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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“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

 

I <3 Pet Store Signage

An impromptu stop at my local Pet Supply Plus reminded me of how much I love simple graphics. And pet stores, with their categorization by pet type is a no-brainer for fun icon driven way finding graphics. Other chains such as Petsmart and PetCo are just as adept at this. It makes shopping for pet supplies, and pets for that matter, more fun in my opinion.

In PSP they use simple one color (plus white) graphics with pet icons and simple copy such as “CAT”. In a world with overwrought design direction it’s refreshing to see something so simple make it to retail, creating a pool of calm in what would otherwise be a visually clamorous environment.

Breathe.

Ahh…

The store also had a cool community themed endcap, which presumably is customized based on each store location. DO THIS IN YOUR STORE!!! Our research shows that people want a better sense of community in their lives. This endcap is just an example. Do what is right for your store and your community…a coffee desk, amp’d up bulletin board, in-line display…inside…outside…but do something to break away from the big-box photocopy mode.

Lastly I’ll pick on all retailers for a minute. There was a neat Kurgo display that obviously someone spent a lot of great effort and money on, only to be marred by a bunch of repetitive paper call outs on the scanner plates. I don’t know what the answer is but please why do we have to do this. Maybe an extruded price strip across all the hooks and alternate between price and a “new” callout. Maybe don’t use white on the callouts, maybe black or chocolate to match in store, or blue or orange to match the brand. This is 100% just me though and my need for organization and simplicity. So don’t get too worked up over it.

The Kurgo display was pretty rad though with its subtle topographical easter egg on its shroud that keen eyes will delight in discovering. I’d love to find out how they did that (both made it and got it past the bean counters).

I love chain pet stores as a source of inspiration, especially for graphic design and way finding. Think about including them in your pool of resources for inspiration on your next brand or retail project.

And you can always pick up some food for your furry friend while you’re at it.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is a retail experience expert, lover of simple design solutions, and a cat person. His views are his own and he receives no compensation for give products, brands and retailers a shout out. Where he and his firm do get compensation is from bring awesome retail solutions to you. Contact Chris today to discuss your needs – store interior, store within a store, pop up, displays, fixtures….he and his team can help your brand create delightfully awesome retail experiences. 330-858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Organic Seed Display

This week I spied this wonderful organic seed display at Lowe’s, and wanted to share it with you.

The display is clean and simple, with a nice higher end feel for a temporary display. It looks well constructed. It even spins. I like the repetition of four panels to create the display, which keeps costs down. It was around six feet tall, and easy to shop.

The header graphics take up an appropriate amount of space, showcasing the brand, and “100% Organic” message.

The seed packets are well designed with a high-end glossy finish. Bright color graphics of plants and vegetables allow guests to quickly navigate the display visually. A great example of letting the packaging do its job instead of relying on fussy, and expensive supplementary wayfinding signage. The packaging also was unique for it’s “zip-loc” like closure. Sometimes you want to save seeds for future use. The closure is a brilliant addition to seed packets, which are usually paper and once they are open they’re exposed to the elements, or could get lost.

Note, in regards to organic seeds, it’s important that consumers purchase seeds that are free of neonicotinoids, a form of insecticides found in many commercially grown plants and seeds. The chemical is placed in the seeds and is subsequently in the plants that grow from the seeds. Neonicotinoids have been found to disrupt pollinators ability to navigate and ultimately survive. When buying seeds for your garden, we encourage you to purchase responsibly sourced seeds that are organic, free of harmful chemicals and are GMO free (i.e. non-genetically modified).

-Chris

Chris Weigand Design, LLC does not endorse Lowe’s or the makers of these organic seeds, or their display. But we do support any effort to create a healthy and sustainable environment for ourselves, our children and future generations.

Customer Service Is More Important Than Anything

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

 

A recent customer service experience reinforced in my mind, how important customer service is to your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, product maker, service provider – understand your customers and how to take care of them. That should be the number one rule for your business.

A Bad Buying Experience

In my example I was simply a customer looking to use a dealer parts coupon to get $80 off of a $1,000 set of run flat tires. Not a big deal, and I had cleared it with a service representative when I made the appointment. Turns out they wouldn’t honor our agreement when I went to drop my car off. They explained the price was already discounted (it wasn’t, I had checked pricing and got several other quotes which were in line with the dealer’s price quote) and I was getting a good deal (I wasn’t – install was $25 / tire and they were going to make me get an alignment).

So despite the fact my family woke up early and drove across town to help me drop the car off, I walked out, taking my business, and future business elsewhere.

Now whether you think I over reacted or not (I didn’t), it was so refreshing as a consumer to feel empowered. I don’t have enough time, money or desire to play games as a consumer. I had another tire dealer on the phone before I was out of the parking lot and they took care of me. The dealer lost a long time customer (we’ve bought three cars there) over an $80 discount.

Focus On Customer Service

Successful businesses build mutually beneficial relationships that encourage people to part with their money, goods or services in exchange for money, goods, or services. To me this is what customer service is: building, managing and maintaining those relationships.

Business is not just “business” if you want to be in business for long.

There are so many options for spending one’s time and money in this omni-channel world. Customer service is the most important aspect of business. Guests are more informed and have less perceived time more now than ever. Yes, they will linger or buy on a whim, but more often they do their homework and have the value of something in mind before they buy. They know what they want, how much they are willing to pay, and can likely rattle off a handful of places where they can get it besides you or your business.

The economy in this country is humming along at a steady pace. So there are people out there spending money, and they are empowered more so now than ever. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Customers should reward businesses that do a good job. But you can’t control that. What you can control is how your business operates and approaches customer service.

We work in the retail design business. The displays, fixtures and interiors we design enhance the experience of shopping for your guests and potential customers. I see our work as a subset of, or secondary to, customer service. We can design things that make guests go “wow”, making it easy and enjoyable to buy things from you.

But nothing we can design will compensate for bad customer service.

If you want them to come to you to buy what you are selling, then you need to make customer service the priority in your business. It’s where the rubber meets the road (pun intended).

-Chris

Chris Weigand is the president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a retail design agency that services customers by providing world class retail research, display, fixture, space planning, and interior design services. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call them at (330) 858-8926 to learn more.

Retailing: Putting the “Experience” in Retail Experience

I’m not afraid to admit it: I love shopping. I like parking, walking into a store, exploring and maybe even going home with a goodie or two. Shopping doesn’t even have to do with buying more stuff. Day dreaming in a store with an awesome retail experience can be fulfilling enough.

Anyway, so when the opportunity came to travel two hours south to Columbus for business, I made sure to schedule a stop at Cabela’s on the way home. Not only do they have awesome outdoor products, their retail experience is generally second to none.

Retail experience

The Columbus store is a relatively small one compared to others in this midwest based retail chain. Even smaller stores though benefit from their unique retail experience. They have real “store within a store” destinations including a den-like gun-room and bargain basement. I always enjoy taking a look at the large aquarium with native fish species represented inside, supplemented with informative signage. Behind the tank is a large “mountain” with stuffed animals (think taxidermy, not the things in your kid’s bedroom).

Hello beaver and mountain lion.

Exploring products

As with most stores I like to walk the outside “racetrack” then delve into each department. But first I made stop for lunch at the in-store cafe. I did not partake in the extensive offering of fudge, but I was delighted to sit and enjoy a smoked bison sandwich. It was really good, along with a side of potato salad. Sadly the potato salad was not made on-site.

Hunger satiated, I grabbed a shopping cart with the intent of picking up impromptu presents for the family. It was easy to find a variety of token needful things to take home: a compass, lip balm, a little bird whistle, even some jerky to snack on for the ride home. The selection was expansive and easy to navigate. For myself I scored an awesome rain coat on clearance. Each department has overhead signage, taking advantage of long sight-lines.

There are also a lot of associates who are willing to help out confused shoppers (i.e. me). As an aside, don’t forget that human beings are part of your shopping experience for guests. Make sure they understand your mission, are approachable and helpful. I had several dumb questions that were handled by store personnel with aplomb.

Omni-channel done effectively

Their catalog offers more products than you could ever put in a store of this size, so Cabela’s does a nice job of mating on-line with in-store shopping experiences. There are a half-dozen interactive kiosks peppered throughout the store. I took one for a test drive and found the familiar website experience supplemented with in-store specific options such as checking inventory, or even printing a ticket to help locate items in-store. Want something that isn’t available in store? Order it on the kiosk and get free shipping. I wonder if my item could beat me home if I was shopping further from home. Hmmm.

Cabela’s started out as a catalog merchant. As they moved into brick and mortar, retail experience has always been a foremost focus, and they’ve executed well in that light. Now as on-line and in-store start to meld it appears they’re able to leverage both areas of their expertise. As a retail designer it’s well worth a stop out to one of their stores to get inspired and get some ideas of how you can up the experience at retail. You may even go home with some jerky which isn’t a bad thing.

Check out the gallery below to see what we’re talking about.

Do you love shopping?

What are your favorite retail experiences?

Share in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a boutique retail design agency. He’s been creating experiences at retail for nearly 20 years. He’s been shopping for a lot longer than that. Visit their website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or to contact Chris. We welcome the chance to share our love of retail with you, and help create wonderful experiences for your guests. We don’t work for or endorse Cabela’s, we just like shopping there and other great retail stores. Buy your jerky wherever you’d like.