Barker and Stonehouse Retail Interior
Barker and Stonehouse Showroom Stockton Stockton, Durham, UK

Our Insights

Designing a Connected Shopping Experience

How omnichannel design enhances the customer experience post pandemic | 2021 Insight Series - Retail

With the pandemic ushering in a new dependency on online shopping, retailers need to approach designing bricks and mortar stores in a whole new way. The digital and physical experience is more integrated than ever before – and omnichannel design is no longer a trend, but necessary to connect the online and in-store experience to engage consumers.

Buying habits are evolving in essential retail, and NORR is evolving omnichannel design with our clients to connect the online model of BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) and direct delivery on balance with the in-store experience of efficient store layouts that consider traffic streams, average shop time and touchless technology. As part of our 2021 Insight Series, Anthony Ricciuti, Executive Vice President of Retail, hosted a roundtable with integrated team members to discuss the advantages of omnichannel design, and where retail is headed in 2021.

Why is an omnichannel approach so well-suited for retail?

Anthony Ricciuti, Vice President

The interaction between your phone, tablet and the physical store needs to be interchangeable in today’s world for a connected shopping experience. Consumers need options based on their personal buying habits, whether their journey is online or in a store. The growth in grocery and pharmacy curbside delivery and shipping has accelerated through the pandemic. With consumers back in stores, that same level of safety, comfort and convenience needs to be a shared experience. Omnichannel design accounts for a variety of consumer needs across multiple generations.

Ricardo Avila, Principal

Omnichannel design allows the experience to remain connected and seamless so that someone can buy groceries online just as easily as walking into a store and physically holding them. By ensuring that the shopping experience is consistent across every channel, retailers can respond to evolving buying patterns in real-time regardless of extenuating circumstances.

Is there an area in retail you see growing or sustaining growth post-pandemic?

Ricardo Avila, Principal

Essential Retail is perfectly situated for an omnichannel design approach. Consumers still want to physically visit grocery stores and pharmacies to get exactly what they want, when they want it. These stores are also delivering more than ever and offering online services. Design elements like touchless technology and automated checkouts make that transition safe and seamless. We’re also seeing the growth of pharmacies as community hubs for optometry, audiology and distributing vaccines and flu shots. NORR’s COVID-19 vaccine design solutions including designing container boxes for national pharmacy clients to treat patients outside of the store in non-clinical scenarios.

What does the future look like for physical stores?

Josh Warren, Project Manager

Consumers still want a unique experience that exists offline. In Missouri, you can buy a beer and walk around the store as you shop for groceries. Not everyone is going to choose that experience, but having the option is a draw for retailers who are still dependent on foot traffic. Online shopping is comfortable, so brick and mortar stores need to be more creative to incentivize in-person shopping. The goal is to find the balance of items that incentivize not just “shoppers” but “buyers”. We can create spaces to increase foot traffic, but the focus must be more than that. To be successful we need to create spaces and programs that facilitate buyers.

Sarah Gaughan, Studio Manager

The key here is options. There seems to be a shift to a dichotomy between small, specialized stores, and large multi-service retailers. Regardless of which one you need the onus is on the retailer to give you a reason to come in. Design influences consumer’s decisions. Stores must have a clear circulation path, both in a superstore or a smaller format market store. Customers need to feel that they can run in and get a couple of items in different departments quickly or have a more leisurely experience if they choose.

Anthony Ricciuti, Vice President

The traditional point of sale counter is becoming obsolete. ACOs (automated checkouts) are now a standard but the future holds so much more including smart carts that scan your items, voice ordering, artificial intelligence and walk out technology. Retail brands are going to differentiate themselves through superior customer service by providing a connected online and in-store experience. Whether it’s a greeting when you walk in, a strong rewards program or a knowledgeable team, the customer experience needs to go above and beyond what the online shopping experience provides. People still want to physically hold something or test an item they bought online. Designing a space that connects the two worlds keeps the focus on the customer – and enables product sales and maximizes value per square foot.

Photo Credit: JoDenison