Emerging Leaders on Technology in Retail Spaces
Q: WHAT QUESTIONS
LEAD TO SUCCESS-
Zsembery: Technology is a
big one. How much technology
is appropriate for a particular
retailer based on what others
in the industry are doing? We
try to have a candid discussion
at the very beginning of the
project to define the metrics
for success. For some clients,
success might be creating a
flagship that’s memorable and
a destination. For some it’s
reaching a certain level of profit, or housing a certain quantity of
products under one roof, or becoming a trusted adviser in a particular category. Everyone has different metrics for success and if
both designer and client don’t fully understand what those are, at
the end of the day a project could be the most beautifully designed
project in the world but if it doesn’t come in at the right budget,
on the right schedule, meeting the right goals, it’s a failure.
Keddie: Sometimes you have to really challenge your clients to
take a step back and think about what they are trying to achieve.
Barszap: Because so much is now purchased online, it’s important to challenge people to understand that the store might be an
outlet for extending the brand and advertising the brand. It might
not be pulling in the same revenue that it did once, but if you are
getting people in the store and then they are shopping online, you
might still be succeeding. It’s much harder to measure, however.
In addition, you can’t have just one design that rolls out everywhere; we need to be challenging the way things are. The only way
to know what the next thing is going to be is to try something new.
Many great ideas don’t succeed. Others do.
AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Q: HOW DO
Zsembery: We’re challenged with how not to overuse
technology in the retail space.
Remember when flat-screens
came out and you could go into
a store and see 12 blank screens
because no one had the content
to put on them? To me, the
biggest challenge is working
with retailers to ensure that
there is a program of content, that technology isn’t integrated just
for technology’s sake—and that the technology really works.
QR codes, for example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen
people frustrated with their phones when they can’t read a QR
code. They know that there’s information there, and they can’t get
to it. Our goal is not to frustrate the customers with technology,
but to use it when it really enhances.
Keddie: It’s an interesting time in terms of content support
because the way we shop online is different from how we shop
in-store. Online we’re looking for the best price and what people
are saying about the product. This leads to an increasing need for
transparency for the way people shop in stores. I remember a mattress store that always posted their competitors’ ads in the store,
so that people didn’t have to shop around. That was the old-school
way, of course. But that idea is a reality now. The question is how
can retailers embrace it?
Barszap: Part of the problem is that these new technologies are
everywhere, but shoppers may not know how to use them. Also,
the technology is the cheap part—it’s developing the content to
support them that’s expensive. Projects with technology in the
space will ultimately fail if we can’t develop the content. I hope
someone can come up with a way to easily integrate these new
technologies with content delivery systems.
Technology should only be in an environment if it’s enhancing
the experience. Check-out anywhere is a good first step. People still
need and want to go to stores—whether to try on clothes or just
to see what they are buying and learn more about it—so there is a
need for retail environments. The next step might involve the ability to have your purchase easily shipped home for you from staff
located anywhere on the floor. Also, there’s an increasing need for
transparency in everything, allowing the store to be a resource,
like online, so that shoppers can get much more detail about the
products they want.
This commentary was excerpted from the Retail Design
Collective panel discussion “Next Gen Retail Design: How
Emerging Leaders Are Shaking Things Up,” presented by
PAVE in New York in December. The panel included Leonard
Barszap, LEED AP, senior project manager at d-ash design
(2010 Rising Star); Rachel Zsembery, AIA, LEED AP BD+C,
senior associate for Bergmeyer Associates (2008 Rising Star);
and Corinne Keddie, partner of KAI keddie architecture inc.
(2011 Rising Star finalist). The session was moderated by
Denny Gerdeman of Chute Gerdeman.