Retail experience consultancy Quinine began working with EE in November 2016 with a brief to create a number of stores that would 'showcase' the best service, best network and products on offer from EE and BT (EE became part of the BT Group in 2016), extending the reach beyond traditional mobile into the multi quad-play market. Westfield White City and Stratford (pictured) 'showcase' stores opened August 2017, followed by Tottenham Court Road in September, then Nottingham and Oxford opening in October 2017.
Quinine designed stores that marry human behaviour with the brand and the physical environment to give a multi-layered and dynamic experience. The result is premium stores that welcome customers in, inviting them to get involved with the latest technology and network innovations. Customers can not only explore the latest mobile handsets, they can try live products such Google Home, Apple Watch, EE Live TV and Samsung's VR headsets.
'We based the store concept around an aesthetic called "show time”, a theatrical design language, which uses a large scale and proportion with dramatic lighting for all product displays and service experiences. At the same time we were keen not to make it appear 'hard-edged' and too technological. We softened the space by adding more raw and human elements and introduced a conversational tone of voice,' says Ian Johnston, founder of Quinine.
The store experience is designed around the 'cathedral' principle; with high ceilings that wow customers and create immediate intrigue at the front area of the store, whilst lowered ceilings at the centre act as a more intimate space, suitable for face-to-face consultative conversations. Once inside, customers are greeted with EE's new showcase stage, a multi-functional display space suitable for a variety of physical and digital experiences.
The overall store is divided into three types of store journeys that overlap to create a dynamic overall experience for a variety of shopper types. The first type, the 'showcase' journey, starts at the front of the store where the impactful showcase stage is equipped with soft flooring, a large digital screen and a large circular hanging light. Adjacent to the showcase stage a comfortable sofa invites customers to sit in front of a large 85in 4K TV. Named 'the content champion', customers are handed a remote to control the TV and can choose to view great movies, sports or entertainment, whilst the subtle interaction forms a relationship between staff and customer.
The 'support' store journey focuses on the sales and services interactions between staff and customers. As a focal point, Quinine designed a large central service counter, giving it a modern twist. The design team placed this Service Bar in the centre of the store to encourage customers and staff to walk around and use all of it. Raising the height of the service bar by 70mm subtly encourages customers to lean in, making it a comfortable and a less formal way of connecting with store staff. Throughout the store, soft seating features with round café style tables ensuring there's no 'hierarchy' or barriers between the customer and staff interaction and facilitating an open and relaxed engagement. The dedicated privacy booths are designed to reflect what you might expect in your own home, although subtly balanced for the retail environment. These booths allow for more in-depth and complex demonstrations of services and 'on boarding' for customers. Quinine has designed each element of the store to facilitate face-to-face interactions.
Located throughout the store with a main focal point at the rear is the third store journey dedicated to selecting services and products. Here, customers can compare and contrast live products to ensure they are getting the right devices. Highlight displays are positioned in the centre of the store as progressive lures that present benefit lead propositions. Large-scale modular wall displays are dedicated to device brands such as Apple, Google and Samsung. Premium lifestyle displays hero live accessories that show customers how to get the most out of the EE network.
The aim is to involve customers; dedicated EE staff use the large digital screens and display props to engage with customers, encouraging them to get involved. The plan is that these installations will change out every three to six weeks, keeping the store fresh and the content current and relevant. The London stores launched with a gesture-controlled dance experience, where customer and staff movements appear on the digital backdrop, to promote six months of Apple music for free. The Nottingham store launched with an iPhone 8 event.
To increase customer dwell time and provide more opportunities to browse new products and services, the traditional devices (mobile handsets and tablets) were relocated to the back of the store. An illuminated wall and dramatic oversized product displays maintain the focus and lure customers to browse, select and compare.
A new mobile POS system allows customers and staff to transact anywhere in store – Quinine has removed the traditional service desk. The new design provides a variety of service touch points for different kinds of customer commitment and postures. With a dedicated Help Hub, service was placed at the heart of the store experience. Digital projections behind the Help Hub show animated icons that tell service stories. It's a more integrated digital layer that moves beyond screen-based interactions, and successfully aligns with the EE brand.
Quinine has introduced a simple palette of materials to create a warm, familiar but dynamic, modern feel. European white oak and felt-like fabrics for upholstered seating were used to indicate service areas while metal, powder-coated in the brand colours (aqua and yellow), pop and lift a subtle palette of grey, black and white walls. Signage throughout helps customers to navigate and adds a light, fresh and friendly tone to the store. A brand wall features a local hand-drawn sketch of the city with icons to underline the network capabilities, directly connecting the store to the local community.
'For a store experience to be successful it must work for the business, the brand, the customers and the staff,' says Johnston. 'We ensured that we included elements throughout the store journey that encourage involvement and facilitate a comfortable, relaxing face-to-face experience for both customers and staff. We wanted to "democratise" technology, so customers could feel at ease and inspired by what's on offer.'