some retail formats experience is delivering ‘utlra convenience’ and for some others, it is ‘inspirational story telling’. The role of retail design is to identify the expectations of each and then strategically weave both in required proportions into the concept of a store.”

Where technology comes in

To provide a more immersive customer experience, brands today are not only using advanced tech elements like AI enabled virtual mirrors and AI enabled robots to store complex customer data, besides using technologies like heat mapping to understand customer behaviour while mapping the highest footfall, but are also integrating technology at the inception process.

PUMA’s first-ever North American flagship store, located at 609 Fifth Avenue in New York City is a perfect example of how blending cutting-edge technology into store design can offer consumers a unique shopping experience. In India, Flipkart-owned Myntra too has opened a 100% RFID enabled Roadster store to create unique experiences that takes offline shopping to a new level.

Somany Tiles experience center designed by Four Dimensions Retail Design is another example of using a combination of physical and digital technologies to deliver brand storytelling and enjoyable consumer experience. “Today, we are working on a few clients where the use of RFID ‘Pick and Learn’ technology is being integrated into the product education phase of the consumer journey,” informs Surender Gnanaolivu.

“Technology helps with the Order Management System, Data Analysis and Design predictions. It also helps in personalizing the entire store experience. In a way, technology is doing every bit from cradle to grave – drawing customers to the store, providing them useful product features to assisting them in making the right purchase. Going ahead, the role of technology will mount keeping in mind the rise in customer expectations,” Dipti Tolani, Founder & CEO, Salt Attire says.

Seamless tech integration into store design

In store experience technology should be fluid and effortless and should be seamlessly interwoven into the store design to create an exciting shopper journey. As Alifya Slatewala, Creative Director, Design Dollops, says, “Technology doesn’t have to be pronounced and loud but seamlessly integrated into the racks, trial rooms and POS. The physical space needs to be exciting to the consumer and connect with them at an emotional level. So, retail design needs to achieve an exciting shopper journey in an operationally efficient retail design like - how exciting the store is to the consumer; how operationally efficient the store is to the retailer; how much data can be collected from the store endlessly; will mark the success of the store.”

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October 2019