The Changing Retail Experience: Interior Design Moves Beyond Traditional Flagship Concepts

The retail landscape has been changing for some time, and one interesting reflection of this change has been the shifting trends in retail interior design. As the rise of online retail has eaten away at in-store sales and with big box brands closing or reducing their anchor stores, retailers have learned to provide something wholly unique to remain competitive. 
 
Interior design has proven to be an important part of this unique offering that retail brands are striving for. The physical space of a store presents experiential opportunities that are impossible online - and it doesn't require the massive square footage of traditional anchor stores. Following interior design trends reveals a fundamental shift in how retailers are trying to connect with consumers. 

Trends in Retail Interior Design 


In the past few years, a few distinct trends have emerged in retail interior design, especially when looking at retail stores in major urban areas. Among the most prominent trends, there are four that are having the biggest impact on retail interiors. 
Mindful Design

1. Mindful Design 


Retail brands across the country have been tapping into the growing mindfulness trends and designing their stores for serenity. Using sustainable materials to reflect the natural environment, some brands are modeling their stores as an escape from the outside world. This radical change to the shopping experience doesn't overwhelm the senses but is far removed from the traditional experience of visiting a retail store. 

2. Social Media Design


Brands have been ramping up their efforts to entertain customers at retail locations, also known as Retailtainment, to draw more foot traffic. But more than that, delivering truly unique and exciting experiences can lead to high levels of social sharing, which can be an invaluable form of marketing for a retail store. This may include striking architecture or installations, virtual reality experiences, or even dedicated selfie areas. Any form of engaging experience may facilitate greater social sharing for a retailer. 

3. Gallery Architecture


Many retail stores are now leveraging arches in their interior design, a fundamental element of architecture, to help give stores a gallery feel. Arches are a subtle way to use architecture to boost the high-end aesthetic of a retail space. It's unique and eye-catching, helping elevate the customer's perception of the brand as well as their in-store experience. 

4. Personalization


Some stores are bracing a consumer desire for locally sourced products or items made from local artisans. By forging greater relationships with smaller shops, larger retail brands are beginning to design stores around a local artisan who creates clothing and other items personalized for a shopper directly in the store. This level of personalization and attention is a truly rare type of retail experience - certainly one far removed from the traditional experience offered by big flagship locations. 
Trends in retail interiors reveal a deeper strategy to engage with customers by delivering unique, exciting, moving and personalized shopping experiences. 

The Move Away from the Flagship Location Concept 

Top Shop Water Slide
Historically, the flagship concept of retail prioritized prime real estate locations with a massive footprint, a wide range of product offerings, and possibly one or two experiential elements that made the store somewhat unique. As the industry has changed, this model of retail has lost the draw it once had. 
 
Stores are now looking to create their own experience and make a statement with their brand. Rather than create one large touchpoint, progressive retail brands are using stores as just one aspect of many potential touchpoints within the larger foot print of the retail brand. 
 
Today more than ever, retailers have the opportunity to script a shopping experience that defines a brand through unique expressions specifically tailored to resonate with their ideal customers. There's a balance between experience and product, and savvy retailers are taking advantage of this to drive sales and deeper connections with consumers. 
American Girl Store
One great example of this is the relatively new American Girl store in at Rockefeller Center. The two-floor store is packed with unique offerings with a focus on personalization. A digital touchscreen on the first floor, one of the store's biggest attractions, allows girls to personalize the dolls they purchase. On the second floor, there's a beauty salon for dolls and girls alike with the tag line "Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful" emblazoned across a large mirror. With several different play areas and activities, American Girl understands their ideal customers well and has found an overarching theme, fleshed out in the design of the store, to fully engage with these customers. 
 
Retailers have an opportunity to transcend expectations, providing inspired service and a clear brand promise. This creates and empowers brand ambassadors, who in turn provide the social relevancy and human connections needed to drive new sales and ongoing demand. 
 
The new retail experience is driven largely by interior design and the associated brand statement made by that design. With the retail industry changing, simply having a wide range of products in a big store isn’t enough - this convenience has been undercut by other shopping methods. A retailer’s brand is one of their most powerful selling tools today. 
 
In order to deliver the highly relevant, personalized and powerful experience that resonates with consumers, it’s important to understand where they shop, how they shop and who they are. 
 
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