Retail Design

Features, Opinion

Using UX to Design a Better Retail Experience

14 Nov , 2017  

Retailers and brands have never had it easy; especially in terms of tougher competition and changing consumer trends that are constantly pushing brand managers to raise the bar for their product and customer experience.

Now, technology has forced retailers into an interesting, albeit challenging, situation. The rise of E-Commerce is creating a paradigm shift; traditional brick and mortar stores are being pushed stores closer and closer to the abyss of redundancy. Though we’re probably not at the point of extinction, brands, both big and small, are re-evaluating their customer experience strategy. For those potential clients who do enter the physical store, brands would like to see fewer people leave empty-handed.

An unlikely area of expertise presents itself as a guide to this challenge. Informed by data and personalized through context, digital User-Experience or UX as it’s more commonly called is an ideal guide to designing spaces for the current generation of shoppers.

“Traditionally, UX hasn’t been a major focus for retailers in the Middle East. But as with everything new, retailers will eventually have to adopt UX as a key part of their consumer engagement journey.In order to ensure good customer experience UX is critical for retailers as demographics are changing rapidly and what worked in the past may not necessarily be a recipe for success in the future”, says Elton Pereira, Retail Operations Director at Sun and Sand Sports. To ensure the best possible customer experience, retail brands and interior designers are looking to maximise on human-centered design principles to create a new kind of retail experience.

According to Adil Amin, Associate at Bluehaus Group, “Positive customer engagement and the resulting experience shopping experience that makes them loyal to a certain brand or store. The challenge is to create a welcoming and relaxed environment, to integrate technology, provide areas for interaction with customers and to create an enticing product display.  The product needs to be the hero of the space’. We believe that retail outlets of the future will have a great deal of personalized shopping in addition to a focus on lifestyle, the design will play an essential role in blending these two into a unique retail experience.”

Retail Design

Customer Personalities VS User Personas

The concepts of user personas have been around since the 90’s, and have now been popularized by UX designers. Creating user personas are not limited to design; they are a major component of marketing research and strategies as well. The basic purpose is to identify and create a representation of the demographic’s wants, expectations and behavior patterns. Designers use personas as points of reference, helping them design an ideal experience and prioritize the right features. They can be goal-directed, role-based, engaging or fictional.

Understanding what a customer wants from a particular space and how they will interact will help create the best shopping experience; for example, the more relaxed, casual shopper needs to be coaxed, allowing plenty of space to move around, good ambient lighting and sound and clear lines of sight around the store. Since they’re in a transition mode, customers are more likely to miss any product, signage or carts you place there. The key here is to display only a few key items of high value or popularity and use lighting and colors to contrast and highlight this space from the rest.

The big-budget spender will want as seamless a shopping experience as possible; this kind of spender requires sophisticated interiors with plenty of room to move around in, and take pictures. Zero check-out time will boost sales for this group.

Physical Layouts vs User Journeys

Retail spaces are generally expected to be high-traffic areas. Configuring the store layout to divert customer traffic is a smart and effective tool to influence purchasing decisions. A perfect floor plan would be one that achieves a balance between customer experience and maximum ROI per square feet. And while E-Commerce sites may not take up physical space, but they virtually face the same challenge. User-journeys offer the perfect tool to optimize layouts.

Retail Design
Credits: Katie Cullinan

By using data to identify new opportunities and exit points in the buying process, designers can configure layouts to ensure visitors get the most out of each visit. Opportunities vary from placing complementary products close to each other, to intentionally long check-out lines so customers are tempted with deals while they wait. Identifying areas of longest wait times help brands pick the best spots for branding and advertising.

“When designing a retail space, optimising the customer journey through identifying the target audience and strategically planning the space has been proven to have a positive impact on sales,” says Mohammed El Hijazi, Managing Director of Brand Creative.

User Psychology & Consumer Behaviour

First and foremost, psychology is used to answer the ‘why’, and then use it to inform the ‘how’. There is very real evidence that points to the psychological effect of store design on the shopper’s mind.

A common trick e-commerce websites use to drive sales is to place a ‘Limited Stock Remaining’ next to popular items. Drawing a parallel to retail design, brands would be wise to not display all available pieces of their best seller. What is key in a physical space is to play with lighting and colors to make the product stand out, while using scarcity and loss aversion to invoke a sense of desire.

Color psychology is used to a great extent when designing space. There’s a reason sales signs are red – it makes the human mind react faster and more forcefully. Orange is used commonly to imply high value.

According to one study, 90% of customers turn right when they enter a store. Which means that your first area will be high impact zones; you’ll want to maximize this by placing your best sellers here. Ensure this area is well lit and, merchandise displayed in an ordered fashion. On the other hand, place the checkout counter to the left. That way you’ll ensure customers venture through every part of the store.

The key takeaway is focusing on a customer experience that requires the participation of the physical space, and not simply one that relies on the value of products. If customers are looking to step out and spend time in a store, brands will want to make sure to deliver a holistic experience that stick.

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