Retail Design Institute: Lifestyle Oasis
The Retail Design Institute is a community for creative professionals in the retail industry. M+A was recently invited to participate in the Retail Design Institutes’ Columbus Chapter Big 5 retail design firm challenge where firms were asked to answer the question “What’s Next for Beauty in the Grocery World?”
As department stores close, retail subsequently loses revenue with the loss of beauty counters. This challenge explored how a beauty counter could be infused in a grocery store environment, with a specific focus on fixtures.
Prompt in hand, in true M+A fashion, we decided to answer the question by looking to the bigger picture - meaning it’s not just about the fixture, it’s about what the space as a whole can convey/do/achieve. As part of our design process, we tapped into the strengths of our colleagues from our firm that spanned our various sectors and practices. The goal was to garner perspectives and foster a creative collaboration by delving into the pinch points of topics like, “How do we solve for the Emotional Quotient?”, “What does social/ecological responsibility mean to beauty?”, and “How could depression and mental health issues be addressed within this space?” These questions, along with the future trends discussed for each sector, formed the basis of beginning to solve for the design challenge. The next step required data and analytics.
Design research and insights play a huge part in M+A’s design process. With recent investments, and a mantra of innovating to enrich lives, we are able to further elevate our design process by enlisting trend forecasting tools to seek better understanding of what is to come and why. Utilizing these forecasts and insights, our team formalized what that experience would be like, coming up with a solution centered around the consumer - allowing them to give and get back, reinventing experiential shopping - creating space for social influencers and shared experiences, and committing to community - through a mindfulness of materiality and responsibility. This design takes the retail counter far beyond shopping. This space creates a Lifestyle Oasis.
Having created criteria for the space, next we focused on who the user/shopper is. Through substantive research and qualitative backing, we explored each generation’s wants and needs for their shopping habits. Gen Xers and Boomers still desire to have a subject matter expert educate them on their potential shopping choices. Millennials and Gen Zers desire a place of authenticity to the product and the community, but need space that fosters social engagement. Psychological studies and behavioral reports allowed us inside the minds of the consumers as a person holistically, not just observing them as a shopper, and broadening our scope of overall effectiveness in persuading patterns. To give an idea on the breadth of our shopper: our shoppers span multiple generations, some are digital natives that seek an AI/AR experience, some are seeking a way to connect, some are craving education, and some are introverts. Our goal for the oasis was to create an experience for the shopper that was a curated moment for them that would promote repeat visits.
So what does a space like this look like? What materials are used to respond to our original questions? Where does it fit within the store? And yes, what do the fixtures do in order to solve some of our cross-generational shopper diversities?
The location of our oasis plays as crucial a role as the components. In thinking about the customer journey we decided this space wants to live away from the Pharmacy or center of the store that can feel sterile at times. Our suggestion was to place the beauty component near the other social components of the store, i.e. near the coffee/wine/spirit section of a store. This will allow for the shopper to engage with another offering of the store, have a meeting with a friend or group of friends, and then head to the social aspect of our proposed space.
In thinking about materiality and forms, this required one more dive, which resulted in us integrating biomimicry, responsibly sourced materials, and 3D printed surrounds. Our approach even considered design elements that have effects on psychological factors through integration of biophilia, allowing for choice and control of your environment, and acoustic treatments to shape the soundscape.
Graphically, we kept in mind the busy retailer and the returning customers. We incorporated areas for easy, updateable messaging that provided the retailer with ways to update the space on the fly — this influences a new experience each time a customer visits. The printed graphics are gender neutral, and they’re intentionally non-specific to a brand or product. This allows the space to graphically embrace various retailers.
Backed by data-driven evidence, the final design features innovation and maintains integrity while pushing the grocery store grid boundaries to truly elevate the human experience.
With our space crafted, we presented our final product to a room full of our peers. We presented our Lifestyle Oasis as a place for the consumer to recharge, have a curated experience and become reengaged. It’s a place to be inspired and encouraged, and where consumers can give and get back.
While this specialty in retail isn’t the firm’s niche, our scope typically being more macro with a focus on town center design, we were able to borrow from multiple sectors and pull from trends to easily adapt to a micro overview that created a comprehensive design to push the thinking behind beauty.
by Mark Bryan
Associate, Senior Interior Designer
Mark is an energetic, creative and dedicated environmental graphics and interior designer at M+A. His favorite sports team is his alma mater: Virginia Tech University.