Constants, Variables, and the Role of Digital in Retail Design

Retail design is all about crafting a journey and experience that engages the customer while minimizing operational costs and maximizing sales. The right combination of constants, variables, and in-store digital experience can help you get there.

Constants and variables are present throughout your stores. Understanding them can help improve both your employee and customer experience and drive sales. But when it comes to the day-to-day function of a retail store, retailers can only handle so many variables. They are already responsible for so many factors in store.

The sweet spot lies in figuring out which elements should be the constants in the store, which can be variable, and where to invest your time.

Showroom Constants: Which Elements Should Be Permanent?

Showroom constants are those fixed items that are difficult or expensive to move, such as walls, doors, windows, beams, hallways, pathways, counters, offices, departments, flooring, lighting, and colors.

These longer-term investments are relatively immovable, have longevity measured in years, and can be planogrammed with repeatability and processes built in. Repeatability helps stores build muscle memory of action.

The proximity of these elements is designed through many factors, including:

  • Traffic patterns

  • Sight lines

  • Merchandising

  • Staff and departmental needs

Showroom Variables: Which Elements Should Be Updated Regularly?

Showroom variables, on the other hand, are the items that can — and should — be moved, rotated, or updated regularly.

Variability helps keep customers engaged and informed. Variables include product and merchandising areas, category management, marketing, point of sale, feature/focal point areas, and technology. By paying attention to variables you can keep your showroom fresh and customers engaged.

Variables give you the ability to easily change out elements for:

  • Merchandising

  • Seasons and holidays

  • Product features

  • New product introductions

  • Sales helpers to improve ease of shopping

…and so on. We can go wild with variables, as they educate customers and help them make purchasing decisions — and in turn make you more money. Additionally, the repeatability of variables helps create new visual excitement in store.

Using Digital in the Showroom: Challenges and Strategy

The execution of digital in the showroom is often viewed as being fairly simple (i.e., “just throw a monitor on the wall”), but in reality it is complex and requires constant attention.

So often, we see small, blank screens where content should be. This is in large part due to the challenging nature of curating an effective digital experience. There are two main challenges when it comes to using digital elements in a retail setting:

1. The in-store digital experience must go beyond the online experience a customer can have at home. Customers want something better than they can get online on their own. I once heard Ben Affleck say in an interview that the camera he now has on his phone is superior to the ones he used to shoot movies with early in his career. Your customers have near constant access to high-quality technology — how do you grab the attention of this well-connected audience?

2. To hold consumers’ attention, digital content must be kept fresh and up to date. Digital can be executed on many scales and should support the omnichannel experience for your brand. It should also be integrated into your retail experience. This requires manufacturers to commit money and resources to maintaining a quality digital experience…which can get expensive. It’s important to have a plan for keeping your content fresh.

To be successful, your in-store digital experience must be as purpose-built as other elements, and driven by solid strategy. If all you do is provide your stores with the bare necessities, what should be an engaging digital experience will end up being a blank TV screen. You have to give them the right tools to work with and a reason to leave it on. You need a purpose behind your use of digital elements and a plan for successful execution.

What are you trying to accomplish with digital?

Your in-store digital experience should accomplish a few of of the following:

  • Provide customers with additional information not otherwise available to them.

  • Supplement the knowledge of salespeople or serve as a silent sales tool independent of sales staff.

  • Delight and surprise customers through a luxury or thrill experience.

  • Create excitement and impact by showing your product being used.

  • Sell something that is not physically present or that has an in-store selection that is more limited than what is available.

  • Help customers select elements for customization.

Ultimately, it’s all about the customer experience: your digital elements should inform, educate, and excite the consumer. Don’t go digital in store because you think you have to — do it because you can create a better customer experience.

Entrust Your Retail Design to Miller Wittman

At Miller Wittman, we understand how to bring a store to life through intelligent, efficient design and a thorough process from site assessment to install. We’ll work with you to design a store that not only reflects how your business operates, but also delights and engages your customers.

To learn more about how Miller Wittman can help your stores succeed, schedule a meeting to discuss your needs.

- Scott Miller

Schedule an exploratory call