Is Agile Retail Design The Perfect Storm Or Just A Storm?

Endorsing an approach centred on brand agility can be recognised as the ultimate customer experience. Lets look at agile retail design.

However, does a constant state of flux mean that a retail project is never finished?

Today’s shopper is part of a world that runs at a relentless pace, so shouldn’t the retailer be running alongside the consumer?

Agile retail design represents serving customers better and aligning their changing needs around how they interact and purchase.

Retail consultancy Fitch, summed the challenge for retail today where, “speed to market is no longer enough, rather we find ourselves in a market based on speed.”

Let’s look at this approach with our monthly Resolution Interior sessions with Alicia Thresh (Project Delivery Manager), Mike Langley (Sales & Marketing Director) and Pippa Saunders (Marketing Manager).


Let’s Start With A Definition

Everything has to connect. From stepping back, going through a six month retail design review, followed by a store in place for three years, then impact begins to drop before the end year three, then back to the design review, creates a disjointed scenario.

Within the digital ecosystem, movement and interaction is constant. So how can both experiences complement each other with the physical space sitting in the centre of the retail universe?

Within the Fitch presentation (have a look below) traditional retail is attempting to catch up with technology, channels and behaviour. If it doesn’t catch up, and quickly, it is just going to get left behind.

Agile Retail: Embracing the pace of change from FITCH


Will The Traditional Model Always Be Here?

According to Mike, retailers will always be looking over their shoulders. “One of the biggest challenges, no matter how much time is spent implementing a project, many retailers ask themselves when completed, “should we have done that, or did we miss anything?”

“Are retailers content with what they have?”

If an agile approach is endorsed, one of the biggest issues is whether there is never a point reached with 100% complete satisfaction. According to Alicia, “It does create a sense of instability when there is a constant drive to change, without understanding the audience, the nature of the product and the values of a brand.”

“Whilst fashions and trends are always going to adapt, the retail experience has to be driven by the role a brand serves an audience, rather than driven by speed. It can become problematic when retailers are constantly distracted in the quest for ‘continuous improvement.”


When Agile Retail Design Works

When a brand can draw from the expertise of those who are in tune with an industry then a trusted resource is created to rely upon.

Pippa mentioned, “To be in a state of constant progress can become draining on time, budget and resources. However, the need to adapt on a continual basis does make sense. From our recent Retail Outlet forum, it was clear that the in-store environment is the hub of a community, the ability to exhibit and create this sense of theatre.”

“I don’t think the answer is in a relentless desire for movement, but to appreciate the role it plays for others and subtle reinvention that stays true to a brand ethos.”

“From digital to an in-store perspective, retailers can change with the consumer. For instance, at the beginning of July retailers and consumers were both blissfully unaware of PokemonGo, now retailers are learning to work with the game. Brands and retailers are looking to cash in on the games popularity by sponsoring locations in the near future.”


Change Is Natural As Long As You Understand People & Brand

A key word is ‘transparency.’ Mike highlights, “As a 360 retail provider, it is our duty to recognise how the industry develops and share this with our valued client partners.”

“We are transparent when introducing partners from areas such as digital content, lighting, experiential and VR for example. This is what encourages others to engage and lean further in. This is what enables retailers to be agile by understanding how a marketplace is evolving and building a discussion around opportunities and possibilities that are relevant to a marketplace.”

Understanding culture and the customer is a key consideration for an agile mindset.

“From a retail perspective, agile design is about creating cultural change within a business,” commented Pippa. “It is easier for a design company to be agile when looking at conceptual development, but responsibility is not necessarily in their remit when it comes to managing the development budget or cultural infrastructure.”

Agility and the ability to introduce an evolving brand works when there is a true partnership between retailer and supplier.


Confidence In Product

Mike highlighted the dangers of continual development. “When you walked into a shop ten years ago, you knew exactly where you were. In many cases, today it is different as retailers chase a continual level of change.”

“Brands such as Apple have proven that people know exactly where they are based on confidence of the product. Can agile design be looked at when a space is augmented to go beyond transaction but to teach, advise, entertain and consult?”

Alicia confirmed, “When you have real confidence in a product and has an audience first approach, this becomes a strong attribute to a brand.”


Is Agile Store Design Just The Way The World Is Becoming?

Agile retail design works when there is a two way level of trust, an investment in a long-term relationship and the belief that two batteries are stronger than one.

“If a retailer is committed to continuous change their needs to be instilled someone who is going to manage the change,” stated Pippa. “When you bring it into the heart of the company, you create continuity.”

Change does not come from the decision to catch up with an industry, but to become immersed in behaviour, trends and the transition between online and offline. Alicia highlighted, ‘Brands such as Apple, Dyson and Nike have people on-board who are fully absorbed with the role they play within a marketplace.”


Lets Round Up

It has to be accepted that to be seen as influential within our marketplaces there is a constant pursuit of learning. If there is a relevant product that has a role to play for an audience, then change becomes a continual process that is educated not a knee jerk reaction.

Whilst experimentation always has a role to play, there have to be those moments to stop, stand back and the whole retail experience becoming an evolving approach.

The biggest strength of an agile approach is the ability to make subtle improvements over a long-term period to deliver tangible results.

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