Running a retail store is a complex business. It is the fact especially now, when the whole retail sector is in turmoil. In order to find some order for making determined business, you have to have sound basis for the actions you execute in the store. It is even more important for the customer – customer has to understand what is the main idea you are offering.
There are at least four key elements that an outstanding retail store should have. They are
Purpose means that the store has and can convincingly show a higher purpose for its existence. Just selling stuff and making money is not good enough for the consumer. We consumers are more considerate of where our money goes. Money is our strongest tool for effecting businesses, in democracy it is voting. There are naturally many kinds of company statements, but good purpose is clear, concise and shown in the retailer’s actions. Some retailers have a clear purpose, like Patagonia, Whole Foods Market, The Body Shop and in Finland the Finlayson, that under the new owners are doing excellent job with clear purpose. Purpose may be linked to e.g. improving environment, improving equality, improving community or some other higher purpose. It is easy to figure out a tempting purpose, but these companies mentioned above have also shown their determination by walking the talk.
By clarity I mean the actual retail environment and the way that the retailer communicates with the customer. In order to get the message through, the retailer hast to reduce the excess amount of messages the he has in the store. The retailer should also figure out, what is the impact he is looking for with the messages. If you try to say too many things in the store and in the communication directed to the consumers, you are actually saying nothing. Clarity means that before you make any messages – whether advertising or in-store communication – think what is your aim. Thus you save money, customer’s nerves and most probably get better results. Even if something is possible, it not always worth of saying it. The more digital signs the stores have the more they also produce visual noise.
Rhythm in the stores means variability. If you do not variability, you create a retail Sahara – and who wants to shop in Sahara. By rhythm I mean that there should be product displays, plenty of them, but there should also be empty spaces; there should be well-illuminated areas, but there should also be dim areas; there should be audible sounds, but there also should be quiet areas. It was Paula Abdul in her 1990’s hit “Opposites attract”, who said the same so nicely. Retail store needs contrasts in order to be attractive.
And finally, the store should offer positive surprises to the customer. If the store is just the same as others, it is not interesting. If you offer nice surprises, create an in-store disruption, you can make a better impact to the customer. The challenge is that you should be capable of creating surprises every day. It is all about the creativity and customer understanding.
I have seen stores that have all these elements. Not all at the same time, but nearly all quite often. Examples are the ones mentioned above, but also Selfridges, Zara, IKEA and some others are capable of this. When a store can combine all these elements at the same time, I believe it will be a smashing hit.