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Embedding Store Strategy into Design

By Miller Zell

Fostering customer loyalty, driving upsells and cross-sells, educating shoppers. Celebrating products, building brand recognition, supporting associates. The list goes on and on.  The store has many objectives. 

Accordingly, store design should be purposeful, driving and supporting your strategy and ideal customer experience. Otherwise, you might create a great first walkthrough but end up with a real-life shopper experience with multiple pain points that weren’t addressed during the design phase.

Store Objectives and Customer Experience

A good way to start is with a store strategy that is guided by research that answers questions like these before the design phase begins.

  • What are you trying to accomplish in this branded environment?
  • What is the chief goal of each space?
  • What do you need to communicate?
  • What do your customers want?
  • What do your customers want but don’t know they want?

Answering these types of questions with research that examines customer attitudinal and behavioral data creates a strategic roadmap for environmental design and digital integration. It’s not a straight line from Point A to Point B, for customers or the stores that serve them. It’s a complex process.

Great retail design answers the “why?” for every store element and anticipates potential friction along the path to purchase.

Here are three examples where strategic design made shopping easier and more satisfying and offered reasons for customers to increase dwell time and basket size.


1. Connecting with New Customers

NAPA faced a classic retail predicament a few years ago. While their stores worked well for professional mechanics and seasoned gearheads, they weren’t as appealing for average customers, particularly when compared to competitors. The goal was refreshed décor along with better organization and sightlines that helped shoppers confidently navigate their stores.

After intertwining strategy and design, NAPA had a consistent color palette, pod-style counters that encouraged browsing and promotional zones to increase in-store communication. The prototypes proved so engaging that NAPA rolled out the refresh to over 800 company-owned and franchise locations.

2. Celebrating a Brand with a Store-within-a-Store

It’s not uncommon for standout, legacy brands to develop footholds in new spaces. Citizens operates hundreds of bank branches in 12 states, but they were ready for a full-scale redesign of existing in-store supermarket branches. The objective was to elevate smaller hybrid footprints that could accommodate banker consultations while still supporting typical transactional traffic.

The strategic design they adopted was a contemporary, inviting, on-brand environment that conveyed a deliberate departure from the expected branch layout of teller-counter barriers and closed-door offices. Through the redesign, Citizens unveiled not only a new aesthetic but also an appealing new way to interact with a bank.

3. Solving a QSR Pain Point

Sometimes the need for a strategic design upgrade is very specific. Church’s Chicken realized that their guests often made menu selections from window clings that featured lower-priced options because the more complete menu boards were confusing and overcrowded. The question was how to redesign an attractive, simplified layout that could also drive guests to higher-yield, more profitable core items.

The redesign process began with strategic research, including focus groups, interviews and a study of competitors, identifying best practices and watch-outs. Testing of various designs in several markets followed, and diner intercepts helped finalize the design for a system-wide rollout.

The results? Improved customer satisfaction and increased price per check.

Great Branded Environments Bind Strategy with Design

Store designs that aren’t guided by research and strategy can provide a great first walkthrough but ultimately fail due to unanticipated points of customer and/or associate friction.

In contrast, strategic store design specifically solves customer and associate pain points and eases friction along the path to purchase while also celebrating the brand. Further, great design is scalable and adaptable for a variety of store footprints and even anticipates a range of needs based on region and localized customers.

Precisely aligning store strategy to store design isn’t easy, but the motivation for doing so is clear. It nurtures value by helping retailers outshine their competition and increase revenue.

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