David Blecken
Sep 9, 2015

Modern retail design must offer signature experiences: Fitch

SPIKES ASIA - A forum from retail and branding consultancy Fitch looked at the skills needed for modern retail design and suggested that it has become a lot like directing a film, with teams involving a large number of external collaborators to create “moments” and experiences unique to the brand.

Fitch's Darren Watson and Jessalyn Chen
Fitch's Darren Watson and Jessalyn Chen

Asia-Pacific ECD Darren Watson predicted the world of retail would “change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50 years”. Citing research from McKinsey, he listed the factors driving change as urbanisation, technological connectivity (1 trillion objects will be connected by 2025), aging populations and greater global connections.

This state of affairs naturally causes pain for consultancies like Fitch, he said, but also makes their work considerably more interesting.

He summarised the modern retail design environment as follows:

  • It’s not multichannel but omnichannel. That doesn’t mean cross-channel design done well, it means forgetting about channels altogether and thinking of a seamless shopping experience. That experience also has to be distinct, or bear the brand’s 'signature'.
  • It has to connect people to the brand through that experience. “We need to think of brands as dialogue, relationship and experience,” Watson said. “Dialogue is not about broadcasting a story to consumers to drive awareness, [and] stores are not just places for people to pick up products—they have to be made more meaningful through experience.”
  • Cultural insights make a huge difference. B&Q initially “failed miserably” in China because it set itself up in the same way as in the UK, oriented around straightforward DIY. What people actually wanted was a coaching model to design their home. Technology that enabled them to visualise the outcome of their choices subsequently led to a 95 per cent conversion rate, he said.
  • “User profiles” have to be far more detailed than before. Brands need to consider all aspects of their consumers’ lives to give them the retail experience they are looking for. “It’s CSI meets Dreamworks,” Watson said.
  • It’s not possible for a consultancy to do everything in-house anymore. A day in the life of Fitch, he said, “is like creating a film. Film directors create a moment with a winning team. We used to be insular; now we depend on a large group of collaborators that we can’t do without … It’s very much about joint ownership and joint credit.”

Campaign’s view: The forum was an energetic look at how complicated it has become to actually sell things. While things are definitely not straightforward for brands or consultancies, technology means there is ultimately much more scope to satisfy shoppers than there has ever been. Fitch drew on its own experience but avoided a hard sell, which we appreciated. The presentation did contain a few too many acronyms for our taste, which we have omitted here for readability.


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