About the author:
Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.
The pandemic has accelerated a change in shopping behaviour. Now it’s not only the younger target group, the digital natives, who appreciate the convenience of shopping online - with no limits on place or time. And yet there is still a desire for the haptic product experience and the social aspect of shopping in high street stores.
How can the shopping experience be designed so that the whole family leaves home looking forward to spending time together in the city centre shops? For one thing, the focus should always be on the entertainment value and the emotional appeal, with the merchandise taking second place. This means that a lot of retailers must set new priorities. At the moment, it’s very common to focus all efforts on the goods or the purchase and not on the customers.
Customers can find all kinds of products and services on the internet and, in addition, can compare prices, read reviews and exchange ideas with like-minded people. What is missing, however, is the haptic experience, the 3-D feeling of shopping live without any cookies or algorithms. But how can shopping offline be turned into a sensual experience?
Before people look at the merchandise, they see the room as a whole. An exclusively functional shop design will evoke little emotionality and enthusiasm. However, if the interior concept is designed with an exciting colour concept or based on a trend such as sustainability, with climate-friendly shop fittings or minimalism using natural materials and traditional craftsmanship, then the shop has a unique selling point. A green wall, birch logs or an imaginative display of house plants can often arouse people’s love of nature. We’re not talking about a single plant by the counter, but a sophisticated overall concept with a wow effect.
Various home office spaces can be designed in the salesroom to appeal to different target groups, where the goods are presented in a completely different way than on traditional shelves. A joint project with furniture stores or bloggers is another possibility. In the shop, a large table which can be used as a kind of co-working space with free WiFi can be made available to digital nomads at certain times. At other times, the table can be used as a meeting place or for other events. If your focus is on quality and high-quality materials, you might set up a small coffee bar and surprise customers with unusual coffees and snacks. The interior design as a holistic image with a recognisable idea should kindle a spirit of discovery in your customers.
A sculpture made of pencils, a hammock for a 5-minute escape from everyday life, a selfie point in front of a large blackboard where customers can write a message to a loved one, a fountain, a wall design with origami objects or a hanging mobile with hundreds of paper planes folded by customers - positive surprises are stored in the subconscious as moments of happiness and linked to the shop as a memory.
A neat, clean and tidy salesroom is the basis of any feel-good atmosphere. Natural materials such as wood or stone and a well-designed lighting concept help customers slow down and relax. Having a sufficiently large team of cheerful sales staff who really believe in their products is nowadays a unique selling point. In the same way as the various communities on the internet, the sales advisor should speak the language of the customers and be keen to talk to them. This is essential and is a deciding factor for a repeat visit and ideally a review on the web. People who shop offline want to communicate with other people and not with a screen or have to rely on themselves.
The specialist retailer must be a competent partner and needs a great deal of sensitivity in order to recognise whether the customer just wants to make a quick purchase or has time for a chat. Regardless of whether the customer is seeking advice, confirmation for a purchase decision already made on the internet or a reward to be carried home like a trophy with a feeling of elation.
People like people, people like easy solutions and people like emotions and feelings of happiness. Depending on the situation and mood, people in future will continue to shop online and/or offline. This can be combined with a dedicated blog on the internet and an emotional shopping experience in a real store that arouses all the senses, or with click and collect. Specialist shops that combine both worlds will be the customers’ favourites.