5 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Retail Store

Renovating a store can be a nerve-racking experience for retailers of all sizes. Not only are there the upfront costs of designers and contractors but also the associated costs of downtime, all compounded by fears that the final result might fail to impress.

However, with realistic expectations and careful forethought, a remodel offers immense rewards, from boosting sales per square foot to reinvigorating your staff. All in all, an enriched in-store experience can help you rise above the competition and take your business to the next level.

To help you along, here are the top 5 things to consider while renovating your store:

What Will Success Look Like?

The first and most critical step is to think carefully about your goals. Of course, for many this will be as simple as setting out an ideal return on investment. Though very few companies share their renovation figures, conventional wisdom suggests you can hope for at least a 10% increase in sales, with an average somewhere around 30%.

Yet, in an age of online convenience, where physical retailers are continually struggling to differentiate themselves, it’s worth appreciating the wider value that great design can bring to your business. A 2003 study from the Danish Design Centre found a marked correlation between the use of design and company performance, with those purchasing design services reaching 22% above-average growth in gross revenue.

A Gensler paper titled the ROI of Design further explores the impact of design in retail spaces. They contest that its benefits extend much further than simple ROI, instead empowering retailers to ‘connect with consumers on a deeper level and create true “fans”’.

Of course, ROI will form a vital part of your strategy, but don’t overlook qualitative aims, such as challenging the competition or refreshing your brand. Fundamentally, the modern retail landscape understands that customer experience is a key driver of value.

Keep Your Customers in Mind

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Apple has clearly reaped massive rewards from its focus on design. Its stores generate up to 20 times the sales per square foot of industry averages, making them by far the most productive stores in the USA. Their success has led to obvious imitation from competitors like Microsoft and Samsung, and even non-tech stores like Tesla, Lego and Best Buy. It’s become such a problem for the brand that they secured a trademark for their retail store design back in 2013.

The trouble is, though tempting, imitation is a dangerous game. Your store design is an opportunity to engage uniquely with your customers, which is squandered if the experience fails to differentiate you from competitors. It seems Microsoft and Tesla have seen some success, but the excitement their stores generate pales in comparison to the original.

As far back as 1995, a study from Deloitte recognised that the most successful renovations rely on effective consumer research. In today’s world, armed with ever more sophisticated customer data, retailers are even better placed to avoid imitation and offer experiences that align with the beliefs, attitudes, values and shopping habits of their own customers.

Engage the Senses

The past 50 years or so has seen nothing short of a revolution in retail design; what was once effectively an extension of product packaging is now a well-studied discipline in its own right. Much of the scientific research has focused on so-called ‘atmospherics’, examining the comfort and sensory experience of shoppers as opposed to product and layout decisions.

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Crucially, recent studies have shown that atmospherics are perhaps the single most important environmental factor in translating consumer demand into purchases. In addition, atmospherics are ‘highly associated with future consumption behaviour in terms of the customers’ intention to visit, purchase and recommend the store to family and friends’.

So what do atmospherics entail and, more importantly, what works best? Sadly, there are no quick and easy answers; however, stores that engage consciously with a range of senses, utilising colour, lighting, music and even smell, will have a much more profound impact on shoppers. Though it might seem odd to focus deeply on these factors, the research suggests you neglect them at your peril.

For those seeking more information, an in-depth review of the evidence can be found in the 2014 paper Store Atmospherics: A Multisensory Perspective.

Leverage New Technologies

For the past half a decade or so, business leaders have been discussing the implications of ‘Retail 3.0’ – a paradigmatic shift in the industry in which the lines between physical and digital have become blurred. In essence, omnichannel retail has quickly progressed from a buzzword to an ever present reality.

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The evidence is truly overwhelming: a 2014 report from Merchant Warehouse revealed that close to 70% of consumers engage in webrooming, the act of researching an item online before visiting a store to purchase it. On top of this, Google have found that 84% of smartphone shoppers use their devices to help shop while actually in a store. Making it easier for customers to interact through multiple channels simultaneously is now a vital part of retail design.

But the power of new technology does not stop there. The most exciting opportunities can generally be divided into two camps: data collection and customer facing technologies. Retailers are leveraging the data collected through beacons, RFID tags, cameras and even humble guest Wi-Fi to inform design decisions. Meanwhile, in-store technology is not only enriching the customer experience, with virtual reality headsets and smart kiosks, but also increasing productivity through practical tools like mobile point of sale systems.

If you’re already looking to renovate, now is a great time to invest in these technologies, offering that early wow factor to customers before you’re playing catch up to the competition.

Don’t Neglect Your Backrooms

Our advice so far has focused on giving your customers the best possible in-store experience. Less fashionable, but just as important, is giving your employees an inspiring work environment. In a series of articles written for the Harvard Business Review, Zeynep Ton describes how good jobs’ are good for retailers – those that invest significantly more in their employees tend to ‘have high profits, low prices for their industry, excellent operational metrics, and a reputation for great customer service’.

A well designed sales floor can work wonders to boost employee morale, but productivity and task accuracy can still be damaged by dingy or poorly maintained stockrooms. In February, the World Green Building Council put together an in-depth report on health, wellbeing and productivity in retail, suggesting that a concern for amenable spaces is a ‘large, currently underutilised, business opportunity’.

Understandably, the primary consideration for retailers is always going to be customer facing areas, but improvements to employee spaces can often be achieved at low cost. Firstly, make sure your backrooms are properly equipped: installing well-built, adjustable shelving systems unit both increases your storage capacity and provides employees with comfortable access to inventory. Simply ensuring that the lighting and temperature is right, or introducing some greenery, can also result in huge productivity gains.

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Dmitri Siegel
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