As brick-and-mortar retail becomes more targeted and specialized, we use the term “authenticity” to describe success, but what does it really mean?
The reinvention of retail
The age of retail disruption has reshaped the consumer journey with an emphasis on immersive experiences and engaging environments. Today’s economy is driven by consumer preference, and as a result, retailers have exciting opportunities to explore new ways of creating memorable moments and a deeper connection with their brands across digital and physical spaces.
With so many buying options available, a close connection with the customer in the physical space is more important than ever. Sensory stimulation — the reveal, the unexpected, the hunt — is still a major factor, influencing how people shop and are entertained. Physical stores enhance engagement and build brand loyalty through a balance of technology and tactile experience.
Delivering on every key dimension of a store experience is a great opportunity for retailers to create unique and unexpected spaces distinct from others in the same category. This may include ease of access to products or services to encourage consumer discovery; customer service in the form of knowledgeable, personal assistance; promotions and easy-to-navigate rewards programs; and accurately interpreting customer preferences. If the bases are all covered, a community will develop and function as an advocacy group for your brand.
Rapha Cycling Club goes beyond the storefront to create a lifestyle center for its customers. The “clubhouse” in Boulder, Colorado, is both a meeting and retail space.
With physical spaces still so important for human interaction and engagement, there’s no room for mediocrity or poor execution — expectations are high as consumers demand to be delighted. Naturally, this begs the question: What does it mean to be authentic?
STEP 1: Develop a roadmap
It’s a big first step — straightforward, but not simple. Your vision is your destination; your road map represents how you hope to get there. It doesn’t have to be a detailed, topographical road map, with every bump and bend noted, but make sure the major thoroughfares are sketched in and visible.
Decide how location affects aesthetics, get a general idea for the feelings you hope to evoke from your visitors, document and share your core values so they resonate from the start.
STEP 2: Ask the right questions
Engage with a designer early in the process. Find someone who is willing to challenge your ideas — you’ll know your core concept is strong enough when it can stand up to tough questions.
Determine the feeling your place of business will project. Modern and fun? Substantial and serious? Welcoming and homey? Quick and convenient? Do you want customers to linger or is a fast turnaround more important to your business plan? What are you showcasing and what features play a supporting role? The information you surface should inform your materials and other design decisions.
Barley & Vine in downtown Bozeman, Montana, has an industrial-yet-romantic atmosphere, with a bar and restaurant intentionally reminiscent of a night in Tuscany. It’s rich and inviting design imparts a unique ambiance with an emphasis on socializing around a cool, cozy bar.