Tips for Combining Office and Retail Space

In 2017, retail is quickly becoming more and more about lifestyle experiences and entertainment rather than your standard purchasing journey. In addition to this style of involvement, business is moving online – with Canada alone being home to 105 million online transactions back in 2012, and roughly 22.3 billion generated online. What’s further, well known retail brick-and-mortar chains like Future Shop and Target have fled the nation because of an inability to compete with more affordable online marketplaces.

Businesses are busy re-imagining their spaces to encompass a more captivating user experience while simultaneously showcasing the office environment of their growing online enterprise. It would seem that the key ingredient to revamping the modern retail space is to not only making the traditional storefront a sort of showroom for your products, but enabling the office environment responsible for the online boom to have a home here as well.

The hybrid office-retail store is winning the race to the consumers heart because it not only removes the pressure of making a purchase, but allows people to build relationships with products and companies before deciding to make a purchasing decision. In this post, we’ll outline some powerful ways to help your business effectively combine office and retail space into one succinct entity.

Know Your Customer

One of the biggest rules in any retail environment is to actively learn about your customer; try to gather information about them, their interests, how they like to shop and engage with products/services, and make your physical and digital spaces work well for them. Bottom line? If your customer has to work too hard to interact with your brand, they’ll go elsewhere.

Consider the Montreal-based business Frank & Oak, a predominantly online men’s clothier that has been experiencing major growth in the last year or so with over a dozen stores in the US and Canada. The brand keeps customer information at its very centre, listening to, and adjusting its practices to suit the will of its clients. Frank & Oak can accomplish this type of growth because they were online first, and developed an authentic identity with their customer base through hand-written thank-you cards, and now – physical stores that play to the ear of what their customers want – more human interaction. This hybrid approach to the office and retail structure act as a front for interaction and culture – dictated by data.

This is a business that knows it can keep the bulk of its financially-viable business firmly rooted online, while engaging with people and creating gathering spaces that act as an effective branding front.

Blend Customer Experiences

At the very core of the hybridized retail/office movement is a blending of multipurpose space with the idea to create an inspiring space where personal customer relationships can be built – all while the business grows online. Blending the space can be done in a myriad of ways. Business owners should look at ways to transform their physical space – whether that means through renovations and knocking down walls for increased sightlines, visibility and reflection of natural light, or using colour theory to boost employee satisfaction and customer curiosity.

Canadian Business tells us that the current trend is mentally-based, wherein physical spaces and digital retail can become one and the same. The retail store of the future will be turned into a solely pleasurable space, while online business will take up the majority of the purchasing aspect, after a customer has been entertained in-store. Retail businesses that experience the bulk of their sales from e-commerce are beginning to include small cafes and barber shops in their physical locations to help build a positive customer relationship and a sense of community.

Blending the retail experience ensures that customers have access to the community-inspired space they need to build positive rapport with a brand, and access to the online marketplace they prefer to purchase from.

Show off the Office / Production Side of the Business

One of the downfalls of dominant e-commerce marketplaces is the inherent lack of human-to-human interaction. Shopping online can be cold, and solitary.

One of the benefits of a blended office/retail space is the ability to showcase the production side of your business. Showcasing the sleek and open-concept location of your business office gives customers who interact with your retail space a sense of transparency that inspires trust. By showing off the office, your in-store customers come away with the sense that your business is honest, up front, and is controlled and operated by people just like them.

Showing off the office environment helps customers feel like they’re a part of the brands growth and identity. What’s great about hybrid office space is the potential to create just about anything you can imagine. A hybrid office doesn’t have to be separated by old school cubicles and closed off from the world. Employees can have the freedom to work in-store on mobile devices where they can contribute to the businesses growing communal identity.

Provide Office Space for Nomad Professionals

Consider that not all hybrid retail/office spaces have to be a front for a retail brand. There’s a vast and growing market for remote employees who operate from home and contribute to online brands globally. In this sense, providing open concept office space for nomadic employees who miss the classic office environment is a fantastic way to create a different sense of community.

Another downfall of online retail markets is the reduction and elimination of classic human interaction while at work. The loss of ‘watercooler talk’ can have big negative effects on employees who feel like while they’re contributing to a great brand, there’s a growing sense of isolation that can’t be ignored.

Building co-working office space for these employees is a great way to get professionals who want the office environment to embrace your physical retail space as a pseudo office for themselves. These are member-based workspaces where freelancers, remote employees, and independent professionals can work together in a communal space.

Offer an open concept cafe setting with a combination of seating areas and standing desks that can accommodate a light lunch and coffee, as well as piping hot WiFi connection – these remote employees who represent a multitude of brands and businesses from all over the world get to collaborate and interact with one another, contributing to a new global office community.

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