Customer-First Guide to Retail Design

Combining creativity, graphic design, interior design and good architecture make up a reliable four pillar model for expert retail design practices.

Further including aspects of functionality and product display make for an intriguing space that will not only attract your store customers, but have them eager to explore your space, making them instantaneous fans of your brand.

In addition to having great sales staff, make these principles come together by considering some of these key factors, with positive design and a customer-first concept in mind.


Ask Yourself a Lot of Questions


Don’t be afraid to rethink your current strategy. You haven’t been wrong; you’re simply taking proactive steps to improve your customer’s experiences.

  • What does your customer experience currently look like?
  • Where do you have room for improvement?
  • What are your successes?
  • How do you want your customer experience to change?
  • How can you collect and analyze important data?
  • How will these insights be applied?
  • How could intuitive design need adapt to better support customer experience?



Attract Your Customer From Afar


Imagine you’re heading into a job interview; you immediately think about what you’d wear, and how you’d present yourself in order to get hired. The same principle applies to attracting a loyal customer base to your retail space. You have to catch the eye of the customer – this means investing time and effort into the exterior look and feel of your space.


Stimulate Their Interest


Once you’ve got their attention, the next pivotal step is to create a display, branding package, design and texture to compliment your retail space. Spark their curiosity by creating an inviting and visually stimulating space. Use bold colours, sharp angles, and other impressive visual cues that pique the interest of your customers second look.


Uniqueness is King


Your space needs to be unique. Sound like a dead giveaway? Consider the overuse of repetitive design elements and similar colour palettes in competing retail spaces – they look the same to ironically attract the same customer. Giving your space a unique look and feel sets you apart from your competition and into the forefront of your customer’s mind – because you’re different!


Layout & Mantra


Your layout should portray your mantra; your business’ ideals. What is your point of interest within the store? Use architecture and interior design to pull your customer into your space by creating a clear point of view. Match your message with that of your interior as well – for example, Apple’s old slogan was “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and their interior design concepts still portray a simple, progressive aesthetic to this day. Eight Inc., the design firm responsible for Apple’s branded consumer experiences, says they created Apple’s unique look and feel by using “vivid graphic elements, intuitive space delineation and interactive product displays to encapsulate the essence of the brand.”


Be Hassle-Free


If you’re space process to be complicated to navigate, your customer isn’t going to enjoy their time shopping, and that can halt the conversion to becoming a loyal client. Your retail space design needs to mane the customer experience a hassle-free, reliable, and enjoyable experience. Just look at Target, a mega retailer that is revamping its customer experience for 2016/17 by re-focusing on a seamless guest experience. “Our efforts around the fundamentals are improving operational performance and delivering the right foundation for future growth. And we’re just getting started,” says Target CEO Brian Cornell.


Be Consistent in Your Message


Ensure that every last detail of your retail space is broadcasting the same message. Having too many elements jammed into one idea can easily overwhelm the customer. Lock onto one or two design elements and go for it! But don’t combine too many, or your space will look overthought and forced. Take extra care in ensuring that all of your design details are completed; make sure that your space has a flow that helps customers progress effortlessly through the space while portraying the same emotions and calls-to-action.


Embrace Sensory Perception


Jihyun Song says that retail design brands associated to sensory experience attract customers and stimulate strong, positive, and distinctive impression across all five senses. In this case multiple sensory cues are found in a store interior including store and display layout, lighting, interior fixtures and furnishings, music, and air quality such as fragrance and temperature. All contribute and complement each other in orchestrating the complexity of interiors.” Song says that visual cues should be evident within interiors by using the findings of the previous sensory research, and non-visual aesthetics should push design narratives that “reveal emotional domains.” The key here is being able to see and embrace the strong connection between sensory experiences and the retail space and its connection to good design.


Create a Community


Retail space can not only create loyal customers, but can also create communities. Engage with your customers and enhance their experience by allowing them to share, comment and exchange ideas within your space. Use community chalkboards, start a location specific hashtag and social media call-to-action. Host events within your space that compliment your brand and the people you’re working to attract.


Transition Zones


When your customer enters your retail space, you ideally want them to pause and take a good look around them, rather than blindly wandering in and missing your newest display or message. A transition zone helps customers ease into the shopping experience, slow their pace and settle in. A horizontal display acts as a physical barrier to engage and slow your customer as soon as they enter your space. In a small retail store where space is of the utmost importance, keep your transition zone small, but comfortable for customers. They’ll be able to absorb the layout of the store, and assess its energy.


Upgrade Dressing Rooms


Leaving the selling mentality and customer experience out of the dressing room setting is a huge mistake – because most decisions to buy are made within the privacy of the dressing room, and in realizing so, extra care needs to be placed on making the dressing room’s design and environment a comforting, flattering space. Experiment with complimenting lighting, functionality (including hooks and a possible seat for customers) and ensure that dressing rooms are marked and easy to find.


The Seating Area


It’s not just a spot for stereotypical boyfriends and husbands to take a breather from their relentless shopping spouses; a seating area within your retail space simply takes customer comfort into account. Remember that the majority of shoppers are accompanied by a friend, spouse, or other relative, so making sure that your customers have the opportunity to take a seat and relax directly communicates that their comfort is important to your retail space. Catering your interior design to showcasing the seating area also emphasizes the visual signifier of comfort, and of relaxation, so making it the focal point of your space isn’t a bad idea.

A customer-first design strategy for your retail space is integral to helping your brand build loyalty and repeat buyers. By integrating aspects of architecture, graphic design, interior design and some good old fashioned creativity – you’ll be well on your way to building an impressive space that encourages the curiosity of your followers.

3,060 thoughts on “Customer-First Guide to Retail Design”

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