Retail store environments are changing, and so are the consumers. In a visually dominant world, Branding and visual merchandising have been gaining more importance to enhance the retail experience everyday. So, what does visual merchandising mean in architecture? It is a design approach used for enabling easy access to information for customers, discovering new products, and getting the most out of store experience.

Ar. Amit Gulati, Co-Founder at Design21 shares some strategies that enhance the retail experience of today through a designer’s perspective aiding in visual merchandising and retail branding.

Minimalistic Layout

It is sensible to have a layout that is open, uncluttered, minimal, and organised in a retail store. The layout should be based on the type of space and utility. Customers do not want to feel confined to a space such that every inch is filled with products and displays. Instead, the store must allow for an easy flow of customer movement. The layout should encourage clear spaces for a customer to walk through and focus the products on display. These breather spaces have a high chance of increasing brand visibility. The overall design is built over the parameters of clean lines, symmetry, cool colour palette and focussed lighting.

Spatial Narrative

A successful retail design is not only about well-curated displays and banners. It is also the nooks you create, the colours you choose, and the design choices you make which determine the user experience. Starting from the store entrance with high-impact displays to the products you place at the end of the store, the narrative leading the customer to the very end of the store is extremely significant.  Translating the brand’s vision into reality, we at Design21 showcase the brand story building over past to present and create a discourse with what the brand’s focus is for the very space.

Flexibility in Design

We know that retail stores are heavily dependent on short-term trends. The store environment must therefore be flexible, enabling the fast turnover of merchandise. The store must allow for floor and wall fixtures to be dialled in as needed. Whether it’s Diwali, Holi, Halloween, Pride Month, Independence Day or the Christmas holiday season, promotions and messages will always be alive and you can only fulfil it through flexibility of space and attributes added to the space at conceptual design stage. The architect’s long-term design should enable and empower the visual merchandiser’s short-term promotional goals.

Creating Focal Points

The ultimate aim of a display is to capture customers' attention but it does not mean that the store should be filled with displays. There needs to be a good balance between the products and the displays. These must be critically placed to create a significant impact on the customers. While one tries to bring attention to everything in the store, having just one focal point has proven more effective in drawing people in. So, always create a focal point to position the high-impact products and strategically place every other product. In doing so, the products will have greater chances of catching the attention of the customers. When they are hooked on the product, they will naturally check out other products linked to the focal point. A focal corner can also pave the way for customer engagement through social media. Customers can engage through photography at these points, aiding to brand elevation automatically.

Retail as a Hub of Engagement

Business owners often strive to require spaces for engagement and activities for brand engagement nowadays. Hence an architect is required to build beyond the confines of a retail store requirement but also cater to engagements like press meets, conferences, influencer showcase, brand meets, competitions and more. For example, Apple stores which are designed as a place to shop have become a place to network, gather and interact with the brand for brand loyalists and aids in launch meets of the company’s newest products, which strongly narrates how shopping is becoming more and more of a social experience.

Thus, a part of creating an effective store design is in the hands of an architect to understand and design for the people, in line with brand vision and thus, aiding in brand elevation. This results in the immersive representation of the brand while maximising efficiency and profitability.

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About Author

Amit Gulati, the Co-Founder partner at Design 21 has extensive project handling experience in architecture in Europe and India, taking overall responsibility for design and drawings and client interactions. His professional association with International firms and time spent in Holland, Delhi, and Ahmadabad gives him a vast range of architectural knowledge that is skillfully reflected in the commencement of the project. Through years of experience in large-scale projects varying from exhibitions, offices, amusement parks to a wide range of hospitality projects, Amit brings with him a detailed understanding of the management of the project, client and consultant coordination, and vendor evaluation. His design sensibilities, technical strength in CAD Software applications allow him to provide efficient design solutions and cohesive construction drawings for every space. His attention to detail ensures that his designs, especially the hospitality designs are entirely unique and awe inspiring. Some of his hospitality projects include the Jersey Hotel, Hotels at Banaras, and many more. Amit is also an accredited LEED AP and contributes to improving each project with sustainable green ideas.

The team at Design21 has been featured in Architecture Art Designs Europe, Surfaces Reporter, A+D, ACE Update, IFJ, Realty Plus, Architect & Interiors India, Design Sense, Smart Home World, DesignDekko, Projects Mirror, India Art n Design, etc. Design 21 has a lot of accolades to their name, some of them being -“Eldrok Award 2021: Excellence in redesigning existing Educational spaces,” “Attended Dialogues 2019: Umaid Bhawan Palace,” Elle Décor launched and covered Obeetee Flagship retail store in 2019, a luxury rug company based off Delhi.

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