The in-store retail environment is the setting for the customer experience that a store delivers to its shoppers. The customer experience is more than just a transaction. It’s an in-store shopper journey designed to engage, delight, and wow customers and emotionally bond them to the store or brand. Each element in the retail environment, from the lighting to the flooring — and everything in between — helps shape the customer experience.
The store design should support the CX, employing color to appeal to emotions, lighting to build drama, and visually appealing displays to delight shoppers and encourage them to explore the store. An environment that encourages shoppers to engage with things (merchandise, marketing materials) and people (store staff, other shoppers) fosters positive emotions, which generate positive memories. The store’s CX should eliminate the pain points from the shopper journey and address operational and structural constraints to provide better service. The design should also facilitate interaction between the retail staff and shopper; employee interaction leads to increased loyalty, sales, and ultimately return on investment.
In retail, fixtures not only present merchandise, but they anchor and accentuate the store. Store fixtures include any piece of equipment or furniture used to display merchandise for purchase. However, they play a bigger role than that. Store fixtures help form the store layout and the path to purchase, inviting customers to see, touch, and discover products along the shopper journey. They display, organize, and store merchandise, making shopping quick, easy, and enjoyable for customers. An effective, fully stocked merchandising display drives sales for the retailer as well.
A store’s fixtures can also make work easier and more effective for store employees. Fixtures that are easy to modify or move allow employees to reset the store more efficiently. Less time setting means more time serving customers. Store fixtures are used throughout the entire store, not just the areas customers can see. Fixtures in the back of the house are used for storage, organization, and product transfer.
As customer demand shifts towards experiential retail and the integration of in-store and online sales, the need for specialized store fixtures increases. Store designers are challenged to find new ways to encourage customer interaction and satisfaction with their brick-and-mortar experiences.
In a retail environment, flooring is both functional and aesthetic. The floor literally supports fixtures, merchandise, displays, and all of the customers’ and employees’ activities. And the flooring’s texture, color, gloss level, and design contribute to the store’s ambience, helping to create the customer experience. The right flooring will invite customers into the store and make them feel comfortable along their shopper journey.
Flooring is important in the customer experience because it affects multiple human senses. The color and design appeals to the customer’s sense of sight and can make the customer feel delighted, calm, or anxious. A floor that has light coloring and/or a smooth surface will reflect the environment’s lighting, boosting a store’s brightness. The floor’s texture appeals to the sense of touch, and it can impact the customer’s comfort and ability to move around easily. The flooring also influences a store’s ambient sound. For example, carpet can help reduce the sound of footfalls and echoes within a store, minimizing distractions to customers who are browsing merchandise. The flooring selection also impacts the ability of store employees to deliver customer service. A quieter environment can help employees concentrate more steadily on their work tasks, and a softer, more cushioned floor surface will provide ergonomic benefits to employees who stand for long periods of time.
Lighting plays a critical role in the retail environment. A store’s lighting makes it possible for shoppers to browse merchandise and engage with displays. The right amount of lighting — in the right area — can help staff perform their work more efficiently. More than a utility, lighting helps set the ambient tone of the customer experience. Strategic lighting can create drama and anticipation along the path to purchase, inviting shoppers inside the store, drawing their attention to merchandise and displays, and influencing their navigation throughout the store.
In the retail environment, lighting serves three main roles:
Ambient lighting is the store’s main light source. It enables shoppers and employees to navigate the store safely and view merchandise, packaging, and marketing materials.
Task lighting illuminates workplace areas, such as cash registers, where employees require additional lighting to perform specific job tasks.
Accent lighting highlights merchandise, displays, and other attractions to create a sense of importance and draw shoppers’ attention.
In the in-store display business, the heart and soul of any successful display or visual merchandising program is great design. Displays represent the brand and the product, they engage shoppers to stimulate trial and sell more product. For a display to make an impact and perform effectively, its materials must be carefully selected to address the brand’s unique character and attract shoppers’ attention in store.
Most displays are designed and constructed from multiple materials; rarely is a display manufactured out of a single material. In times past, a corrugated display was made entirely from processed corrugated board. Today, however, even those producers who specialize in corrugated manufacturing must be prepared to combine their corrugated materials with a variety of plastics, wire, wood, and sophisticated print substrates.
For simplicity’s sake, the four main material options for custom displays are steel, wood, plastic, and paper. Most displays are manufactured with multiple materials, using a number of manufacturing processes. To better anticipate shoppers’ demands for something new and different, display producers must constantly research new materials and new ways to combine existing materials to deliver impactful, efficient displays that will catch the shopper’s attention and create memorable retail experiences.
Excerpted from the 2019 MaRC Exam Prep Book. Learn more at https://www.shopassociation.org/marc/.