3 July 2020 Commercial Architecture and its dynamics in the New Normal
by Rogério Gaspar
Some time ago, “gurus on duty” in the retail area, exercising possible scenarios regarding the acceleration of the e-commerce, have dared to decree the death of the brick-and-mortar store. Recently they had to do the “mea maxima culpa” in view of the conversion of digital stores into brick-and-mortar stores around the world. It will certainly not be the apocalypse.
When we go back in time and analyze the movement of economic activities related to physical space, we realize that the meeting of flows of individuals gave rise to the market as a place of exchange, whose important role was not only economic activity, but mainly social life, according to Heliana C. Vargas.
Even with the behavioral changes assumed in the labeled generations, consumption was never contextualized by the activity of buying, but by the social dynamism, because without the encounter, there is no exchange. Our primitive brain yearns to see, touch, feel, hear, experiment, hence the need for a broader vision in transforming commercial spaces of points of sale or points of purchase into experiencing areas.
Technology has become a powerful tool in modernizing retail. The internet has changed the life of retail, perhaps one of the most impactful changes in recent decades. Thousands of products available for purchase just a click away. A shopping journey that values simplicity and minimum time spent, but cold without personality. With the acceleration of technology, the speed of information has been exponentialized, true tsunamis of information in the midst of the digital western. Stores around the globe have become true digital playgrounds, and the massive load has generated moments of micro boredom in the consumer and the perception of the more High Tech we are, the greater the need for us to be High Touch.
As studies of consumption anthropology detect the urgent need for the humanization of commercial spaces and the rescue of values abandoned in the past, the world is suddenly slowing down in a real war against the pandemic, which paralyzes the world economy with retail doors closed as if in days of mourning.
After cycles of going up and down like a roller coaster, exactly at the height of its reinvention, retailers are caught in the moment and now have the obligation to reinvent themselves. How to be high touch, if social withdrawal makes habits that “touching” is dangerous or “sinful”. A new scenario opens up after the pandemic, the world will not be the same, will it?
In this moment of disruption, we have to reassess the strategies, establish a connection with the stakeholders, strengthen the values of the brands. As the world strives to find the vaccine, retailers and retail designers are taking pills of wisdom in search of knowledge for questions that remain silent. How is corporate culture being impacted by the “new normal”? What will the post-covid scenarios be like? How to meet the expectations of brands, consumers, and employees? How to prepare the new environment?
Much has been discussed and the trivial we already know. Initially the journey of the client should be safe and not involve physical contact. We must redesign the flows, layouts, seek simplicity in the route, create new trails, not make the consumer walk throughout the store, he will relearn how to circulate. Review the store planogram, quick checkout to avoid crowding or even the elimination of cashiers and other friction, change the form of payment. Differentiated Visual Merchandising is now more valued. Asepsis has to be agile and perceived by the user. The brand will have to wipe away the excesses, cherish simplicity, the new customer begs for simplicity. The brand will be forced to exhibit the purpose, show its essence, its identity, understand the customer’s needs and bring comfort to him or her, express concern for quality of life, a look towards the base of the pyramid.
Implement new technologies to meet the new behavior, showcases with QR-Code, online sales, lockers for product withdrawals, integrate digital with physical to generate more possibilities of contact with the customer and promote long tail action, revision of the poster for direct communication with the consumer and contain subliminal messages, inform mix at the physical point. Discussing customer service was in the past, the store floor salesperson no longer sells, he has to be a facilitator of the consumer experience because retail is evolving towards self-service and assisted self-service, hence the importance of the environmental graphic.
We must trigger a new positive cycle. Transform stores from “sampling products” to stores of “community experiences”, spaces that are not just for selling, as we already buy online in various ways, the store as a place of well-being, socializing, retail with a welcoming profile. Consider the brand archetype as one of its main assets. What lifestyle will we serve, what is its persona, its tribe?
Brands must create strong ties with the customer and apply storytelling, it is a great way to make connections, to educate, to have fun and to get involved, it helps to create memories. Stories appeal to the consumers’ emotions; they touch their hearts and minds and humanize the brand. Make your customers part of your story. We are social animals, we want to participate. People want to belong to something, let them belong to your brand, let them participate with you.
We have to understand the consumer’s needs and reduce their doubts. Retail Designers must interpret the client’s demands more sharply. Use information from specialized agencies, as we do not know what their attitudes will be like, if consumers will spend more on fashion, but we know that they will have a need for consumption.
Consumption will be reframed. People will think about having fewer products, but of better quality and fashion can lose more than other sectors. We will have a greater focus on sustainability, a new wave of recycling, new habits of reusing things. The stores will have their products more exposed, they will be another showroom. We don’t want to touch, we want to buy and have it delivered to our home. People want to live the experience in the store.
Contrary to what was preached, the brick-and-mortar store has a life, motivated by hedonic consumption characterized as an exercise of pleasure and recreational motivations that have the purpose of fun added to consumption where technology has played an important role. The game of chess is motivated by mandatory purchases, the so-called survival purchases. About 80% of what we buy in a month is almost always the same and that can tendentiously migrate to online shopping, and for the other 20% of purchases, we have to go to the store. The focus should be on the magic of transforming these spaces, which must be areas of experience, awakening mental triggers so that this place of consumption is a sensory experience of the brand, without friction, without borders, without limit, it has to be fluid.
Shops are no longer just places for shopping. It is not about selling anymore, it is about socializing, stores are Social Hubs, so let us design social hubs, value new products and technologies, design sensory playgrounds, promote social retail, the so-called “third places”, places that we entertain and socialize with, which propose the brand experience based on empathy.
The architecture and design professional has an even more important role, since it is their responsibility to humanize spaces in all sectors of society. Certainly the professional with knowledge of neuroscience applied to architecture, called “neuroarchitecture”, of an inter and multi-disciplinary character, has an improved look as an important contribution tool for the elaboration of commercial spaces and environments that promote a positive user experience, anchored in architecture and in design as factors of behavioral stimuli to create positive affective memories.
As a consumer behavior researcher, I have been working on the Neuroconsumer Method which uses the knowledge articulated in the tripod NEUROARCHITECTURE | NEUROMARKETING | EXPERIENTIAL DESIGN, as a tool to improve the retail experience, which has been developed based on my 32-year experience in Retail Design, a way to contribute to the passionate area of Commercial Architecture.
The old retail does not exist anymore, to meet the new demands that approach commercial architecture, we have to press the “Restart Retail” key. Are you prepared?
Restart Retail: Commercial Architecture and its dynamics in the New Normal, the title of this column, is the eponymous book of my authorship which will be released soon. It has the honorable participation of the Architect and Specialist in Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Lorí Crízel, creator of the NeuroArch seal, as well as my dear teaching peers from IPOG. It also brings the contribution of renowned architects of Commercial Architecture and experts from the national scene in lighting, sustainability, franchises, energy efficiency, retail 4.0 and other specialties.