Currently Reading

Iteration vs disruption: Designing for a great customer experience

Retail Centers

Iteration vs disruption: Designing for a great customer experience


By Ryan Cavanaugh | Gensler | September 17, 2018
Comcast Studio Xfinity

For Comcast Studio Xfinity's new flagship in Washington, D.C., Gensler created an engaging experiential brand program that informed the store's interior design and created a warm, social, and inviting environment. Image © Chris Leonard.

What does innovation even mean anymore? For the past decade, at least, innovation has been a catch-all for that ‘special sauce’ that gets companies to act first on the newest technologies or the newest market opportunities. When most retailers are talking about innovation, they are typically just talking about iteration. For retailers, iteration translates to arming employees with iPads, relocating the cash wrap, updating spaces with new paint—in other words, refreshing an experience that from the consumer’s perspective is essentially the same. This is a reactive response for how to solve for today, not a proactive solution for how to solve for the future. To be truly innovative, retailers should be talking about disruption, not iteration.

One way to solve for the future is to disrupt the expected. In today’s experience-based economy, creating a good experience is not enough; the best places, ones that engage people’s emotions and keep them coming back, have to be great. When the goal is to stand out from the crowd, the power of the physical place to create this great experience cannot be denied. Take Comcast’s Studio Xfinity store, an experiential retail concept in Washington, DC. Customers who might enter the store searching for a new modem can grab a latte at the La Colombe coffee bar, test products, or attend lectures or film nights in the store’s “product-free” zone. The Xfinity flagships are designed to serve as community hubs—upending some consumers’ perceptions of a typical cable company and repositioning the entertainment provider as a lifestyle brand. Now that’s disruption.

 

Curating a customized experience

For today’s consumers, online and in-store experiences represent the same brand but as different touch points. The purpose of the physical stores has shifted from transaction to engagement and connection. Simply put, stores offer opportunities to create emotional engagement and connect customers with their brand in a way that shopping online simply cannot.

 

According to the Gensler Experience Index: Retail, the nature in which a product is displayed has a significant impact on the quality and value a person will attribute to that product.

 

Technology has the potential to form a strong impression—customers expect the physical store to employ and embed the latest technology and presume that in-store content will be managed at the pace of change they see in the world. Technology for its own sake can miss the mark, particularly if the content goes stale or doesn't help people get their tasks done. If it is not functioning correctly, technology can be a very expensive mistake. Nothing looks worse to a customer than large blank screens!

 

According to the Gensler Experience Index: Retail, consumers expect in-store technology to be fresh—and their experience suffers if they think it’s stale.
 

While nothing can replace the authenticity of an analog experience, the benefits of utilizing technology to curate a customized experience go hand in hand. By being purposeful, technology has the potential to help enable an experience based on the need. Look no further than Cadillac House. This bricks-and-mortar facility is the realization of a shifting marketing strategy for the brand: open, dynamic, and contemporary with highly integrated technology, where visitors can fully experience the Cadillac portfolio. This type of experience is disrupting automotive retail, and technology is a key component to the overall experience. A successful in-store experience does not necessarily need to blend both analog and digital technology. Cool tech isn't the only way to engage with customers. It’s about finding ways to be more present in their daily routines and giving people a specific reason to come and visit.

 

For the Cadillac House NYC Experience Center, Gensler built on the existing architecture, cladding columns in technology to create a digital canvas that activates the space day and night. The runway and media strategy can also support fashion events, brand collaborations, movie premiers. and other partnerships. Image © Eric Laignel.

 
Differentiating your brand from the masses is key. Retailers can use the Gensler Experience Index: Retail, which identifies the key drivers of a great experience, quantifies the direct impact great design has on experience, and provides a holistic framework for understanding experience. The goal: to inspire the creation of great places that engage people's emotions and keep them coming back. By following this formula, disruption is inevitable. As a new generation of consumers shifts spending and attention toward experience-based consumption, the need to deliver a differentiated experience has never been stronger. The human experience must be the driving force behind every element of a space—from the design of physical space to the qualities of interaction, expectation, and intention. Be the pioneer. Be disruptive!

More from Author

Gensler | Sep 4, 2020

The office building of the future should be an essential part of its community

When the dust settles, the office is going to look and feel like a different place than the one we left in March.

Gensler | May 12, 2020

Understanding the touchless workplace

In the workplace, digital solutions and platforms have eliminated some of the noise by improving guest check-in, conference room booking, company communications, wayfinding, food and beverage service, and more.

Gensler | Mar 27, 2020

Designing healthcare for surge capacity

We believe that part of the longer-term answer lies not just with traditional health providers, but in the potential of our cities and communities to adapt and change.

Gensler | Mar 18, 2020

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift for higher education

The question for higher education is, what will the university of the future look like?

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

Designing office building lobbies to respond to the coronavirus

Touch-free design solutions and air purifiers can enhance workplace wellness.

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

In the face of the coronavirus, workplace wellness is key

Here are a few considerations employers should keep in mind in creating plans for a healthy and effective work environment.

Gensler | Feb 11, 2020

Want your organization to be more creative? Embrace these 4 workplace strategies

Creativity is the secret sauce in the success of every business.

Gensler | Oct 17, 2019

Doubling down on our commitment to resilience

With hundreds of millions of square feet of buildings and interior design projects in the pipeline annually, we believe our impact and role in reducing energy demand is critical.

Gensler | Jul 15, 2019

Hospitals are moving into their communities

Below are five strategies to improve access and patient experience.

Gensler | May 20, 2019

How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments

Connected devices and their wealth of data have led to significant improvements in operational efficiency and passenger experience in airports.

More In Category



How open is too open for you office?

Our data reveal what is truly going on in the current workplace, with insights on how workplace design can deliver new value to organizations.



Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: