With 1.67 billion active users across the APAC region, social media is having a transformative effect on businesses and consumers across industries. Brick-and-mortar retail has been at the front line of this change, with social media redefining the shopper lifecycle from product discovery to customer loyalty. In this article we’re going to take a closer look at how this change has manifested, and how retailers can reinvent their retail space design to take full advantage of social as channels and behavior evolve.
Engaging the Instagram Generation
One of the most fundamental ways that social media has transformed the retail landscape has been the rise of the influencers. Classed as social media users with more than 10,000 followers, influencers have become highly sought after “advocates-for-hire” by brands looking to drive product awareness. So important has their role become that one Australian PR agency has recently developed a talent management arm specifically for online-only influencers, a trend that will doubtless spread as brands look to better harness influencers.
While influencers can be found on every social platform going, it has been on Instagram where they have perhaps had the greatest impact. With an emphasis on imagery over text, along with Instagram’s new “swipe up” instant purchase links specifically designed for influencers and brands, the platform has rapidly evolved to cater to a retail-centric audience.
Savvy retailers have jumped on this visual-first trend from a retail space design perspective by creating memorable displays and features to attract photos and shares.
Examples of this approach stretch from F&B to FMCG to major retailers, and are being experimented with around the world.
@chinchinmelb Not avail tonight right?
— James Galea (@jamesgalea) June 7, 2014
As with everything in retail, timing is everything. Spending on influencer marketing around and after payday has been seen as an effective way to capture disposable income and encourage impulse buys. As Instagram continues to make it easier to convert browsers into buyers, this trend will only increase.
Virality as a Sales Strategy
The value of social media is not limited to any one size or type of retailer. While we’ve seen startup retailers gain remarkable traction through virality, so too have large incumbents looking to engage a younger generation. Indeed, for many retailers using social is becoming less of a siloed channel and more of an integrated part of the overall business sales and marketing strategy. Offering a more cost-effective way to reach potential customers than traditional advertising, social has become a cornerstone of the online-to-offline (O2O) approach that is now fundamental to many retailers’ success.
A great example of an O2O, clicks-to-bricks approach is Sneakerboy, a luxury sneakers and streetwear retailer in Australia. Starting out as an online-only e-commerce business, they were able to harness the high level of engagement of their social media audience and launch physical shopfronts in both Melbourne and Sydney. By creating a consistent, product-focused social media aesthetic, Sneakerboy harness consistent virality and a clear link between content and sales.
Rethinking Retail Space Design in the Age of Social
It’s a stereotype of millennials that they cannot get through a meal without whipping out their phones to photograph their food. F&B outlets have embraced the trend in recent years with an increased focus on dish design as well as taste. The same can be said of non-F&B retailers. With visuals increasingly linked to a perception of value, retailers across the spectrum are becoming aware of the importance of creating a photogenic shopping environment.
While quality of product will always remain at the heart of shopper decision-making, retailers can transform the value that their stores deliver by thinking deeply about the store ambience they want to achieve. This is not only to drive social virality, but also to meet the increasingly high expectations of the modern shopper.
Here are three social media-ready retail space design tips to help retailers take their space to the next level:
While lighting shouldn’t be too harsh, it also shouldn’t be so soft that merchandise can’t be properly seen, or menus properly read. If cameras or phones need a flash, it is probably too dark. Ultimately, lighting should complement the space, rather than detract from it.
A unique and recognizable focal point in the design can become the hallmark of your fit out and a visual identifier to help you stand out in the sea of competition.
Accessibility, queuing, and flow are considerations. You should allow for multiple viewing points of your key focal point, as well as ensuring managing flow around the space. If customers are waiting for the “money shot”, that is the time to be presenting them with product offers.
Balancing design and experiences
Ultimately, designing the retail space is about striking a balance. An overly intricate focus on design can have a negative impact on the practical use of the space. Providing a social media influencer with quirky visuals to capture will not necessarily deliver the best experience to the full customer base. Ultimately, retailers need to find a way to blend aesthetic and function to create spaces that capture viral attention on social channels, while also delivering seamless in-store shopper experiences.