The Future of Retail Design

Following a busy few weeks, Designscape’s virtual event platform is now closed. Fortunately, if you didn’t quite catch our full line up of topical virtual discussions, you can still enjoy them on-demand on the Designscape website.

Specially curated for professionals across retail, Designscape’s Retail Day featured discussions from industry-leaders and experts, as well as neuroscientists, economists and more, as they unpicked a diverse spectrum of current industry themes.

In one of Retail Day’s most popular virtual discussions, the panel explored the possibilities of the Future of Retail Design. Looking beyond bricks and mortar, our experts asked ‘what is the purpose of retail spaces aside from selling?’ Though digital channels are clearly becoming increasingly popular, bricks and mortar shops have a purpose beyond selling; a sense of gathering, community, and co-creation. In fact, physical retail spaces are becoming more experience driven ever, with brands making huge efforts to enhance their offerings beyond products alone.

To keep up with such shifts in customer demand, how can brands enhance their offering beyond product? And when operating both digital and non-digital channels, how should a brand approach orchestrating a truly omnichannel strategy? To begin to touch the surface on these questions, we wrapped up our top 3 takeaways on the future of retail design.

Future of Retail Design
From Left to Right: Kat Maclennan, Visual Merchandising, Dot to Dot; Rebecca Leathers, Assistant Store Manager, Heal's; Paul Nulty, Founder, Nulty


Some areas of physicality can’t yet be matched digitally

In recent years, many retail design businesses have been transferring to omnichannel strategies or even transforming their entire brands to digital. Though digital methods often take the crown for one-click-purchase convenience, there are elements of the physical buying process that still cannot be matched online. In the world of design, the quality, comfort, look and feel of the materials and products being worked with is integral. Can these elements yet be fully represented virtually? Whilst the online domain remains the only option for many, how can digital move towards matching the physical benefits of a bricks-and-mortar experience?

Omnichannel strategies are optimal

To benefit from both the one-click-purchase convenience of e-commerce, and the vital ‘look, touch, feel’ triad of a bricks-and-mortar store, brands combining the two in an omnichannel strategy may give themselves an advantage. Though when the benefits offered by on-and-offline channels are so divergent, how should a brand approach reconciling the two to optimise customer experience, and how should buyers balance their use of both channels to the same effect?

“We have to bring the soul of our flagship store to our digital's about becoming an omnichannel brand.” – Rebecca Leathers, Heal’s

Treat your customers like guests

Whether on or offline, foregrounding customer experience as a first priority is the key to retaining quality retail brands. Whilst one element of customer experience is inherent to the quality of the products purchased, the way a customer is made to feel throughout the stages prior to purchase are equally as vital. Customers should not be viewed as business prospects, but guests; provide them with samples, go the extra mile to make them feel at ease, and add complimentary touches to the standard service. Whether on or offline, these touches can add up to the difference between a one-off buyer, and a loyal repeat customer.

It's about being more than a shop; experience, inspiration and service are incredibly important for the success of retail.” - Kat Maclennan, Visual Merchandising, Dot to Dot

Watch The Future of Retail Design in full here, and head to to discover more discussions from leading names in retail design.