Does new retail need a new prototype?
Elaine Kleinschmidt, EVP, Strategy & Experience Design, WD Partners
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.
The old prototype store model is obsolete. It is too inflexible and tone deaf to serve the needs of today’s sophisticated customer.
This one ideal-state design sized to small, medium or large leaves retailers stranded with anomaly stores, which are difficult to replicate, may contain un-scalable experiences and/or operational challenges posed by a lack of integration between storefront and digital operations.
Most importantly, the prototype design fails to accommodate the new reality of retail, ruled by personalized experiences, local flavor and nuance, new options in order fulfillment and service offerings dictated by what customers need for on-demand access to product de jour. Yet, for all those flaws, giving up the prototype is hard to do.
“We’re still talking about retail development through the lens of a traditional prototype. That is exactly our problem, and we wonder why it’s been so painful,” says one senior executive we visited recently.
When planning a new store concept and/or DTC growth strategy, some dynamic and tectonic shifts must be weighed that lie beyond the old prototype model’s reach:
- Product innovation
- Experiential retail
- Distribution logistics
- Value-added services
Retail brands need a flexible set of modules to help create a strategically designed system of integrated parts and operations — to achieve synergy and scale, with both customers and their brand in mind.
Retailers can now strategically plan new build and remodel programs by evaluating both customer and business needs with market expansion and real estate strategy as key components. Brands are free to solve problems and stay locally relevant while reining in and fine tuning the costs of providing experiential retail and value-added services. Regional and cultural nuances that the prototype-store design fails to serve can be accounted for. And stores can be reconfigured to account for both clicks & bricks — as portals to and from each other.
To the customer, retail is retail. The challenge for brands is seeing themselves from the customer’s point-of-view. Brands will succeed by investing in integrated brand experience and technology strategies that map a shopper’s experience, agnostic to place, space, and time.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are traditional prototype store models no longer scalable for the shifting dynamics of retail? How may the approach to concept, design and execution around store formats have to be rethought?