Akron Northside Marketplace

I stumbled upon a really cool new neighborhood in Akron last night. The centerpiece is the Akron Northside Marketplace. The complex is adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Northside Station. Within easy walking distance of plentiful parking are a collection of shops, bars and restaurants. Anchored in the middle is a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

I attended a local food entrepreneurs meet up at the Countryside Conservancy’s Public Market. On my way out I briefly stopped upstairs to check out the community bar and shops. Many of the shops were open late. A sense of community is created with open seating, tv screens and tables where people can meet to exchange ideas, work or just share conversation over a few beers. Most of the shops appear to be smaller local start-ups and this space gives them the perfect leg up in starting out in the real world with brick and mortar retail.

Step out on the street and you can discover a nice environment decorated with holiday twinkle lights. Adjacent to the marketplace are fine dining and a wicked cool looking speakeasy. Above everything are condos that can be purchased in case one wants to live in the heart of it all. The entire complex has some elevation too so you get great views of the valley and city.

This is the experiential retail, food and hospitality spaces we need. And it’s all very well done. I’ve already made plans to visit again when I have more time, and bring my wife and friends for a night out.

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Railroad Dining Car Interior Project

We just completed a pretty neat project for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) here in northeast Ohio. The railroad refurbished the interior of a multipurpose car and they asked us to help out with the interior design. The 80’+ long car was stripped bare on the inside by CVSR volunteers and lovingly put back together. As a multipurpose car it will primarily be used for dining, but with moveable chairs and tables, the car may be configured for various other events such as wine & painting excursions, and holiday parties.

Our design team initially proposed three material concepts: “Nature”, “Eclectic” and “Tailored”. Each was inspired by a different set of images, materials and concepts.

CVSR-Multipurpose-Car-02a

 

The Railroad selected the Eclectic theme which was focused on earthy spice tones. The foundation of the design is a wild botanical pattern carpet from Milliken. From there we built off of the carpet by selecting Sherwin Williams Resort Tan (SW 7550) for the walls and accents. This is a versatile color that can fit in a variety of situations. It’s an earthy mushroom tone that changes color depending on how the light hits it. And it allows for a broad range of complementary colors to set any mood. The monochromatic scheme inside the multipurpose car provides a warm inviting space, perfect for romantic dinner train rides.Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.29.11 AM.png

dining-car-in-progress

The painted car, ready for carpet. Note the ceiling is actually existing carpet that we didn’t replace. Up closed it is a variety of blue and red, but looks blackish brown from far away.

Simple dining chairs with a dark brown fabric and satin black powder-coat were selected for their durability and ability to hide stains, as people of all ages will be using the car for a variety of activities, not just dining. Existing tables were reused to keep the budget in check, and they can be outfitted in any number of ways depending on need and mood.

Light tan colored curtains from Carnegie help to lighten and soften the interior a bit. There was much debate on how they should attach and what their final form should be. The team went back and looked at historical photos for reference and landed on two single curtains per widow, with a gap between one curtain and then the next on subsequent windows.

image1.png

For a final touch, the Railroad sourced vintage luggage for the luggage racks. This adds a nice historic touch without a doubt, but the luggage also provides a means to hide speakers and wiring. Check out the photos below, clicking on them to zoom in.

This was our first foray into rail car design, and we learned quite a bit on this exciting project. Trains are amazing attractions, and fun for the whole family. Every car is unique and has a history all its own. We look forward to the opportunity to work on more of these cars in the future. Visit the CVSR website www.CVSR.com to view all of their upcoming excursions, and you can see the car firsthand.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC. Our boutique firm specializes in unique retail and interior experiences, both fixed and rolling along the rails. We are a small network of experts with decades of experience providing world class industrial, interior, graphic and user experience design. We’ve worked on projects for over 250+ different brands, organizations and retailers. Contact us today to discuss your design needs, we are happy and excited to work with you.

330-858-8926 or Chris@ChrisWeigandDesign.com

 

“Buying Online, Picking Up In Store” Lockers Are Latest Tool In An Ever Changing Retail World

 

I came across Parcel Pending at Globalshop this year and was impressed with the quality solution they came up with in their storage locker product designed for “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” (BOPIS). The idea is you buy something online, travel over to your local store, and pick up your item. All while avoiding as much human contact as possible (if that’s your thing).

It’s hard these days to appease our innate hunter gatherer human desire for instant gratification awoken by a world that has us hooked on easy online shopping and short shipping times. BOPIS addresses our need for getting our hands on tangible items ASAP. At least it does until drones start dropping boxes of on our porch. Taken a step further, these lockers allow consistent in and out service so you don’t even have to wait for someone to help you at the store.

To recap we have:

  • traditional drive to brick and mortar store, hunt and peck
  • buy online, free shipping, often next day
  • check store inventory online, buy online or in store, pick up in store
  • buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS)

These are the primary shopping methods today. Someday we’ll have (or may not have) drone delivery, 3-D printers in our homes, and / or no one buying stuff anymore.

And you know what else is out there, right now? Order a bunch of stuff online and someone else does the shopping for you: “Curbside Express”

What a fantastic time to be alive and living in the wonderful world of retail.

This brave new world of shopping will utilize every tool at its disposal, mix them together and continue to invent new ones. Some brands will carve a niche in just one area and others will look to leverage several tools in a bid to win the most market share. Online is a great niche for startups because the overhead is so low and reach is great. Brick and mortar is perfect if your brand has a service or needs to explain products in a tangible manner. Hybrids of both online and in-store is where most brands fall, in an attempt to capture their audiences, manage inventory and selection. Quite frankly most humans are programed to shop both ways today.

What I love about these storage lockers is they connect shoppers, in a tangible way, to the bigger issue of retail today: inventory and distribution. First they taught us to shop in a warehouse. But now with fast shipping, or these lockers, why even go to a warehouse? In a warehouse I still have to go up and down aisles and wait in line. Plus I’m usually accosted by someone asking for a membership card at the start of my visit. Suddenly every store is a warehouse / distribution center.

Take all the warehouse / distribution space in the physical store and efficiently package it, basically close it off from consumers. Consumers can buy all their commodity items online (deodorant, memory cards, baked beans, batteries, etc.) and either have them shipped to their homes or they can BOPIS them. Now use your retail real estate in one of three ways:

  1. Get rid of it, you just need lockers (or drones), right? Become a micro-distribution center for your brand, or all the brands (e.g. Amazon).
  2. Focus on experiences, customer service and product research with “store-in-store” experiences that tell your brand story.
  3. New hybrid shopping experience where all the commodity stuff is out of the way and you can focus on impulse buys, promotions, seasonal, cross merchandising or curated collections, etc. while either reducing footprint or having your building work harder for you

The possibilities are endless. I can’t imagine a world where we just buy stuff online. There will always be a need for multiple shopping methods because our needs as consumers as well as brands and products are all so different. Versatile products like these self serve lockers work to enrich our options as shoppers and give all retailers and brands a much needed tool to craft meaningful, relevant and convenient shopping experiences.


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer with over 20 years experience designing compelling, shopper focused retail experiences for over 200 different brands. 

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Wicked Cool Material Usage

I was at Best Buy the other day researching a project when I came across a couple new headphone displays that caught my eye. We’ve worked on plenty of these kinds of project, but I was really impressed with the use of unique materials. Why didn’t I think of that?

 

The Beats display used felt for the backdrop and head shaped headphone display mounts. Felt seems perfect for a headphone display since it resembles sound deadening material used in sound studios. We often talk about this material on these types of projects but never really came up with using it so nicely. The extruded look of the background is contemporary and pleasing to look at. And the use on the globe like “heads” is a fantastic, touch worthy detail.

Adjacent was a Skull Candy display with an awesome platform detail – stacked plywood and acrylic, below the headphone case display. Plywood is a great on brand material for Skull Candy, and the thoughtful way it was used in the display was well done.

These are two great brands to work on. Great products and brand stories, that give the retail designer a ton of room to do interesting, cool details and well thought out retail experiences. The use of these materials in these displays helps reinforce brand stories (sound story for Beats, authenticity and raw appeal for Skull Candy) while remaining playful and unique.

Wicked cool.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer with over twenty years experience designing retail experiences for over two hundred brands (including a few that sell headphones). Contact Chris today to have him help you tell your brand story at retail. 330.858.8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

 

3 Things I Like About LinkedIn(‘s Office)

While eating my Honeycomb® cereal and enjoying my coffee this morning I caught up on some of the trade mags I have piling up. In the June 2018 issue of Contract magazine I came across an article on the LinkedIn NYC office that M Moser designed recently. It’s a really nice looking office, with well thought out details throughout.

There is a lot of good stuff going on in this office space, if anything maybe too much, but I’m okay with everything I read and saw in the article. Here are three things that particularly tickled my design fancy:

linked in office image 1

Color square dividing wall.

Most of the renovated office is actually food service for the employees. The various food stations have different themes based on NYC parks. And apparently the Highline Park themed one has this excellent translucent color square wall divider. I love to nod to the skyline that surrounds the park, and the colors were selected deftly; greens at the bottom with blue skies and purple buildings and / or flora. I love the idea and it was executed well. The wall adds a perfect pop of color in a purposefully muted space.

Linked in office image 2

Extra long lamp cords, artfully arranged on the walls.

I think I’ve seen this before, but I still like it no less. In the article’s one photo they show overhead lams with purposefully long cords. The cords are arranged artfully on two walls to create modern wall art. I love the double duty of the cords acting as art which also negates the need to add another “thing” to the space in order to avoid blank walls. It’s a touch that, while may seem impractical and inefficient to some, actually kills two birds with one design stone thus being the very definition of efficiency. It also speaks to attention to detail both in design and everyday work life – a subtle reminder all can benefit from.

linked in image 3

Full size chess board on carpet tiles (presumably).

Last is the fun, life size chess board made out of (what I’m assuming are) carpet squares. Why didn’t I think of that? Only downside is it’s virtually impossible to discuss work during a chess match if you’re doing either right, I feel. That’s probably the point. Keep your mind sharp, while taking a break from helping people network.

Kudos to M Moser, LinkeIn and Contract for creating and sharing this project with the world. It’s a design feast of all the details that can make a work space delightful, engaging and appealing.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer and retail design consultant based in northeast Ohio. He may be contacted at 330-858-8926. All magazine images are borrowed from the June 2018 issue of Contract Design Magazine 

Worth A Damn In-Store Data & Interactive Is Finally Here

Last month I attended the large retail design industry trade show Global Shop in Chicago.  I don’t go every year because quite honestly, the retail industry is slow to come out with much new to look at. But it had been a few years, and it was in Chicago so I could drive out there. It was a great show this year, and I spotted a few things that have me thinking that physical retail is figuring out how to catch up to on-line’s primary advantages: interactivity and data.

The main advantage of online marketing and retailing is that you have access to data. You can see how someone found your website, where they came from, where they went, virtually every step of the shopping experience can be entered into a spreadsheet. There is a limitless supply of people who will help you mine that data and tell you how much to spend, and where to spend it to (hopefully) sell more stuff. With all this data, online marketing is a pretty easy equation. And easy equations mean less spend, more profit.

Physical retail is a bit trickier. Unless you’re actually interviewing guests, or having them fill out surveys, or you’re somehow able to connect people to receipts, it’s sort of messy and expensive to identify who’s in your stores and ultimately how to market to them. I don’t know of anyone who’s solved for this holistically. I’ve thought about it (way too much) and have few ideas primarily because 1) customer attitudes needed to change and 2) technology needed to catch up.

Just a few years ago “spying” on consumers, and asking them to pony up information was  impossible. But now in a world where our lives are on multiple, mostly public, social media sites and everyone is on the hunt for free wi-fi, consumers are more inclined to share high level data in exchange for something.

And even if we did want to find out more about guests in stores, the technology just wasn’t there for us to do so without a lot of effort, cost or intrusion. But now we have cameras, sensors, connections to mobile devices everywhere. And savvy consumers are okay with it.

Finally traditional retail can start to level the playing field with online retail.

As I walked to McCormick Place floor and thought about real multichannel retail marketing, four companies caught my eye at the show this year. Here is my take on why the work they are doing is important to tangible stores and keeping pace with online.

 

Data Display (http://www.dd-usa.com)

What it is: Using RFID technology, Data Displays (DD) displays can sense when a guest had picked up a product and can play a marketing message relevant to that product.

Why it’s important: The internet tracks everything you click on and provides information and makes recommendations based on that.  What DD is doing here is a big leap to usefully and proactively interacting with guests. No longer do I have to press a button to get info. This also gives real purpose to the video screens. They aren’t just for playing mindless advertising loops anymore. They now have a purpose and are an integral part of the sales process in store.

How to get it right: Make sure you have good, concise, engaging content on the video screen. Have a good maintenance and content strategy. NO BLANK SCREENS! Embellish the experience with subtle lighting cues and traditional graphics.

What’s next: I’d like to see technology that can track line of sight so we can capture guests who aren’t even picking products up, rather just window shopping, and share product information with them. Would be nice to gather demographic information as well as number of touches by product.

Parcel Pending (https://www.parcelpending.com)

What it is: Turn-key solution for “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) situations where customers can pick up products or parcels at their leisure, even after hours. Units are modular including refrigerated units. They are controlled by an interactive kiosk. Door pop open automatically after you enter in your data.

Why it’s important: This was the most exciting thing I saw, because I feel like the possibilities are endless. Grocery stores could use these to aid new online shopping experiences. The units are great for apartment buildings, adding more space and technology that can adapt – no longer one box per person, rather can be tailored to parcel size, on an “as needed” basis. These modular units can be part of the foundation for whole new retail experiences. They ultimately can free up store shelves, reduce real estate footprints, and really revolutionize retail as we know it. They are fully integrated to our online shopping habits already and can fulfill our need for instant gratification. And they can be treasure troves of data.

How to get it right: Work on your supply chain and challenge conventional thinking. Leverage their modularity and scalability to suite your business and geography. Leverage data collection to learn the demographics of who is using them and how. Vinyl wraps can let them stand out or fade into the background.

What’s next: I’d love to get my hands on these modules and build out a pop-up store solution, or solution for independent retailers to bring them into the 21st century. Refrigerated units combined with grocery store online ordering could revolution how we buy groceries. In general the store of the future will forego store shelves, have banks of these units and supplement them with impulse shopping opportunities or product and brand experiences. These could take convenience shopping to the next level and be bad news for traditional (and online) retail. A real game changer in the right hands.

 

 

Gable (https://gablecompany.com)

What it is: Digital signage, interactive media and architectural graphic elements.

Why it’s important: I was impressed by Gable’s fit and finish on their mall kiosk. The detailing was done well, and in retail, details do matter. Digital signage technology has grown by leaps and bounds, and there are a lot of players in this space. Digital signage and interactive is a great way to communicate a lot of information efficiently in real time.

How to get it right: Track how people are using your kiosks: where are they going, when are they using the unit, what are they interested in. Large format digital signage is ,very effective in any retail environment, at capturing short attention spans. You likely need to include something digital in your environment, make sure you have great content, it’s relevant and useful. Invest in creative and user experience, not just the technology. Make sure your form factors are on brand, and pay attention to details and quality.

What’s next: There is a lot of opportunity for style to factor into the design of digital displays. Modular LED panels allow limitless sizes to be created. Corners, columns, ceilings, floors…you can seemingly cover anything with digital signage. Interactive has the potential to give us the future we’ve always imagined. And the opposite of that is, can the tech recede into the background and we focus on content and stunning photography, and content generation.

Stratecache (https://www.stratacache.com/solutions/digital-signage/)

What it is: What is seemingly just digital signage is also content management, real time data management and content delivery. Stratecache’s digital signage can recognize guest demographics (e.g. male or female) and tailor marketing content deliver specific to the guest. Can connect with guests’ mobile devices. Their system can seamlessly network your brand content across all doors and update in real time.

Why it’s important: This is as close as you can get to an online experience at retail in terms of pushing out brand content, and taking in high level, actionable consumer data.

How to get it right: Assure consumers that their privacy is being maintained, while gathering insight into who is coming to your store. And while not specific to any one supplier or retailer, the idea of an op-in for wi-fi is a great way to have consumers voluntarily connect with you. From there you can start connecting the dots between consumer and behavior. Leverage tracking cameras to understand who is in your store and what are they looking at. Have relevant and accurate content ready to go so that once you recognize who’s in your store you’re pushing the right message at the right time in  the right place. Pretty simple, right?

What’s next: Yes, it’s like a sci-fi movie, but this is the world we live in. And there’s no reason physical retail shouldn’t be privy to the same data digital marketing has, within the bounds of consumer comfort. I’d like to see all of this technology coupled with register and online sales data. Some very smart people can then take all of this data and create a “world” of information that will give brands a realistic image of what retail looks like. And consumers will be delighted by tailored experiences. Less about stuff and more about ease. That’s when the fun starts.

 

In closing I’ll say a few things. First, I think physical retail is always going to be relevant. People simply like touching stuff. I don’t see how that ever goes away. Tech tools are coming into their own to help level the playing field of tangible experiences versus online experiences. And lastly, I think we are on the cusp of some massive changes in retail – the store of the future is going to look a lot different and I’m super excited to help shape it if I can.

What are your thoughts on the future of physical retail? What about these tech solutions I highlighted? Any others out there you like? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Cheers!

-Chris

 


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer and retail design consultant based in sunny (today at least) Ohio. No, he didn’t get paid, nor does he endorse these companies necessarily, rather they’re just good examples in his opinion based on what he was seeing at one trade show. The reality is being in retail is pretty freaking exciting and interesting. If you’d like to explore the future of retail for your business with Chris, give him a call at (330) 858-8926 (cell) today. Or you prefer he can be reached via email at chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Brand New Beginnings

We are assuming spring will show up someday here in Ohio. And with spring comes spring cleaning. And while we clean up the home office, and get rid of the random stuff laying around taking up space, we also start thinking about the rest of this year and the future. Fresh starts, new beginnings.

We’re going to make a push this year to work directly with more brands. Any time we can focus on brand, and solving marketing challenges by directly partnering with them, it’s going to be more effective, creative and engaging.

We have over two decades of working with brands, from large ones with fancy websites and in thousands of doors to small ones that barely have two dimes to rub together. It’s about making connections. It’s about writing your brand story and communicating that to the world in tangible, meaningful ways.

That’s what we do for you.

You are people, your customers are people. We connect people.

My touchy feely take may not be enough to prompt you to pick up the phone, so here are some service details. We like to truly partner with your brand so that we can understand how you operate, what your goals are (or help you craft those goals), and understand your brand and customers. Then we work with you to create meaningful connections, wherever the world interacts (or should interact) with your brand.

So, there’s nothing proprietary about creatively solving problems, or seizing opportunities if you’re hard core “glass is half full” kinda person. Thinking about this I’m going to frame up what we do in this list below. But every brand and situation is unique; this is the toolbox we have at our disposal, and kinda the order we work in:

  • relationship building – understanding your business, brand, challenges
  • research – trends, marketplace, materials, society, shopper mindset, culture
  • strategy – goals, ideation, role-play, finances, sourcing, foundation building
  • framing – articulating challenges, inspiration, reference,
  • concept – play, mock-up, long walks on the beach
  • design – visualization, human factors, ergonomics, user experience, wrestling
  • making – sourcing, pricing, specifications, engineering, programming
  • execution – construction, events, going live, maintenance
  • relationship building – identifying and understanding new opportunities

Straight up, these are the skills we bring:

  • strategy – design, marketing, in-store, online
  • graphic design – packaging, signage, web, environment
  • industrial design – retail, product, human factors, ergonomics, packaging
  • interior design – space planning, retail, some commercial and hospitality
  • UX (user experience) – web, interactive, retail
  • digital – web, SEO, digital marketing strategy, social media
  • interactive – kiosk design, event planning, in-store digital strategy
  • editorial – copywriting, social media, editing
  • support – creative capacity, sales support, sourcing

Services are services, and process is process. We try to keep it simple. We want this to be fun. We’d love it if we can meet with your brand team to find out how we’d approach connecting your brand to the world and see if we’d be a great fit. You can call me at (330) 858-8926 and let’s discuss. Thanks.

Now if we could just get spring to show up…

-Chris

visit us at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com.