Whether a store, an office or a showroom, there are 3 fundamental rules any brand environment should follow:
- It should have a purpose
- It should be easy to use
- It should be a physical manifestation of a brand’s ideology
Answering the following questions would help
- Determine whether you need to build something physical in the first place
- Quickly put together a comprehensive agency brief (if so)
- Keep an eye on strategic goals and not get carried away with aesthetics
Are you sure?
- First of all: why do you think you need a physical brand presence?
- Do your customers need a physical environment, what for?
- Are you sure your product requires testing before purchase?
There are successful online-only retailers in pretty much any category, from food to luxury fashion.
- Would the required investment in design, rent, construction and maintenance of a site not bring better results if spent on product development, logistics and digital infrastructure?
- What would you like to achieve by opening a traditional store (gallery/showroom)?
- What customer problems would your store/showroom solve that a well designed website couldn’t?
- Does the space need to sell/stock product?
E.g.: a themed bar could do a good job promoting a fashion brand with customers placing orders using table-mounted tablets.
There could be a middle ground where customers would go to a traditional store to try things on and would be helped to place online orders (that could be delivered same day/hour).
- Where would your target audience have the time and inclination to explore your product?
- Could the product exposure be integrated into their daily routine?
- How can you provide ease of access?
- Does the site need to be open outside of regular hours? Seven days a week?
- Does testing your product require a lot of space (is it a skirt or mountain climbing equipment)?
- Does it require proximity to external infrastructure (parks, roads, highways, lakes)?
- Who is your target audience?
- What are their expectations of your store? How could these be surpassed?
- Dissect the target audience into up to 5 (if you are not mass market – 3) typical customer portraits – be as specific as possible.
- Get into their shoes and scout what leading competitors have to offer.
- Split what you have experienced into pre-visit, in-store and post-visit “moments”.
- Analyse every experience – what could be improved?
Some improvements may require investments that are currently impossible; many will be a matter of behaviour and small touches.
- If you belong to your brand’s target audience, close your eyes and think outside the box: see if you can solve problems your competitors (and possibly even customers) aren’t aware of.
- The environment should be designed by professionals.
- You may (and should) have an opinion on how it should operate and feel: e.g. is your brand about adventure, craftsmanship, personal freedom?
- What design would convey the right sentiments and allow the space to function as required?
- Your brand’s ideology should transcend every element of the on-site experience – from staff greeting to receipt design.
- Split design development into stages – general direction, concept, refinement.
- Be inquisitive, ask questions – make sure you understand what you agree to.
- Make sure the design (holistically) feels right for the brand. Not for you; for the brand.
Honest answers should provide a fairly good understanding of the following:
- Whether physical brand presence is absolutely necessary
- What it needs to do
- Who it needs to cater to
- Where it needs to be located
- When it needs to be open
- How large the site should be
- How it should feel
It is advisable to involve designers early on – it usually saves time, money and allows a more holistic, omni-channel approach.
Part Three: Customer-Centric Digital Environments
Part Four: Customer-Centric Services