fruit and vegetable aisle inside a grocery store

Our Insights

Grocery Design in a Touchless World

How an omnichannel approach supports the food buying experience

During the pandemic, essential retail has become more important than ever. In the grocery sector, NORR is placing the design emphasis on safety, simplicity, technology and speed to enhance the customer experience and deliver unique solutions to the challenges, and competition, our clients face.

In this Insight Article, Anthony Ricciuti, Vice President of Retail and Ricardo Avila, Principal of Retail, discuss the innovation and integration required to deliver a scalable design that reflects our current climate and resiliency required for the future.

Prior to the pandemic, the grocery shopping experience was becoming increasingly immersive. How does NORR attempt to create that same feeling considering physical distancing and safety protocols in place?


Retailers and Architects have the opportunity and knowledge to connect the online and offline world, to bring together the best of the physical and digital environments in a “phygital” customer experience through collaboration and design. The customer experience is vital to the design process. NORR takes an omnichannel approach, from “click and collect” to BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) to curbside pickup or walk out technology all in an effort to make food buying an experience for every generation. The right design is critical in growing brand loyalty for our clients.

How does NORR work with clients to deliver a design that keeps customers coming back?


We understand every client’s vision and goals from the start. We assist with prototype developments and the operations side of the business, so we always know what they want and where they are going. NORR is never just building stores, but also adapting to new directions and new layouts in real time.

Those new layouts need to incorporate a growing dependency on technology. What technology does NORR consider when designing a store and what trends are starting to emerge?


Digital disruption has transformed the way consumers shop for groceries. Grocery retail design must evolve to meet consumer expectations. More than anything else, the ability to have walk-out technology is the expectation. We were already seeing the beginning of it with ACO (Automated Check Out) and now that mind-shift is taking off. As our designs continue to work around the thought process behind walk-out technology, you will see a major shift away from traditional point of sale counters. Embracing this shift is much more than a great layout. It considers the finer details of a program such as in-store, contactless and touch-free shopping to integrated pickup and staging areas. It’s all part of an omnichannel strategy that enhances the consumer experience with brands across all points of interaction.


In the new omnichannel world that Anthony mentioned, technology plays a major role in the immersive experience. Consumers want the ability to get their groceries, visit a pharmacy, have a coffee and eat a meal all in the same place, while also having the option of making buying decisions from their phones or comfort of their homes.

What is NORR’s approach to delivering a client’s vision, and how do they work together?


We use a three-pronged approach from the retailer’s perspective to deliver the best design. That includes:

  • Real Estate: Where are the best locations? What is the traffic count? What are the demographics?
  • Operations: How does a store function? How do we create and maintain consistency between stores to deliver a seamless experience?
  • Construction: How can we make this design cost-effective, smart, and increase the speed to market all while maintaining and growing brand identity?

Looking past COVID-19, what efforts are being made to ensure the stores NORR designs are not just sustainable but resilient for the future?


We work with our clients to ensure that any project requirements for smart buildings or certifications such as LEED©, DREEAM, BREEAM or Green Globes are met.

We help to educate our clients about the options available to them on structural, mechanical and electrical design and systems, as well as the types of materials used in the construction and interior design, that all play a role in long-term resiliency.

We also employ BIM (Building Information Modeling) to provide 3D models and asset information to owners and operators, helping them better understand their new infrastructure in a way not possible before. NORR utilizes BIM as a design tool, allowing our multi-discipline teams to collaborate in a much more integrated way.

NORR is leading and managing multiple grocery and essential retail projects with a client list of international, national, regional and boutique clients.