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How Successful Brands Design Stores Worth Visiting

Mark Dolynskyj, CloudRaker

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While many speculated the downfall of brick-and-mortar stores was imminent, some of the biggest and boldest brands have transformed their retail locations into brand hubs that shine as beacons of potential.

By considering their physical stores as products in and of themselves, brands can not only survive, but thrive. So, whether you’re an iconoclastic legacy brand an upstart cultural catalyst, here is how many are designing for change.

In an ever more fragmented and digital world, the need to touch products and experience new things is saving the humble retail store. Approximately 70% of millennials still want to shop at brick-and-mortar stores, where over 90% of purchases occurred in 2017. Stores have become more than just spaces where items are bought and sold. Starbucks led this wave with their “Third Place” policy, creating cafés that became fixtures within their communities and a place you visited between home and work.

Apple has taken this idea to the extreme, remodeling stores into state-of-the-art gathering places. Architecturally they fit into their surroundings, inspired by local materials, textures, and features. They developed a high-tech version of the traditional Arabic Mashrabiya bay window out of carbon-fiber wings for their Dubai location. Yet, by reducing the number of products they offer, and creating more open spaces, they’re promoting their store as a meeting point, far beyond just buying and selling computers.

These types of hubs create content for, and interest in, every other part of a brand’s ecosystem. Samsung knew customers could go anywhere for their products. That’s why their flagship store in New York shows off their latest products, and showcases VR experiences, concerts, and art installations that build a relationship with the brand and encourage repeat visits. Nike by Melrose in LA, is a “living” store that uses data from the Nike+ App to help customers shop faster and in a more personalized way, unlock members-only features in-store, and curate their inventory based on neighborhood tastes. Even Muji, the rational and minimalist Japanese brand for every home need, has developed their own hotel chain that embodies the brand experience and showcases the lifestyle associated with Muji office supplies, homeware and clothing.

It’s more than just epic architecture and technology that are needed to design for change. When Andrea Ahrendts took over as CEO of Burberry, she realized the importance of simplifying your product offering so you can refine your messaging and refocus your brand identity. By streamlining Burberry’s ideation and creation process and reducing product lines, Ahrendts re-centered the brand around its iconic trench coat and reestablished Burberry as a luxury icon. She did this once again for the Apple Store. She removed 70% of accessories and made sure over 50% of them were exclusive to Apple. By rotating the collection of products, she gave customers another reason to visit.

Today’s customers expect harmony between a brand’s digital and physical selves, and an in-store experience they can’t get online. When Everlane built their first physical store, it was a manifestation of both their website and philosophy. As a clothing brand, they knew fit was crucial for women wanting to try on jeans. In responding to a real customer concern, they challenged one of their foundational principles of not having brick-and-mortar stores, and created spaces that could demonstrate their values of transparency.

Digital darlings Bonobos, Casper, and Warby Parker created stores that encourage you to embrace the brand, touch and feel their products, and then head online to buy them. These showcase stores allow the brands to earn deeper mental availability with an ever-fickle and forgetful public. Bonobos will help you find the right fit in their guideshops, Casper will let you book a nap at their Dreamery, and Warby Parker will allow you to find the right frame in their literary-inspired spaces.

The store is where a brand’s identity and values come to life. Every tablet holding staff member, POS moment, and interactive digital display, become ways to create a meaningful experience for customers that they never would have had online. It’s where loyalty is established. If a store is given the same care as the items being sold within it, then it becomes a product customer will want to come back to again and again.

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About the author: Short copy specialist, thought leader in training. CloudRaker copywriter since 2015.