What’s in-store for retail design?

The advent of online shopping in recent years has transformed the retail landscape, forcing retailers to re-examine the service that they offer customers in store. Philip Handford of retail design agency Campaign tells Stacey Sheppard how technology is enabling retailers to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping by creating a more memorable and personal shopping experience in store.

For many people these days, shopping online is a far more convenient option when compared to the time and effort that is needed to visit a shop in town. The popularity of e-commerce sites has changed customer attitudes and expectations and today consumers want to see bricks and mortar stores that are able to offer them all the advantages of online shopping. Convenience, instant access to information and detail, and personalised recognition and service are high on the consumer’s list of priorities when it comes to shopping experiences.

In order to meet these demands, retailers are having to be increasingly innovative and adventurous when it comes to the design of their stores. Only by consistently pushing the boundaries of customer experience can retail stores compete with the online retail arena.

One man who knows the importance of this all too well is Philip Handford, founder and Creative Director of award-winning retail design agency Campaign. With 15 years of experience in retail design, Handford has designed all manner of retail environments ranging from the high street right through to the luxury sector.

In 2009, he founded his own studio and now works with a team of creative. Architects, film makers, interior designers, graphic designers and product designers all contribute to the company’s aim of developing integrated brand experiences through interior, brand and digital design.

Campaign’s success story began when Handford started work on a series of projects for Christopher Bailey, the Chief Creative Officer of Burberry. The projects looked at furniture, fixtures and a brand language outside of traditional store design and Handford says that this multi-disciplined approach started to gain momentum as he built up a team with diverse design backgrounds. “A combination of my passion to be original and clients looking for solutions that are outside the normal remit of a retail design agency has led to a unique agency.”

Over the years, Campaign has acquired a client list that includes top brands such as Dr Martens, Dunhill, Fossil, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Ogilvy and Selfridges & Co to name but a few. All of these companies were seeking new ways to inspire and engage the consumer and have turned to Campaign for help in achieving this.

“The landscape of retail is changing, more rapidly than ever and becoming increasingly competitive,” explains Handford. “We respond by applying creativity to make meaningful and memorable experiences. Our clients recognise that design is an extremely valuable tool to enable them to remain in the foreground of the retail landscape.”

Campaign has a proven track record in retail design and this is partly down the consistent approach that is taken to each and every project. Handford says: “We listen to the client and formulate a solution that not only meets their needs, but that is also unique and unexpected. The unexpected element is key to the success of the project.

“We refer to our process as creating a narrative and that narrative is explored through different media: models, film, drawing, graphics, and music. We create a valuable, immersive experience that has a strong narrative binding it together. The final outcome is to inspire and engage the consumer.”

One of Campaign’s most recent projects is a clear example of how the company is able to create memorable experiences for the customers who visit their clients’ stores. Eye wear company Kirk Originals opened its flagship store in London’s West End earlier this year and Campaign created a design that was in stark contrast with the very clinical feel that most opticians have.

A series of large lenticular printed eyes are suspended in the store window and wink at the customers as they approach and enter the store. The sense of interaction continues inside the store as 187 white, powder-coated sculptural heads, each wearing a unique frame, provide a ready-made audience of on-looking craning heads, which enhance the browsing and trying-on experience. By side-stepping the expected, Campaign has transformed 65m2 of interior space into a memorable destination for eyewear aficionados.

According to Handford, the growing trend for creating memorable experiences through retail design is positioned somewhere between advertising and retail. The company has coined the phrase ‘Architecture is Advertising’ to explain its personal approach to retail design. The idea behind the phrase is that high streets are gradually being transformed into a series of immersive billboards and brand lounges where individual stores will provide alluring and interactive environments. In other words, shops will basically become adverts that people can smell, touch and walk around, whilst sales will mostly be conducted online.

Handford says: “The lines are continuing to blur between how retailers market themselves in terms of in-store and online marketing and traditional forms of advertising. Businesses are looking for more creative ways to express their brand and the idea that ‘Architecture is Advertising’ opens a new way for us to approach this and put it into practice in our work.”

However, this is not the only trend that Campaign is at the forefront of. Handford also stresses the importance of seamlessly integrating technology into retail stores. “The design challenge is to implement and involve the technology in an unobtrusive way,” he says. “It is about designing ways to connect the consumer with the store. Our approach must consider and push forward technology using near field communications, RFIDs and other developing interfaces. The value of technology, for both retailers to understand their customers better and for customers to access the brands, underpins the next phase of retail.”

Campaign is currently collaborating with The Future Laboratory on a project that will open during the London Design Festival. The Sweet Shop will explore the relation shipbetween in-store and online and will highlight future trends in retail.