From Uninspired to Inspired Retail

Retail that Speaks to the Head, Heart, and Gut.

According to a GlobalData U.S. 2017 survey, the number one factor that has driven consumers away from retail is “Stores are a dull experience” (72.1% of consumers surveyed), followed by “Stores are uninspiring” (70.7%) and “Hard to shop stores” (64.6%).

So, engaging retail experiences are key. But what qualifies as meeting that bar? What does it take to create inspired retail experiences?

I believe it needs to go beyond just being interesting or novel. Retail needs to speak to a customer’s head, heart, and gut:

  • Head: deliver on logical reasoning to convince and make it easy for customers to buy
  • Heart: create meaningful engagement by delivering on a self-goal or self-concept
  • Gut: generate intuitive interest and connection and an ability for customers to find what they need and want

In visiting three stores of late that have been touted for their clever store design, I was left wondering if they really were engaging and, more so, inspired purchase. I stopped by Tom Ford’s new beauty store in London’s Covent Garden and visited the new Everlane store and All Birds in New York City. While I liked these stores on some level, they didn’t deliver on the trifecta:

  • All Birds: The store had an element that was clever and engaging, but does a customer get good information about the value and experience of All Birds’ shoes if he runs on a human hamster wheel?
  • Everlane: Tell your transparency story, yes, but does a customer care about the sound of your factory and does it tell the moral of the story to get them to connect to their beliefs and values?
  • Tom Ford: The store was beautiful and did entice, but does a customer get an intuitive feel for a product by interacting with a slow digital experience to learn about a scent?

Tom Ford Beauty Store, Covent Garden, London

The in-store elements across these stores were unique, but they didn’t speak to the head, heart, and gut of the customer. Novelty can create PR, but do these store elements succeed at selling the brand and the product and address the objections customers have about retail experiences today?

Instead, perhaps these companies could have made slight tweaks to make these experiences that much more impactful:

  • All Birds: Still have a working treadmill (designed in a cool way, of course), but allow a shopper to try All Birds shoes vs. competitive shoes in a more real-world setting. Or, perhaps they could find a way to simulate what it would feel like to stand all day in All Birds shoes.
  • Everlane: Instead of just hearing the factory, provide sound bites from employees about their experience working in their factories or from people involved in the manufacturing process describing elements of what they do and how the clothing is made.
  • Tom Ford: Instead of slow-moving words to convey a scent, create musical sounds that play immediately and evoke the mood associated with each scent.

Apple is another example that plays to all the elements. The company is too often showcased, but for good reason. The stores deliver on these powerful concepts:

  • Head: Shoppers can interact with product, get questions answered on the device itself, and, even better, ask questions of educated staff to get them over any purchase barriers and simplify the buying experience.
  • Heart: The “Today at Apple” program has given shape and expanded the events and classes offered at the store that engage customers with the brand, support customers’ goals around retraining, creativity, and connection. Of course, Apple’s stores also make one feel cool and on trend.
  • Gut: Apple store design is inviting and makes you want to hang out, from the organization of the floor and placement of staff to the product placement and sitting areas.

Win, win, win.

One could argue that there are multiple touchpoints along the consumer journey where retailers can address each of these elements—the head, heart, and gut—but retail experiences should still deliver on all these aspects in case no other touchpoint has been engaged with prior to the customer walking in the store. If you want to avoid having your retail experience be hard to shop, uninspiring, and dull, consider the head, heart, and gut of your retail experience design. Only when companies deliver on all aspects of this trifecta will they entice customers back to their stores, sell product, and drive better brand engagement through the experience.

Categories: Brand, Industry

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2 replies

  1. you are right about the Apple store. it is fun to hang out there even when crowded, which it always is.
    interesting points about what stores should focus on to bring in customers.
    boutiques are the good experience in shopping.
    let’s hope they continue to find space at decent rents.
    great write up!!!! 👍

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