How to deliver better retail experiences

Sep 20, 2018

GDR’s Harriet Cox reveals what she learned from Gensler’s Retail Leader Lara Marrero at this week’s London Design Festival


“Customer expectation is at an all-time high. They have a voice and they are not afraid to use it.” This was the warning from Lara Marrero, Retail Leader and Senior Associate at global retail practice Gensler, who was one of the headline speakers at the V&A’s calendar of events during London Design Festival.

With retailers struggling to keep up with the rate of change consumers have become accustomed to, Marrero argued that brand messaging has become flat, diluted and one dimensional. She pointed to the overuse of buzzword innovations such as ‘pop-ups’, ‘digital screens’, ‘omnichannel experiences’ and ‘data analysis paralysis’. Her contention is that, in many cases, brand narrative has been lost and she calls on brands to deliver more engaging and authentic brand experiences.


Delivering Retail Experiences at London Design Festival


With all the fear mongering about store closures on our high streets, Marrero questioned whether the outlook for physical retail was in fact all that bad, and she came armed with stats that suggest quite the opposite.

Quoting a variety of sources, she revealed:

  1. For each company closing a store, 2.7 companies are opening new ones –IHL Group, 2017
  2. 86% of customers will pay more for experiences – According to a Walker study, which claims that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator
  3. 82% of shoppers want to see and touch a product in person before buying it – PushOn report, 2018
  4. 77% of Gen Z prefer physical stores – Accenture research 2017
  5. 68% of shoppers research in-store before buying online – NRF
  6. When a retailer opens a new physical store, its brand website sees 52% more traffic – British Land, 2017


Presenting Gensler’s own research she argued that all customer experiences should be mapped around the customer’s own intention. She further explained that customer intention can be split into five categories: Task, Social, Discovery, Aspiration and Entertainment, with Task being overwhelmingly the most common customer mindset when shopping, accounting for 49% of shopper missions.

So in order to deliver a best practice retail experience, Marerro believes that retailers need to disrupt the “task mode” journey. While a brand must meet the basic Task intention, she argues that it should also add additional experiences to increase engagement and conversion.


Birkenstock Box


According to Marerro, “51% of retail spaces are now about more than selling.” Therefore, she believes ROI metrics should now be about brand engagement, including brand awareness, media impressions, entertainment and social interactions, and online sales lifts in local markets.

Citing examples such as Birkenstock Box, Refinery29’s 29 Rooms, Restoration Hardware’s 3 Arts Club Cafe and the Converse 1 hotel, Marrero explained that brands must “first create communities, then create experiences that bring these people together and allow them to spend time and build a buzz”.

She concluded by stating that, in order to succeed, retailers should always be asking “can we give people more?”

News & insights straight to your inbox!