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13 July 2020
Shalini John

Adapting Architectural Design for Retail Chains with Multiple Concepts

Keeping pace with technological advancements, the retail industry has decided not to be left behind on the constantly evolving juggernaut of change. Retail chains with a global presence have had to adapt their architectural design for different regions, countries and cultures, and in the process, these chains have discovered how beneficial it is to make technology their friend, rather than the enemy. Employing the right architectural design drafting and architectural rendering services from reliable Building Information Modelling or BIM outsourcing services providers can go a long way in helping retail chains successfully design their architectural space for multiple concepts.

Retailers are continuously seeking to creatively use technological developments to improve the shopping experience and thus lure customers into stores just when they had started settling down in front of the computer for their shopping. Department stores are installing interactive screens in and around dressing rooms, so that:

  • Customers can communicate easily with the staff
  • Browse for the right size and colours
  • Determine which merchandise is out of stock or when it will be available
  • Look for matching clothes or accessories

This experience could even result in shoppers buying items from the mobile rather than waiting at the check-out.

Technology must be integrated into the shopping experience so that customers have a more enjoyable overall experience. Store designs are beginning to move away from the standard check-out system and related products are displayed in ‘experience zones’. Previously, customers were discouraged from ‘showrooming’, a practice where shoppers visited brick-and-mortar showrooms to experience merchandise before buying them online. Now, stores are being less stringent about showrooming. For instance, staffed counters with products of digital retailers are popping up in larger department stores and placed strategically close to related items. Although the digital retailers’ products must still be purchased online, the shoppers are exposed to displays of its accessories.

Consumers today remember and respond to an experience that is ‘special’ in some way or makes them feel ‘special’. They also appreciate authenticity and a certain old-world charm that reminds them perhaps of a childhood memory. For instance, there are some American bakeries that expose rustic wood, original faded floors, peeling plaster walls and antique lighting to highlight their authenticity. Whether selling cheese or handmade hats, customers want an experience that is original and memorable.

Some of the ways that retailers can adapt for success through architectural design are as follows:

Engage with Customers
  • Understand customer culture and preferences
  • Prioritise customer self-expression
  • Display a variety of choices
  • Explore smaller settings
  • Engage the senses with textures, aromas, colours
  • Use local product displays and locally sourced furnishings
Malls Must Renovate
  • Outdoor plazas with flower and statues can be welcoming.
  • Increase traffic, decrease vacancies and improve décor with well thought out design.
  • Understand that retail chains prefer vibrant malls.
  • Introduce more dining and entertainment options.
  • Use bright flooring, LED lighting and neutral wall colours to focus on retail outlets.
  • Bright colours enliven food courts and common areas.
  • Add daylighting, attractive graphics, street-like food courts rather than vendors circling seating areas.
Make Customers Linger
  • Explore the concept of a single-storey row of shops and restaurants, with space for outdoor dining and outdoor events.
  • Open-air retail spaces and exposed stalls in corridors may feel like old-fashioned markets.
  • Green roofs can host concerts.
  • ‘Garage door’ systems on the outside mall limits can be adapted as indoor/outdoor areas and be practical during extreme weather.
Incorporate Green Building Design
  • Consumers prefer sustainability in architecture.
  • Women are predicted to account for two-thirds of consumer wealth in the US, and 37% of women prefer brands involved in sustainability, which is relevant, since 85% of branded purchases are made by women.
  • Sustainable retail spaces lower overheads, increase customer loyalty, enable flexible settings, reduce ecological impact and ultimately increase profits.
Make It Fast and Flexible
  • Introduce minimalist retail layout designs
  • Integrate technology to attract younger customers

Architectural design must also introduce localisation for acceptance and success. It is necessary for global retail chains to incorporate local tastes of different cultures so that they can entice customers in different parts of the world to try their product even when its citizens are content with their local favourites.

What is localisation?

Firstly, everything about a company and its product needs to be available in the local language. The brand may need to change its colours and look to fit in with the local culture. All the brand literature, including on digital platforms, must be in the local language and adhere to the local culture, preferences, beliefs and laws. An option that global retail chains have is to partner with local firms. The merchandise can then be a mix of local products and brand products. The store designs must reflect the local culture as well.

Retail Chains Across the World
  • Japanese buildings have low roofs, and the local religion is Shintoism.
  • A global retail chain used interlocking wood blocks to reflect a forest, honour nature and Shintoism, making retail architecture creative in a small space.
Saudi Arabia
  • Logos may have to be altered to show respect to the local culture – no human figures, etc.
  • Stores and fast food chains may have to alter their layouts to provide separate, segregated sections for men, women and families.
  • Chinese people like to meet in large groups. Restaurants need to plan layouts that can accommodate tables that can be put together.
  • Global retail chains need to offer products similar to those preferred locally. Once these show regular sales, they can offer signature products in prominent displays.
  • As balconies are common in China, furniture showrooms include balcony furniture and accessories. Architectural design must therefore cater to showcasing balconies.
  • Global furniture chains must adapt furniture design, materials and layouts for the hot, humid climate of India.
  • Since many Indians use water to clean floors, furniture needs to have risers to protect them from becoming wet, and the floors need to be designed to withstand the wear and tear of moving furniture with risers.
  • For large family gatherings and family shopping, more stools and folding chairs and space must be considered in retail outlets.
  • Cafeterias in showrooms or malls must be larger than in other countries.
  • Countertops for kitchen showrooms must be adjusted for the heights of Indian women.
  • As Indian children sleep in their parents’ bedrooms for longer, beds are designed with pull-out beds or attached beds, and the showroom layouts must be planned to accommodate and showcase these.
  • Space is at a premium in Korea. Rooms are smaller. Furniture must be designed and showcased in smaller spaces than elsewhere.
  • Fast food chains and restaurants need to optimise their use of floor space.

Retailers with global retail chains must consider using a team of architects and visualisers to cater to every facet of store design, from layouts, displays, wall and floor colours and textures, décor to lighting. If architects and visualisers are difficult to hire due to financial constraints or the scarcity of skilled technicians, global retailers may see offshore retail design drawings, architectural design services, 3D rendering service providers and 3D visualisation services as viable options.