Retail Display Technology Horror Show

With a nod to Friday the 13th, let me take a moment to mention something that scares me when it comes to retail design: technology at retail, specifically video monitors.

Now before you roll your eyes and write me off as some sort of pre-historic relic, let me explain. I actually love the idea of interacting with shoppers via the latest technology. What scares me is how retailers, marketers and manufacturers arrive at, and execute, what seemingly is a simple “no-brainer”.

Here’s what happens: everyone gets together and figures out that they have to do something different for a display or their store. They see article after article that the internet is pounding the snot out of brick-and-mortar stores. They see people flocking to the latest social media site du jour. Guests are seemingly surgically attached to their smart phones.

What is a retailer, brand or marketing company to do?

At the tail end of the creative brief they throw in this line:

“include design concepts with a monitor”

Erm, okay.

That’s what scares me.

“Make the display purple like our brand, make it 72″ tall and make sure it has wheels. Oh and add a random monitor in there, ’cause that will solve a lot of problems.”

Um, nope.

This reeks of an un-thought-through (I made that up) tactical approach that is often thrown in by some random person (owner, marketing, salesman, design director, intern…).  Pro tip: throwing monitors at the problem is not part of a fundamental, comprehensive, marketing strategy.

So, before you go off the deep end, and waste a ton of money, here are my unscientific tips for putting monitors (and technology) at retail.

1) Please, Please, Please, Have A Purpose

Monitors cost a lot of money and use a lot of resources. Just because the internet uses video and bejeweled buttons, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Ask yourself why do you need a monitor? How does it fit into your marketing strategy and brand? Who will look at it? If it’s interactive, who will interact with it? Is it worth the cost and complexity?

Do not, do not, do not EVER just put a line item on the creative brief that says – “oh, show us some monitor concepts too” with nothing to back up the rationale.

Otherwise, use large format graphics and creative merchandising to get more bang for your buck.

2) It’s Like A Pet, Who’s Going To Take Care Of It?

We all see it. All the time. Brand XYZ comes out with an awesome new display made by world-renowned Design Firm ABC. It’s got lights, monitors, and $200K worth of lasers and holograms selling ice to Eskimos. Every trade publication and industry association fawns all over it. Salesmen crack the champagne and it’s rumored there’s even a Hollywood movie in the works…

Three months later guests are looking at a static image of the brand logo, waiving their arms fruitlessly in front of an 72″ vertical monitor, in an effort to “try on” clothes. Or the brand message changes and no one even bothers to plug-in a new USB drive to download the update. Eventually the monitor ends up in some district manager’s basement in time for the Super Bowl.

Pass the salsa.

Hey guys, what seems like a good idea during the design phase equals a lot of care and feeding down the road.

Nothing says you’re out of touch like technology that no longer works at retail.

3) Are Committed To Doing It Right?

You know, you’ve got this cool video monitor with all this technology, are you going to actually use it? Or are you just throwing it out there because the guys selling bread in the next aisle have a monitor?

Do not, I repeat, do not just put your logo on the screen, with a slide show of random products. Every time you do that, god kills a somebody with a Marketing MBA.

Understand your guests’ wants and needs. Take the time to do your research; find out what their frustrations are, how technology can help, AND attract them. Then spend the money on comprehensive graphic design, programming, and industrial design to make it look like you care about your brand, the retailer and guests.

Please, design the user experience (like real humans are going to use the technology by the way) and trouble shoot it before you go live.

4) Make Sure You’ve Got The Right Product

Some businesses need this technology at retail; video game console companies for example. What kind of monster doesn’t like stopping at Best Buy to race through the Alps on an Xbox?

If you’re selling thumbtacks in a hardware store, I’m not sure you need a monitor. But maybe… Please have a compelling reason to put wires, glass and metal on a shelf front.

Time is a consumer’s most precious commodity. Information their greatest need at retail. Help them make informed decisions, and make them fall in love with your shopping experience. They want to be entertained, but they are savvy enough to know if you’re wasting their time.

Alright, I think you get the idea. Below are some random images I pulled from my personal archive with my thoughts.

Just to be safe though, I think I’ll avoid going to retail this Friday the 13th, if it’s all the same to you.

Do you agree? Disagree? Who does tech at retail right? What are the worst examples you’ve seen? How can we improve the retail experience with technology?

Continue the discussion in the comments below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is a full service retail design consultancy who is more than happy to design your next display or store, with or without monitors, lasers and holograms. We want to help make the emotional connection between your brand and guests in the physical retail space. And have fun doing it.

Contact us today at (330) 858-8926 or visit www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information.

 

 

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We Love The Glove Signs At Lowe’s

It’s Spring, so that means nearly non-stop trips to Lowe’s for various and assorted supplies to complete all the projects we have back at the ranch. While there I came across this wonderful glove display near the bird food and doors leading outdoors. I just had to share it with you.

glove-sign-at-lowes

glove-display-detail-lowesThe look is super simple but highly effective. Sign panels organize the glove shopping experience by type or durability of product. It’s easy to shop because of the awesome iconography, color and plenty of visual negative space. Looking closely you notice the icons are die cut from 1/4′ board – presumably Sintra PVC. In this case it’s a good use of materials, assuming the display stays up year round and doesn’t wind up in a landfill. The natural shadowing and stand-off icons liven up the display. It looks upscale yet right on brand. Were Lowe’s to follow this visual brand language throughout the store they would definitely elevate their retail experience and separate themselves from the competition.

I also love the large format header with the bird house icons above.

Overall the display had be running over to it, and is easily seen from thirty or more feet away.

Well done.

Design For Independent Retailers

photo via Corbisimages.com

photo via Corbisimages.com

In honor of Global Shop next week we thought we’d would share with you our thoughts on how independent retailers can benefit from engaging the services of a retail design consultancy. Regardless of whether run a “pop-up”, one store or a dozen stores it’s worth considering enlisting some outside help if you want and need it to give your retail experience a shot in the arm.

A Design Team Works Within Your Budget

You are the expert when it comes to your business. We’ll say that time and time again. You built it from the ground up. There’s no denying your knowledge and dedication. Why would you need or want a design consultant?

Well, sometimes it’s good to get a fresh set of eyes looking at something. They can provide experienced and professional insight. And it may be worth getting some help so you can step back to concentrate on other aspects of the business that need your attention more. A consultant costs as much, or as little as you have budgeted for your project. And they can help immensely.

As a retail design consultancy we start by meeting with you to review your business; learn from you the opportunities you face and assess areas where we can add value. A retail design services can run from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the scope and complexity of the project. The services you’ll receive are outlined in a proposal ahead of time, and each phase can be agreed upon to suit your time and budgetary needs. Truly, no project is too big or small.

Retail Designers Offer A Variety Of Services

Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in the business for ages, it is critical that you connect to customers and your brand speaks with one voice. There are a variety of ways a design team can help. Here are some examples that would be of benefit to independent retailers:

Graphic Design – this includes branding, such as creating a logo or style guide for your store. Also graphic design covers in store signage and way-finding. The designers can use art, illustration, typography and photography to create inspiring graphics that hit your guests sense of style and emotion, putting them in the frame of mind to fall in love with your brand. Related to graphics is packaging design – so if you have a need to actually brand product, say juice bottles, soap or salon products – the design team can design those solutions as well to give a cohesive brand message to guests.

Interior Design – this is retail experience on a macro level. Everything on the inside of your store, from flooring to walls to lighting and ceiling influences how guests feel while they are shopping. Also space planning which is important, so that your store has good traffic flow. It can be as simple as rearranging and curating what you already have, to a complete extreme store makeover.

Visual Merchandising & Display Design – in concert with graphics, the design of the displays and fixtures that your products go on can make a impact on the experience. Your designer can select stock displays or design custom ones that can be made within your budget. Displays make sure your product is the star and is delightful to shop. Visual Merchandising attracts and helps tell your story.

Project Management & Sourcing – the design team can manage the project from kickoff, to design brief, through design and specification, ultimately to retail implementation. Designers are experts at managing multiple programs and assuring they are completed to specification, on time and on budget. Especially if you are trying something out for the first time, having sourcing help can come in handy.

Research, Trends, and Sustainability Consulting – design firms are a great resource for the latest trends, or areas where you may not be as knowledgable such as environmental sustainability. Plus if you need someone to research the market, your competition or your customers, a consultancy can provide those services. This can help your business beyond just how your store looks and functions.

A Retail Design Team Works With You

As I said, you’re the expert when it comes to your brand. Meet with your designers and assess your unique business and brand situation. Then the design team will make recommendations and provide design solutions as necessary. Equally important they’ll tell you what you don’t need. It certainly is not a one person dance; the design team you’ve hired is your partner. They’ll bring fresh perspective and interesting ideas, and be able to work seamlessly with your in-house resources. In the end your brand story will attract and connect with guests at every touch point. And you will save yourself from the frustration, not to mention time and money, of trying to do everything yourself.

You may not need an outside design firm to help you out. I’ve been in plenty of independent retailers that are doing an awesome job all by themselves. But at least be aware that these services are out there. They add value to the most critical part of your business: telling your brand story to guests. Take advantage of the professional perspective, creativity and talent that a retail design team can bring to your store.

The brand you built deserves it.

In what ways do you think you could benefit from engaging a retail designer?

If you don’t use a designer, why not?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Happy retailing merchant peeps!

Chris Weigand has been designing innovative retail solutions for over 15 years. The results of his work can be found in over 30,000 retail doors, enhancing the shopper experience and improving sales. If you are an independent retailer who would like to find out how Chris Weigand Design can help your brand connect with guests, visit our website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com We are actively looking for great new clients to partner with, creating awesome retail experiences.

Want Insight Into Your Designer Before You Hire? Try Pinterest.

Chris Weigand Design on Pinterest

Chris Weigand Design on Pinterest

Picking a designer, architect or agency can be daunting. You ask around for references, check out a few websites, review some of their past projects and interview them in person. All of this will likely give you a good feel for how they operate and their approach to your project.

When it comes to their aesthetic sensibilities or design philosophy that may not always be clear as day. While it is good to see how they creatively solved design problems for other clients, there is value in getting a feel for what inspires and drives your potential design team. As I was crafting our company’s Pinterest page, I started thinking: Pinterest is an awesome way to see how we think as designers. It affords a random stranger or potential client to see what we are inspired by, like and appreciate, as professional designers.

Pinterest is an all-encompassing inspiration board for our design team. When working on a project we almost always generate inspiration boards as part of our design research. While these internal boards are specific to the project, they often pull images from Pinterest (and other resources) that reflect who we are as designers; how we aesthetically and functionally will solve the problem at hand.

Here’s why I think a designer or agency’s Pinterest page is a good place to check out when trying to get a sense of their style and design aesthetic / philosophy.

Categorized – When creating boards in Pinterest I try to cover all ways design is inspired. There are categories for retail (our specialty), product, graphic and interior design. Architecture is well represented with its own category as well as home related design and decor. Fashion lives in separate categories for women and men. Rounding out the core boards is one for “Color”, “Nature” and world travel. I also like to include the occasional specialty board like “Global Spice” that is a combination of all of the above, with a focus on eclectic, cultural design. Lastly there are boards for quotes, celebrity / historic photos and “Fun” to give potential clients a feel for how we think beyond design.

Curated – The selection of pins on their Pinterest board usually is a curated. Each pin is there for a reason. Over time the boards and pins will be refined. Personally I browse the internet, other Pinterest boards, and even my own photos. Anything that stands out gets pinned immediately. Then I’ll come back and add or subtract. I’ll also look at the captions and re-word them to state why we like the pin. Curated boards are alive – like a living species that is evolving over time.

Trends – It goes without saying Pinterest is a great source for trends. I don’t know if anyone has studied the site to see if it actually influences or creates trends, but my guess is at the very least some trends start to see the light of day there. Most trend setters – individuals and companies – have a page on the site so it gives us access to a vast array of design trends that we can browse. If I’m seeing the same types of things over and over again, I’ll create a board on our page or for internal purposes.

Design Network – The company your designer keeps is another good indicator of their design approach. Take a look at who your design professional follows, and who follows their boards. I just started our company boards (I’ve had my own personal Pinterest page for a year or two) and we already have a few followers. I’m always excited to see people and companies following our boards, who we hold in high aesthetic esteem. It’s also a great way to discover “pinners” who have a great sense of style that aren’t household names…yet.

Inspiration – Likely the most important point here, you get to see what inspires a design team. What images, quotes, ideas do they gravitate towards. Keep in mind, any design pro worth their consulting fee will arrive at a solution that is appropriate to you and the situation regardless of their personal taste. But I feel as a client you should be interested in what inspires the person or team that you’re entrusting your project to. Seeing that philosophy manifested in a fascinating series of image boards is an awesome reassurance.

With all of this in mind, spend some time exploring your design professional’s Pinterest site. I think you’ll find that you will get a good feel for their design sense. Design is subjective and there are a variety of ways to arrive at really great solutions. If all designers were the same the world would be a very boring place. Pinterest is a great tool to use during your design professional search. Do yourself a favor and go exploring.

Have you used Pinterest when evaluating companies and professionals? 

What else, beyond what I mentioned, do you like about Pinterest?

Share you thoughts in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand, President – Chris Weigand Design, LLC

chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Chris Weigand Design is a retail design consultancy specializing in helping product brands and independent retailers connect with guests at retail. We create visual merchandising, display, graphic and interior retail design solutions. We also can provide space planning, project management and sourcing services if needed. Check out our Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/cweiganddesign/ to get a sense of our style and the latest trends we’re seeing. Contact us today if you’d like to discuss your project. We’d love to work with you.

Brand Meaning Is Evolving

Find your brand niche in the business ecosystem. RF photo via Corbis.com

Find your brand niche in the business ecosystem.
RF photo via Corbis.com

“Brand” must have more meaning now more than ever.

The word “brand” is ubiquitous these days. There are probably more articles on the topic on any given day than there are actual brands. Our consultancy throws the word around quite a bit too. I never did a count on our website or other media outlets but I’m sure the word is there dozens if not a hundred times. But what does it really mean?

While reading Nicolas Bordas’s insightful article I started thinking. What does it mean to have a brand in this day and age? To be a brand? In the “old-days” a brand was a cool logo, some advertising, and maybe a tag line that was subject to change. The branding work was handled by guys with fancy suits over martini lunches. It was likely the realm of larger companies; you didn’t worry about branding until you needed to worry about branding so to speak.

The reality was smaller companies, such as independent retailers and widget makers, were working on branding all along, but probably not consciously. It was just how they did business. What big-business spent big bucks on, came naturally for the mom-and-pop operations. Ironically while the larger companies paid to craft perceived authenticity, the little guys often oozed authenticity. If you wanted to know what a big brand stood for, you ate whatever their marketing team fed you. As for the small guy you went up and talked to them; saw first hand what they stood for. Although they probably couldn’t tell you what their “brand” was if you paid them. Sort of an ironic “authenticity gap” between perception and reality. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Also I’m sure somewhere in the middle there were brands that were probably best described as having “made-up” authenticity – woodsy sounding product companies located in someone warehouse downtown for example.

The point is over the course of the last few decades, with the advent of mass communication, peer review and access to information, the meaning of brand has evolved incredibly. The playing field is being leveled in many regards. You simply need a brand now more than ever.

And the meaning of your brand can’t be left to chance, or hidden behind smoke and mirrors.

Branding is no longer the luxury of large companies or the boutique cuteness of little ones. Everyone, big and small, is (or should be) scrambling to craft a brand message and communicate it to the world, or at least the audience that might buy what you’re selling. Your brand needs to be more than just a clever logo and flashy product design. Even Apple will tell you that.  It needs to be purposeful and comprehensive; permeating  throughout your organization in a real, tangible, meaningful manner. In fact the authenticity gap that was easily covered up in the “old days” is suddenly front and center. Every organization had better wrap its head around what their brand is and be able to communicate to customers why that brand exists, quickly and simply.

To do that successfully, the meaning of “brand” to your organization has to evolve. Figure out what your niche is; where you fit into the business ecosystem. Why do you exist? Delve into what your brand stands for socially, environmentally and from a business perspective.

And don’t try to fake any part of that message. Consumers are savvy, they’ll know if you’re trying to fool them. They’ll shut you down quicker than you can say “fourth quarter earnings”. Every organization has to be authentic to succeed. This is the new brand meaning.

When you come to a fork in the road, your well established brand philosophy is your roadmap.

Ingrain that authentic message into everything you do, internally and externally; every touch point. Build your business around that. Communicate with one voice. Nurture your brand and your customers. Establish feedback loops and evolve as necessary. If you do that then business life becomes simpler. You’re no longer solely focused on competition, you’re now focused on customers and your brand. The idea isn’t to take over the world. Concentrate on who you are and the rest will take care of itself. When you come to a fork in the road, your well established brand philosophy is your roadmap. It will answer every business question you have from what kind of soap is in the bathroom to how you’re going to rollout your next product successfully. Brand self-awareness trumps the latest business thinking du jour every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

You can argue that I over simplify things, but on the other hand maybe we spend too much time (and countless dollars) making things overly complicated. Evolving what brand means to your organization could be the secret to your success in this day and age.

What does “brand” mean to your organization? Share in the comments below.

Chris Weigand

President – Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design is a retail design consultancy that can help your brand message resonate with consumers in the physical retail space. From graphics, to displays to holistic interior designs, we create experiences for your guests that delight them and have them telling their friends how awesome you are. Contact us today so we can start working with you.