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Brand Experience

For the most part, I wouldn’t say I like shopping. A civilised stroll metamorphoses into a languid plod as I follow whomever I am accompanying through the metropolis of coveted brands. This being said, I am a sucker for impressive design space.

I was shopping in my local Westfields – debatably the worst place to be when busy – and endured a series of events that triggered a thought.

This thought followed a trip into Arket; not the first time my feet had crossed the shop's sovereign borders, but it was the first time I truly noticed where I was and how I felt being there.

Brands cater to different demographics; that’s how they market and advertise their products by understanding whom they’re selling to.

My experience walking into a supermarket like Waitrose is entirely different from that of a Nike store. The overtly obvious distinction between the two is what they sell. The lesser known is whom they sell to.

In advertising, we use cohorts to pinpoint the types of people we’re writing an ad for. If I journeyed back to my University days, I’d find that creating these personalities is a strategic pillar essential to the idea's success.

We create the person to whom we’re selling a product; for example, Chanel has a new range of high-end scents exclusively available at that time of year. Who is buying this product? Which brands do they wear? Where do they eat? What part of town do they live in? And my favourite of all, which car brand would they be?

Brands use this strategic understanding when designing their stores. They have to, or they won’t attract the correct groups. Imagine if our aforementioned Waitrose mimicked Iceland. You’d probably find a steep credibility decline in most Waitrose lovers' eyes.

With this knowledge, I’m not expecting brands to render the same experiences. That would be anarchy. But I wonder if these less-esteemed brands are missing a trick – retail design.

Living in London, there is an abundance of shop fronts – independent or global juggernaut – that you walk past without even batting an eye-lid. Standing outside a store like Sports Direct, I am forging excuses not to go in. “I’m pretty sure I can order this online” is typically my saving grace. When lingering outside a store like Rapha, regardless of my disinterest in cycling, I find myself being lured in – purely out of curiosity.

This isn’t just one size fits all. The space needs to be relevant to the brand and its audience. But cleaner, more spacious, better-coordinated shop floors will surely improve the consumer experience.

Naturally, a more minimalistic space is going to reduce stress and anxiety. Two things that aren’t necessary when shopping.

Stores like Arket, COS, Apple and even the Home section of H&M understand space. Their stores welcome customers like toast in the morning; they make you want to approach and enquire. Evenly distributed racks, appropriate levels of noise, and plenitude of space to contemplate your purchase(s).

Purchasing; that’s why we’re careening the shop floors in the first place. When I feel anxious, I make a B-line for the closest exit and get as far away from the antagonist as humanly possible.

I perused through two brands’ stock that day. Both retail brands sell slightly more than affordable fashion fads. That’s not what made them different. The indifferences came from the feeling they evoked; one was calm and collected, and the other was complete mayhem. The less-impressive store was an environment that induced anxiety – everything from the failed DJ, who apparently was hard of hearing, to the customer experience when trying to purchase your chosen garment.

Is there a link between our experiences in shops and the success of our time there? I think so. In fact, I’m sure of it. It’s got to be a science; space + serenity = a positive mindset, which will create an optimistic frame of mind – an essential ingredient when vacillating the purchase of an item that may not be necessary.

Brands – take note. Spend less time recreating an amusement park or club and more time creating a calm and collected space for people to escape and enjoy the journey of spending their hard-earned cash.

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