The retail shopping experience took an unprecedented turn in 2020 due to the global impact of COVID-19 with online sales, eCommerce websites and curbside pickup taking over the traditional in-person shopping experience.
Even before COVID-19, it was clear that online shopping was here to stay and would be a major factor when it comes to retail trends. Online shopping provides convenience, optimal pricing, and oftentimes more selection and options than traditional retail stores.
With such service at your fingertips, the design of a physical store is now more important than ever. And even though the shopping experience shifted in 2020, brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going away. In fact, 46% of consumers still prefer visiting a physical retail location over online shopping, according to a recent survey, and when these consumers receive a positive in-person shopping experience, 90% will likely return to that business.
As the economy starts to open up again, many consumers are still opting for the in-store retail route because they can see what they’re buying (and speak to a sales representative) in person before purchasing. Businesses that want to give themselves the most opportunities to succeed blend the best of online and retail shopping (brick-and-click), catering to every type of consumer.
Design innovation is a vital tool for retailers to set themselves apart and draw customers into their stores. Each retail space, regardless of industry — department store, supermarket, drug store, boutique, etc. — should incorporate some of these Retail Design Trends to Watch in 2021 into their spaces.
- Brand Storytelling/Design for Demographics
Brand storytelling is more important than ever as the retail shopping experience has become more than just about browsing and purchasing products. One of the top design trends for 2021 is using the power of storytelling to showcase a brand’s values, which is crucial as retailers try to maintain customers and attract new ones.
Brand storytelling is the cohesive narrative that weaves together the facts and emotions that your brand evokes,” according to a Forbes article. “In addition to giving your customers reasons why they should buy a product or service, businesses need to start sharing the story behind their brand, why it exists, and why this matters, consistently across all communication.” It allows a retailer to stand apart from competitors; build a strong, trusted customer base; and create a big impact.
But businesses also need to be aware of the toll technology has taken on consumers, notably lowering attention spans from 15 to 8.25 seconds. Retailers should experiment with telling their story in different ways and through different platforms, such as videos, social media stories, podcasts, blog posts — and even through merchandise such as T-shirts and mugs.
When it comes to brand storytelling, it’s also important to remember visual components. Wow moments are still happening but in a more purposeful way. Storytelling graphics help make the in-store experience more authentic and meaningful.
When designing a retail space, considering your audience or target demographic is a foundational step in the process. Identifying that group or group(s) and then choosing design elements that appeal to that demographic is a creative and strategic way to draw people in to your stores.
For instance, a children’s clothing store may want to focus on bright colors on the floor and walls, and other pops of color throughout the space. An outdoor retailer may use more earthy tones in their color palette and feature imagery of famous trails or mountains.
Though targeted, this appeals to the customized experience consumers expect today.
If a customer gets a clear point of view of who you are as a brand and can walk out of the door being able to describe their experience in one sentence, you have success.
- Interactive Shopping Experience
The shopping experience pivoted in 2020, with online orders and curbside pickup options dominating the retail scene. Now, as stores begin to welcome customers back in greater numbers, while trying to compete with the appeal of online shopping, retailers need to hone their creativity skills when it comes to the physical design of their stores and how they engage customers with their products. It’s not just about the experience of going to a store in person, but the experience customer have while inside the store.
Retailers must cultivate an atmosphere of safety and comfort, while also providing an entertaining and enjoyable experience that appeals to all customers. And while physically holding or trying out certain items may be limited in some stores, others are still encouraging product interaction — but with safety precautions.
For example, you can browse for a new pair of frames, but now glasses are disinfected after customers try them on. In many stores, one-way aisles, plexiglass barriers at cash registers and signs and floor decals that encourage social distancing are common.
Technology also continues to dominate the retail shopping experience by providing both convenience and entertainment. QR codes, in particular, have become more popular, especially as a contactless way to shop. QR codes can also be used to enter customers into a contest or giveaway, administer feedback surveys and capture discount coupon codes, according to a Small Business Trends article.
Robots have also become a popular option for retailers doing everything from floor cleaning to material handling and now shelf analytics.
At New Balance’s flagship store. customers can get a 3D scan of their foot, giving them the exact specifications and ideal fit for their shoe purchase. They then watch their shoes being made in the shoe manufacturing area. Customers can even stop by the “customization bar” where they can customize sneakers and have them shipped to their homes.
Technological enhancements to the retail experience can mean everything from smart technologies to using customer-driven data.
H&M tested a “smart mirror” in its flagship store in New York City in which customers “could voice commands to take selfies that are virtually integrated with the H&M catalogue,” according to Business Insider.
- Increased Convenience
Digital shopping capacity is increasing – which means that the physical locations for some retailers is decreasing. One out of every four people is an online shopper, which means it is not necessary for some retailers to have such a large space or a full inventory on hand at brick-and-mortar locations.
Smaller shops, combined with eCommerce, provide multiple ways for customers to stop, and in 2021, the options of curbside pickup and buy-online-pickup-in-store grew in popularity. In other ways, it’s all about increased convenience and whatever works best for each consumer.
Some retailers are choosing to start from the beginning with a new small location. For example, Target has opened a number of “small format” stores, which allow the company to “bring the best of the Bullseye into urban neighborhoods, near colleges and other areas where a full-size Target wouldn’t fit,” according to the company’s website. The stores average around 40,000 square feet (in comparison, full-sized Target stores are 130,000 square feet). The goal is to stock the stores with inventory that will best serve the surrounding neighborhood and community.
These smaller spaces allow retailers the flexibility to change the furniture and style more quickly over time, depending on customer needs, products, inventory and trends.
- Sophisticated & Minimalistic Merchandising
Though the shopping experience in 2020 may have been more digital than in-person, one of the store design trends for this year continues to be sophistication. In the past, retailers often stocked shelves with as much product as possible. Inventory was for the customer to see and purchase – but one of the store design trends for 2021 is the idea of a more sophisticated shopping experience, which includes greater finesse and refinement in store design and inventory display.
An angular floor plan, for example, uses curves and angles to provide a sense of sophistication. It is a design that reduces the amount of display you have but focuses instead on fewer, more popular lines. This floor plan can be particularly effective if you’re looking to showcase a particular product.
A more sophisticated shopping experience can also mean that less inventory is displayed on purpose.
In retail, space conveys value. The more space there is in a store or display, the higher the perceived value of the merchandise. This is why many luxury retailers display items in standalone cases while discount stores overstuff their shelves with merchandise.
- Comfortable & Inviting Home-Like Design
Retailers want customers to feel safe and comfortable, and a lot of that stems from an inviting home-like design, which is a growing retail trend that has become increasingly popular in the interior design industry as a whole.
This kind of design essentially means creating a comfortable, inviting, home-like atmosphere. Many in the restaurant and hospitality industry have incorporated these design elements, and now retail stores are seeing the appeal of creating this type of atmosphere. The idea is that if customers feel comfortable, they’ll want to spend time in the store and/or revisit the space in the future.
Wood flooring can make a space warm and welcoming; wood-look LVT is great for this trend.
Many stores are also including different services in their spaces that add to the experience of shopping in person. For example, supermarkets and larger retailers host coffee chain restaurants within their stores, so shoppers can get their caffeine fix while picking up the items they need.
- The Power of Social Media
The power and prevalence of social media has never been greater. According to the Harvard Business Review, social media spending increased from 13.3% of marketing budgets in February 2020 to 23.2% in June 2020, and “companies are seeking a historic return on their social media investments.”
In 2020, social media provided a way for consumers to see how their favorite brands and retailers were adapting to unparalleled circumstances. Even before COVID-19, retailers used social media to provide business updates, announce important information, highlight new products, offer giveaways and more. In 2020, social media also became an important communication tool as posts featured updated business hours, safety and cleaning protocol information and adapted business models, such as take-out only or curbside pickup.
But it’s important to remember that when companies design or redesign their physical locations, they should consider an aesthetically pleasing space that shoppers will want to photograph or pose in front of — once they feel safe to do so. This social media phenomenon not only makes the shopping experience interactive but is a great way for companies and businesses to get free marketing and further promote their brand.
Seeing this shift in the trends of retail store design. A visit to a brick-and-mortar space is more about the experience than anything else. For this reason, we are now taking what used to be considered much needed real estate for products and reallocating it for decorative installations for the ever-so-important Instagramable moment. Retailers are starting to see that the equity social media posts can bring to their brands is more valuable than just a product on a shelf.
To accomplish this as a designer, there are countless elements you can feature. It can begin with eye-catching floor or wall installations in interesting patterns like basket weave or herringbone. Then, experiment with neon or chalkboard signage with catchy phrases, paired with intriguing backdrops for photo ops. Retail trends today are seeing brands get creative about design elements that inspire customers to take photos inside the store and share them on social media. Integrating a Instagram selfie station is another fun option.
- Pop-Up Shops
Just as companies are designing stores with fun new accents for social media opportunities, they are also setting up pop-up stores with the same motivation, and outdoor pop up shoes have especially been on the rise.
These unique, “for a limited time” experiences appeal to millennial consumers and provide ample opportunity to spread brand awareness.
Customers can create memories and truly connect with a brand. Pop ups go way beyond transactional retail experiences which is what stores have offered for the longest time.
Pop-ups are spreading to eCommerce businesses, who are opening temporary stores to test out a neighborhood and get a feel for the performance of their products or services in a real physical space. This can be a preliminary step to opening a permanent location, though some eCommerce retailers do this only temporarily.
- Natural Lighting
If the space allows, it’s best to incorporate as much natural light (or the effect of natural lighting) as possible into a retail environment. Natural light is a mood booster; it also enhances the appeal of products and allows consumers to get a more precise sense of color.
Choosing the correct color temperature, which is measured by its K (kelvin) rating, of LED bulbs is integral to a retail space. Color temperature can create either a warm or cold environment and affect how products are displayed. We 4,000 to 4,500K bulbs for a natural lighting effect, which is optimal for retail dressing rooms and grocery stores.
- Wayfinding for Floor Designs
Retail stores have long used flooring design to help shoppers navigate their way through different sections within the store, but it took on a new meaning in 2021. Floor decals, graphics and signs now indicate one-way aisles and remind shoppers to socially distance.
But wayfinding can also be aesthetically pleasing. It’s common in department stores and supermarkets to install flooring in a specific pattern that guides shopper traffic throughout the store. As it turns out, flooring design is both an art and a science.
A supermarket, for example, typically puts the items they want people to pay the most attention to at the front of stores and around the perimeter. Because of this, those areas tend to have their own designated flooring material that will subconsciously steer shoppers through those areas.
Other retailers, regardless of industry, should consider using specific wayfinding layout designs in their stores. Businesses can use the flooring design to guide customers to the products they especially want to be seen or even their accent wall or eye-catching neon signage that is generating all the social media buzz. You can essentially use thoughtfully selected flooring designs to strategically guide customers through your store.
No matter the flooring designs or retail trends included in your store’s design, your flooring choices need to hold up under the foot traffic expected in brick-and-mortar stores. LVT is one of the most durable and aesthetically pleasing options for commercial spaces and has been trusted by retailers for decades.
Retail design is especially important this year as businesses look to please existing customers and attract new ones. From resimercial design and pop-up shops to increased lighting and aesthetically pleasing wayfinding options, consider some of these Retail Design Trends to Watch in 2021 to take any retail space to the next level.
If you have any questions about UMI furnishing, flooring or wall products or how we can help with your next store design, please don’t hesitate to contact us.