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Who are you? Branding for Retail Design Success

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

I read an irritating blog the other day which suggested that retail designers should  stop designing purely functional ‘transactional spaces’ and move towards more exciting physical ‘brand spaces’.

Whilst I accept that there will always be room for improvement with some retail design, I thought I should put the record straight for all those hardworking retail designers out there!

The basis that all good retail designers start from is the brand! Whether we are working with a global retailer or a small independent, a fundamental appreciation of the brand is absolutely critical in our briefing process.

Strategic retail design that starts with a really solid understanding and interrogation of the brand, results in a far more immersive brand space for the consumer and a more commercially successful result for the retailer.

That’s because retail designers are in the business of telling brand stories. If we don’t identify the key elements of a retail brand right at the start of our creative process, how will we ever design unique and immersive shopping experiences for the customer?

But finding the authentic heart of the brand is not always easy and many retail brands struggle with this. It’s hard work and there are no short cuts. You just need to dedicate serious thinking time to the process.

So if you are about to invest in a new retail store, make sure you are clear about what lies at the heart of your own retail brand before you begin. As a starting point we’d recommend exploring these three key questions before briefing your retail designers:

What is your brand’s core purpose?

This can be a tough one to pin down. Basically it is a statement about your main pursuit. It’s the one thing about your brand that will never change. For instance, Google wants “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

What do your customers really think about your brand (and your stores) – what do they like/what don’t they like?

You’d be surprised how many major retailers never properly talk to their customers. Or indeed how many never ask for staff feedback about their customer engagement. Research has shown that successful retailers are the ones that truly understand what their customers want and how to deliver it. They don’t hide behind data research; they set up structures to regularly gather rich customer insights. So ask yourself – are we listening closely enough to our customers?

Who are you competing with and what makes you different?

You need to be absolutely clear about who your competitors are and the reasons why you are different. This is a question to ask not only internally of staff but also externally, of your customers – you may even be surprised by the answers! Whatever you discover, once you understand the point of difference that separates you from the competitive ‘pack’, your retail designers will be to explore creative ways to express this difference throughout the store journey.

Of course, a good retail design consultancy can help you to answer these questions, along with the many other strategic and tactical considerations involved with designing a commercially effective new store space. If you employ an experienced retail design team you should expect it to be a collaborative and thought-provoking process; one that is customer and brand focussed as well as commercially successful.

And, I can assure you (and the author of that inaccurate blog) that a ‘transactional retail space’ it not something you will ever get from Innovare Design!

“I really feel that the team at Innovare Design have helped me to unlock the brand potential for DumDum Donutterie. I talked and they listened. It’s been a fantasic, fast-paced collaborative journey and it’s not over yet…” Paul Hurley, Founder, DumDum Donutterie

“Lloyd and his team have successfully captured the essence of Sipsmith and created the perfect sipping space! The feedback from visitors has been amazing.” Fairfax Hall, Co-Founder, Sipsmith London


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