How can a technology business use their retail environment to drive customer engagement?  By designing stores that understand how the store’s design shapes behaviour in the store and out-of-store engagement.

Although telephone and online customer experience were important parts of our client’s customer experience, the physical in-store experience was critical to their overall business relationship.  The stores were what consumers saw each week when out shopping, and when they wanted to experience new technology firsthand.  Our initial research showed that the problem was that our client’s stores, while pretty to look at, were seen as stark get-in-get-out places for high-pressure sales.  The store’s design encouraged consumers to do a walk-by first before committing to entering the store.  In short, the stores were not seen as places you wanted to go.

Working with the client, store architects and designers we created a testing process that moved from helping to choose between conceptual designs to testing prototype stores.  For the conceptual testing stage, we undertook qualitative research with customers and staff that used CGI walkthroughs that helped to visualise how customers would move through and interact with each design.  To further help customers put themselves into the designs, we gave them scenarios so that they had a goal and motivation for how they would engage with each design.  This stage not only provided a clear direction, it also provided feedback on how to improve the design from user experience perspective.

While simulating the customer and staff experience provided strong direction, building new stores is expensive and getting it right is critical.  Our next stage was to simulate the experience in a prototype store.  This store looked like a real store from the inside, had real products and store staff, but sat in the builder’s warehouse.  Over several nights and days, we took customers, staff and stakeholders through the stores to get their feedback from their different perspectives.  The design had to work for all those who used the space. So that the simulation provided more than just aesthetic feedback, customers were given different experience scenarios and goals.  Because how people interact within a physical environment is always based on conscious choices, a large part of analysis was based on observing how people interacted with the design, where they looked, where they lingered and how they moved through the space from entry to exit.

Based on project results, the client created a step change in store design for industry. The stores became places consumers would make unplanned visits to browse new products and ask about new services. The new design created a new brand relationship and a place that was symbolic of what the brand meant to customers, a friendlier and more engaging brand.