An 8-Step Retail Design Process for Large Retail Re-Branding Projects [Effective Retail Design]

An Effective Retail Design Process can help Maximize Commercial Results of Retail (Re-) Branding Projects

In this article we’ll explore an 8-step retail design process aimed at maximizing the commercial results of a retail re-branding project. Anytime a retail brand is making changes to it’s retail executions, implementations can be costly. Especially when such brands exist across large numbers of store formats and in different markets!

A Good Execution Equals Increased Sales!

The retail execution – often also known as the “last mile” or the “moment of truth” – when executed well offers a unique opportunity to deliver the right message to right audience that is in the right spot and that is ready to pull the trigger on a purchase right away.

Maximizing Commercial Opportunities Goes Beyond Interior Design!

We often see that a great deal of commercial opportunities are missed when an interior designer or contractor is hired to develop such a space, as a degree of commercial thinking not always is not part of their focus, skill-set or brief.

Besides creating a nice looking interior, an effective retail environment brief should take into account various commercial considerations that can help a retail brand become more visible, convert shoppers to customers, simplify the shopping process, maximize the time in the store or build loyalty among existing customers.

An effectively designed retail space can benefit a brand commercially in several ways, here are just a few:

  • CONSISTENCY: When your brand’s appearance is highly consistent, aligned and streamlined from shop to shop, the consistency adds to a brand’s equity. The more shops you add, the more intangible value is created this way.
  • IMPACT: A smart execution of a brand’s key visual elements such as the brand color, logo or the use of any distinctive assets can help a brand maximize its impact, visibility and drawing power within the general clutter of a busy store. Since getting seen means getting sold, impact is important.
  • NAVIGATION: A good retail execution can help easily differentiate product zones from a distance, allowing shoppers to more quickly find their way through a store. Finding the right products quicker not only helps close a sale quicker, it also allows more time for a shopper to look for other products.
  • SHOPPABILITY: On a product level it is important that features and benefits are communicated clearly to help inform, convince and close the deal.
  • PROMOTIONAL COMMUNICATION: Clear room for promotional communication via dedicated “new news” spaces can maximize the effectiveness of tactical promotions or the impact of new product launches.
  • EDUCATION: Clear product and category education can further support new launches and help establish the need for new innovations or create premiumization opportunities if messages appeal to higher needs.
  • CROSS-SELLING: Good retail executions can allow room for cross-selling opportunities selling not just a single product but an entire solution to a shopper.

Besides the above examples, many more ways exist how brand design thinking can help lead to better commercial results. Interior design solutions often don’t dig this deep, but it can make the difference between night and day when it comes to the commercial effectiveness of a retail design execution.

So, a good Commercial Execution demands the need for a different breed of Creative Talent: THE RETAIL DESIGNER!

Your next question probably is: How should I work with a retail designer to guarantee maximum commercial results?

Introducing an 8-Step Retail Design Process

Retail designers typically follow a very structured approach towards design that incorporates commercial thinking. Below, we’ve summarized our own model, which is an 8-step process that may help a marketing or sales team understand which steps are needed to develop an effective, consistent and commercial retail execution.

STEP 1: the brief

At this first step you, the marketing or sales person in charge of a retail re-branding process, have to communicate clearly what your brand should stand for in the eyes of the shopper and what superior value your products add to backup the promises your brand makes. At the briefing stage you also want to outline the diversity and extremes of the spaces your brand will exist across. Different formula’s such as hyper, super or convenience store formats might apply to a grocery store, whereas a flagship store vs showroom vs shop-in-shop spaces might apply to an appliance manufacturer. You also want to emphasize who your key competitors are and you may want to spend some time outlining the shopper journey and purchase process your audience goes through before reaching a purchase decision.

STEP 2: store audit, competitor check + best practice review

Following your brief, a retail designer will typically do a store audit of a select number of stores to outline issues and opportunities and to visually map how your brand currently performs (or underperforms). At this stage you might also do an audit of key competitor outlets or take a look at best practice brands in parallel categories where learnings can be applied and adopted to the final solutions for your own brand.

STEP 3: initial concept design + floor plan design

Once a direction is clear, initial design concepts can be created that explore the mood and tone, general atmosphere and the interior look-and-feel of a typical space. Initial expressions of how your brand can be executed in a 3D environment form a critical component at this stage as well as exploring tentative floor plans and store layouts that show how traffic flows through your space.

STEP 4: optimizing commercial communication

Once a concept has been selected commercial refinement takes place that helps explore how the space can be made as commercially successful as possible. Here some of the earlier mentioned, more specific retail criteria will need to be considered and factored into the design solutions.

STEP 5: pilot store concept test (+ technical construction documents)

When a design needs to go “live” across a large number of stores, various store formats or several countries it is a wise decision to develop a built-to-scale pilot store to help test executions prior to undertaking an elaborate, expensive and large scale roll-outs. A pilot store can either be a simulated space within your own office (to help maintain confidentiality, allowing the possibility to engage in research with shoppers or to facilitate training sessions prior to roll-out) or simply a relaunch of 1 actual location that no one really pays attention to, can take place first, allowing for fixes and adjustments to be made at an early stage of a roll-out, perfecting solutions before jumping into full execution mode. Technical construction drawings are created specific for a pilot store, colors and materials are specified and intensive briefings take place with builders to bring out the retail designer’s vision as best as possible.

STEP 6: scaling

If a brand exists across different store types, size extremes or shop formula’s, the issue of scale-ability comes into play and should be considered next. If preferred additional pilot stores may again be developed for each different shop format, which is a good idea especially if you relaunch hundreds of stores.

STEP 7: retail identity guidelines

Especially for large scale projects where many stores, different country teams or building suppliers are involved it is good to finish a project with the development of a set of retail identity guidelines. These guidelines form the basis for your consistent roll-out but they may not be enough on their own. Training sessions of key people may be needed, in using the guidelines correctly to maximize the chances for a successful, consistent and quick implementation.

STEP 8: implementation and control

Following a successful launch of a pilot-store a large scale roll-out takes place based on the final retail identity guidelines that are made available to all teams and builders. Quality control of each and every space needs to take place, especially in the beginning of a roll-out, ensuring guidelines are correctly understood and quality checks are executed correctly. It’s best to involve your design partner with the quality control of at least key stores at the initial phases of the roll-out. After a while, all teams will know what to do and it’s smooth sailing from there!

So, there you go.. We hope our 8-step process helps provide a bit of structure to your next big retail brand (re-) launch project!

For a real-life example of our approach in action, take a few minutes to have a look at this case study that details how we recently undertook the retail design of Electrolux for South East Asia. A not uncomplicated project that deals with a brand that exists across many different store formats and is handled by a large number of teams in many different countries across Asia.

Need Help with a Retail Design Project? Get in Touch!

If you wish to know more, or want to have a discussion to see if we can help you with your rebranding efforts, feel free to get in touch!

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