Retail fixturing is not a new concept, but the way it’s being used is evolving. This tactic is traditionally a means of merchandising brick-and-mortar stores with everything from standard, pre-built fixtures (think shelving, racks and displays) to custom millwork and design pieces that help bring brands to life within a physical space. But today’s consumers want what’s commonly referred to as “experiential retail,” where they can go to a store and do more than just buy goods. They want on-brand experiences from the moment they walk through the doors.
Can retail fixturing fulfill this need? Yes, but it will require retailers to reimagine what fixturing means within their spaces.
Let’s say for example that you’ve started stocking a new line of pet food. You can easily place a bunch of the new food on store shelves, but these can get lost among the rest of the bags in the pet food aisle. Alternately, a beautiful piece of woodwork with a variety of different compartments to organize and showcase the new line in an exciting and engaging way would make a greater impact on potential buyers. It draws them in.
Pair that kind of display with an interactive component — such as a digital tablet that recommends products based on pets’ characteristics — and you could turn simple interest into conversions and, eventually, loyal customers who keep coming back to your store.
Drawing Consumers Back Into Stores
In the brick-and-mortar space, fixturing offers a unique chance to work more closely with brands and elevate the retail experience for consumers. At a time when ecommerce has become the typical way to shop for many people, fixturing is a way to turn a shopping trip into more of an event that draws people in and promises an engaging experience. This way, when consumers decide whether to buy what they need online or at your store, they’ll choose your store.
To capitalize on this opportunity, an increasing number of brands are creating their own fixture experiences to put into physical retail spaces like yours. To take things a step further, some are developing totally branded stores to provide the experiential treatment consumers seek from retail.
Apple is probably the most well-known company using branded stores. Although you can go to other retailers to purchase Apple products, visiting an Apple store is an entirely different experience. Microsoft was quick to follow Apple’s model. Tesla also opened Tesla stores in malls and shopping centers rather than traditional auto dealerships.
We’re even seeing what were previously online-only brands and retailers venturing into the brick-and-mortar space, opening up fixture experiences within other retail spaces (Shinola did this before opening its own flagship store), or actual physical locations (Amazon launched Amazon 4-star, Amazon Go, and Presented by Amazon stores).
Clearly, businesses are seeing the value of offering unique retail experiences for their customers through fixturing. This is a good thing for the industry as a whole, but it also means more competition. How can you make your store stand out from the crowd and bring in more customers?
Using Fixturing to Create Engaging Experiences
No two retailers are alike, but there are a couple of strategies you can explore to support your fixturing efforts and create memorable consumer experiences. First and foremost, it’s important to determine your objectives. Many brick-and-mortar retailers view fixturing as a way to modernize the look and feel of the experience or to create areas within the space that encourage customers to interact with certain brands or products.
Even though both approaches are sound in their own right, our company has found it much more beneficial to delve deeper into the goals and aspirations of brick-and-mortar stores in order to break out of the norm and think differently about fixturing. What are you trying to accomplish within the space? What feelings or emotions are you trying to invoke? What visual messages are you hoping to convey? More importantly, are there any focal points you want to highlight to slow down customers along their retail journeys? Think through all of your objectives to understand the kind of fixtures you need within the space, and then build solutions accordingly.
Customers often are left to guide their own retail experiences at many stores. But wouldn’t it be more beneficial — for your location and customers — to lead everyone on a journey of your choosing as soon as they walk through the doors? The power of technology can help accomplish this, giving you an opportunity to direct customers to products suited for them. Technology also provides a means for people to interact with brands or retailers and learn about their products in a hands-on way.
For example, our team is working with a client that creates home products. Traditionally, retailers would simply display all of their products, which takes up a lot of real estate. Or the client would help retailers pick the most popular items to feature and then offer brochures to read about the rest of the line.
We’ve decided to create a more compact fixture that takes up less space in stores, and marry it to an interactive kiosk. Customers can enter information about their habits and how they would use this kind of product to receive personalized recommendations from the brand.
Going this route also provides an opportunity for brands to use similar functionality on their websites or ecommerce platforms to create more seamless experiences between the physical and digital realms. Besides, consumers seek personalization from brands. Narrowing down the product selection for them with a captivating experience does just that.
Although consumers might love to buy online, that process simply can’t compete with in-store, event-like experiences that arise with the right fixturing. Retailers must consider what they hope to achieve in their spaces and then embrace technology to make shopping trips true events — ones where customers stay in stores for longer periods of time and develop brand relationships that will last for years to come.
Bob Marsh is the Chief Revenue Officer at Bluewater, a design-forward technology company that helps craft moments that connect and inspire. Specializing in retail technology, displays and fixtures, as well as AV integration and event tech services, Bluewater works with top brands like Walmart, Ford and Rocket Mortgage.