Tag Archives: consumer experience design

What it takes…

Brands want to be innovative and catching with their customers. They seek to connect on an emotional level. Designers need to deliver concepts that can facilitate this goal. Creating such a strategic design takes a lot of very deep considerations – for the brand, its back ground, history, people, message,operations, sales, intent and culture – and for the customers, who are seeking innovation and a unique experience.

A good strategic brand concept  for a store translates into designs at all scales that are custom tailored to the brand, its expression to the customer and its operational requirements.We task ourselves to invent environments that facilitate truly unique consumer/user experiences.

I will illustrate this along the following case study:

My first substantial task with MAC Cosmetics was to create a new retail store environment for them. The brand is rooted in professional make up artistry with a strong emphasis on individual creative expression.

mac cosmetics design

MAC Cosmetics design

Our first considerations were explorations as to what the environments, in which make up artists work, looked like and what did and did not work.It was clear that we needed something that was adaptable and flexible to suit the individual needs and promote the artists. A sort of open stage with a flexible arrangement of functional fixtures and tools. In response we developed a modular fixture system that could be re-arranged to endless configurations by any one without the use of tools.we sketched, drew and built models until we knew what worked.

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For the feel of the space we wanted it to be unique to the brand and the products, so we needed something that linked the environment to the idea of products applied to skin. We wanted it to be recognizable that this environment is made to showcase make-up and no other product. So we considered the theme of skin and its organic characteristics. We invented a material to skin our modular fixtures so that consumer would have a memorable touch sensation when getting in contact with our fixtures. Those top skins were equally modular so they would not impact the flexibility of the fixtures below. In line with this idea we developed displays from an animated scenario of attractors that simulated the interaction around the fixture through customers. It created organic displays, onto which we organized product along elevation lines similar to the lines found on maps of mountains.

Image converted using ifftoany

 

 

 

 

counter top wireframe

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all displayers

 

The long design process eventually led to beautiful sculptural objects. Some of the we lit from below to accentuate their shapes.

 

eye testerlip mountain

lipstick copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further we developed accessories like hand mirrors with an organic look and touch to emphasize the theme of skin and beauty. The concept needs to apply at all scales. They were paired with sensor activated water fountains that emerged from the counter top skin creating another impactful organic moment.

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The space itself also needed to speak the same formal language so we created concept touch points through out the store such as areas where we”peeled” the floor off the ground to form an organic enclosure for privacy or  “melted” the ceiling to a softer, organic form or poured a thick 1″ layer of clear Urethane on the floor, to soften the hardness of the space. We choose finishes that contrasted and gave a dynamic quality to the space. The fixtures ended up being built from cement board and a custom formulated Poly Urethane. The space had elements of concrete and acrylic, rather neutral for it to function as a presentation stage for the sculptural fixtures.

 

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The whole effort of 4 months of design, 8 months of development and 4 months of construction resulted in an engaging, unique and innovative environment.

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MAC Cosmetics / New York

 

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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all bespoke

Many brands have evolved over many years after establishing themselves in the market. Once the positioning is solid they reach out for a greater consumer share in the need of bigger market share. It’s a tricky decision process for brand leaders as they have to decide to expand beyond their core position. Luxury brands have been observed to create sub brands to address the middle income customer, watering down critically their brand  sometimes dangerously close to  a brand image loss by alienating their core high end customer. The (sub) brand is suddenly found in outlet shopping malls and similar giving access to a customer that the high end loyalist would prefer to distinguish themselves from.

However  we can see an increasing contrary trend of brands expanding upwards  to balance out the offering and getting back the ultra exclusive clientele. The key word is “bespoke”, quite the original concept of “couture”, where goods are being customized for the customer. Below is a most recent example about what Prada is doing.

September 20, 2013

Prada’s Made to Order Collection Finishes Worldwide Tour in Milan

Prada RTW Spring 2014

“Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.”

Photo By Stéphane Feugère

Prada RTW Spring 2014

“Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.”

Photo By Stéphane Feugère

MILAN — The “Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.” No, it’s not the working title of a new fashion-satire TV show, but an initiative Prada has been developing quietly for some time. The most recent addition: furs, a lineup of 35 intricately crafted coats in mink, sable and long-haired goat.

The collection has been on a worldwide tour since April, touching cities including Singapore, Moscow, Prague, Beijing, Tokyo, Beverly Hills, London, Dubai and Paris. The last stop is Milan, where the collection is on view — and for sale — through today at a frescoed early-20th-century villa on Via Melzi d’Eril. The property is owned by Prada and was the site of Miuccia Prada’s first fashion show in 1988.

The ground-floor salons were redone for the event. Furnishings include an arrangement of Prada’s saffiano leather trunks in onyx black and Verner Panton sofas reproduced exclusively for the house. Prada herself chose the major art pieces on display, including works by Enrico Castellani, Emilio Vedova and Damien Hirst.

This by-appointment-only initiative allows top customers to order designs unavailable at retail and to have those pieces made to measure. Delivery is within two months of the order. In addition to the furs, the program includes sizable ranges of custom handbags and shoes.

The feather-light furs, made in-house and by hand in Tuscany’s Fucecchio, include mink with hand-cut strips sewn into a chevron motif; sable with tulle lining, and stretch fox (worked on elastic net) lined with chiffon. Each solid-hued style is available in a number of colors; the hibiscus-motif from the recent cruise collection, in custom combinations. Similarly, the accessories are offered in various materials, 25 colors each of crocodile and ostrich, and 35 of silk. Shoes can be soled in black and pink, to which clients can add their initials, either embossed or studded.

The project focuses on two aspects of the Prada’s luxury oeuvre: craftsmanship and superior service. “Our aim was to create an environment that could express the quintessence of how luxury can be absolute and exclusive, as every single detail can be personalized,” said Stefano Cantino, Prada Group communications and external relations director.

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consumer engagement

Retail is entertainment now. We realize that today’s customers want more than product on display. They want stories to explore, communities to connect to, fun, excitement and surprise.  A trip to a retail store is expected to be a continuous discovery. What’s new? is not a question but a demand. And brands have to cater to it to stay in the game.

As product launches and visual stories have quantitative limitations ( per year/per season) it has become an unwritten rule to success to include other forms of engagement to quench the consumer’s increasing thirst for stimulation. The demand for innovative concepts is pushing designers and think tanks to generate constant surprises with a “never-seen-that-before” idea. Often this innovation is replaced by any type of gadget with the hope that technology itself will be the saver. But unless put into a relevant context to the brand story those gadgets often remain unused and ignored (think iPads with irrelevant or boring content).

Here are some better examples of tech gadgets:

QR code activation

The clever part of QR codes is that it requires no hardware ( and with that no maintenance) on the store side. The QR code is on the visual and the consumer activates it with their own handheld device to access the digital side of the brand.

 

 

 

 

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This actually works! The good part here is that it is coupled with a printer, so the personalized remedy for your skin prints out as a recipe to take to the counter for purchase and eventually home with you (so you wont forget!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smashbox Arnotts Dublin

We have seen a lot of these photo booths pop-up recently. They draw a lot of attention, especially with younger customers.  However, rarely are they relevant to the brand they promote.

We thought a fitting place for this would be a brand that is rooted in photography? So we included the photo booth into a setup for Smashbox Cosmetics, a brand that was actually founded in a photo studio. It infuses fun and allows for upload to social media and print outs to take home. Created-tested-photographed at Smashbox.

 

 

 

Barneys_NewYork_table

This dining table is a touchscreen. You order what you want to eat and while you wait for your food  you can browse and shop from the store the restaurant is attached to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple

When your product is the tech gadget all you need to do is place it on a table and make it accessible. Immediate interactivity.

 

 

 

 

 

There are many advocates  for high-tech solutions, but in my experience the simple is often the better. The more intuitive the better. The less technical the more fail save.

Engagement can also mean low tech. Addressing senses to create a multilayered memory. Wether it is a scent, a sound, a touch those can all augment the experience.

Lego

What is more fun than playing with the product? Instant engagement!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunx

Smell triggers emotions and memories. In the world of beauty lots of products are chosen by consumers for their smell, which often is only a by-product of the formula. Making the fragrance a touch point creates an indirect engagement with the affiliated product.

 

 

 

 

 

omni//form for Mac cosmetics

These displays are soft and squeezable. I designed these years ago to create a haptic memory in customers. The unexpectedness of the touch created lasting memories (and conversations!) Products for skin care  and beauty displayed on organic shaped skins. Hand mirrors in unexpected shapes fit perfectly into ones hands creating a “feel-good” moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sheraton

Sound: One can plug-in their portable music device into these rocking chairs and sound comes out of the back. Fun to experience and surprising. We designed this for a hotel lobby.

 

 

 

 

 

These are some examples of tactics of consumer engagement, however the most effective way is still the oldest and most traditional one: the human exchange. Nothing compares to a smile and a great advice from a knowledgeable sales person if you want your consumer to love your brand. No design can beat that.

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illusion in retail

As retail transforms increasingly into a world of leisure and entertainment today’s designers have to be able to craft environments able to tell stories and to amuse. Retail is standing in for the historic circus, constantly re-inventing its content  to entertain people with surprising effects and acts. The product is no longer the only intent of the visit when the retail space has become a social market place to meet, exchange, learn and discover. Cool hunters are out to be the first ones to discover the uncovered, unusual and unexpected.

Visual effects are tools that we borrow from theater design because they can support a story with a lasting emotional imprint. Sometimes a simple tactic can create a surprising illusion that fully transforms an environment to a fantastical un-real world. While such techniques usually have a short life span (once you have seen it, you are over it) they certainly contribute for the brand to be talked about. Like the buzz around an artshow.

Such effects can be found increasingly executed through new technologies of all kinds but my experience has told me to stay away from high tech solutions in retail as they are usually not suited for 20hrs of operations 7 days a week and when they break it leaves a very dull space behind. The tactics I am referring to are low tech with high impact.

To illustrate I am listing some  examples here below:

comme-des-garcons-nyc-chelsea-mens-japanese-1

comme des garçons in New York

Marking Entry: The futuristic entry into this store stands in opposition to the building. It is a threshold into a different world behind like the entry to a fairy tale.

Viktor&Rolf-Upside Down Store - Milan

Viktor&Rolf-Upside Down Store – Milan

Inversion: An even more literal take on the fairy tale this entire store was build upside down.

Camper New York

Camper New York

Repetition: An iconic products defines the whole environment.

Pop up store LVMH

Pop up store LVMH

Villa Moda - Dubai

Villa Moda – Dubai

Texture: Color pattern desorient and define the geometry of the space.

das brot - wolfsburg

das brot – wolfsburg

Ad absurdum: The unexpected use of roofing material on the inside.

Zeferino - Sao Paolo

Zeferino – Sao Paolo

Proportions: The distortion of the proportions creates an extreme spatial feel.

MAC Cosmetics New York

MAC Cosmetics New York

Unexpected behavior: Architectural elements peel away, destabilizing the environment.

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despresso – New York

Illusion: The space has seemingly been rotated to the side.

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Maison Magiela – Miami

Stage set: Fake doors & paper thin walls show an unreal setting.

Godiva - Tokyo

Godiva – Tokyo

Fairy Tale Effects

It is with such tools that designers can create memorable results which provoke internal reflection and intellectual engagements that create discussion, criticism and attention, all aspects that a brand would normally wish for.

 

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the importance of the experience

Human perception is built from experiences. Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event. The word “experience” may refer to mentally unprocessed immediately perceived events.One may also differentiate between physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and virtual experiences.

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For all matter the experience is directly connected to the emotional memory imprint we take a way from a lived situation and therefore of essence when pre-defined to achieve the goal of connecting a human to a specific situation, space, object or story.

When we design spaces, whether they are for residential or commercial purposes, we are setting the stage for the experiences that will happen to people, who will be using them. In the case of a theater the stage is exactly tailored to the story of the play with the goal to support or even enhance the story.

Retail, for example, is not much different. The more defined the story is, the more specific the space can be designed to enhance it. It is therefore essential to successful retail design to go beyond space and furniture planning, to a place, where the story, that will be told, is defined primarily.What good is a pretty store if the story is not told well and no emotions evoked?

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The story, that defines the brand, is ultimately what will drive the experience the brand wants their consumers to have.

At omni//form we have developed this process over years.We story board,animate or write out the experience. It involves a deeper understanding of human behavior, trends and fads in various cultural context. We try to think like the people, who will use our designs and research their likings, preferences, habits and rituals. For that we constantly update our global consciousness of cultural and sociological developments and trends. It allows us to create a vision around the scenarios that we have to accommodate and gives us a leading principle to the design development.

I believe that good design starts with interest for its user. It emerges out of consideration to create experiences that leave a positive emotional memory. That is what will make everyone return for more.

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who do YOU think could improve their retail experience? – leave us a note.

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world

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merchandising strategy for multi brand environments

There are many different ways and strategic rules about store merchandising.

The food industry has probably best mastered product placement to maximize productivity through consideration in ergonometrics, easy of product access, visibilities, category management, adjacencies and shelf life as can be found in every better food market around the world. We can learn a lot from these strategies.

the leading example

the leading example
food merchandising

The human factor plays the most important role. In the end the products are to be sold to us humans and we have certain constraints in where we can reach, what we can see. We usually shop with an underlying need. Most consumers in a store are either looking for a specific type item or they browse to find a solution to a need (like a gift for someone or a dress for a night out or a hunt for a suitable accessory). In the professional world we call these “consumer need states” and I think that these serve really well as merchandising strategies.

Specifically in a multi-brand environment. A classic way of merchandising such a floor would be to give each brand its own space. Think of a department store and you can visualize how each brand has a dedicated area within its department. The problem with that is that it does not respond to the consumer need.

the traditional department store setup

the traditional department store setup

For example: A customer enters a department store’s men section with the need for a tuxedo. Every brand lives in its own silo, hence he is forced to look for the same item over and over again to compare as he moves from brand to brand. It is also difficult to compare choices as the various models he finds are not next to each other. Instead why not merchandise the floor according his need state? In this example it would be better to have all tuxedos together with all the accessories needed for a black tie event one area. Brands can still be sub-distinguished within that area to keep their identities. So the ties & bows, cuff links, shoes, belts all live adjacent to the tuxedos as it is done in supermarkets with pasta and pasta sauce.  It will not only make the consumer’s life easier, but he will also be more engaged to buy more because the whole “look” is laid out in front of him.

Or why is a customer, who comes for a blowout and style to the hair salon in the department store, not offered a makeup consultation or shown make up products at the same time to achieve a complete look? Or why can’t a business man, who looks to outfit his next business trip, find everything he would need to pack for in one place?

Shopping is partially entertainment today. To entertain we need to tell stories to people. Theme worlds are just that.  Customers will do much easier in a preset themed area than having to piece it together by themselves. So, while some stores have adapted such concepts, we wonder why such a setup cannot be found more often? Wouldn’t it make shopping in department stores so much more convenient and enjoyable?

merchandising themes (need states)

merchandising themes (need states)

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic design firm
with specialization in global retail concepts and roll-outs

http://www.omniform.us

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Richard Branson on the Importance of Design

No matter what industry you’re working in, if your business sells services, your ultimate goal is making your customers happy. At Virgin, we’ve always found that our front-line employees play a big role in that, with their cheerfulness, patience, resourcefulness, and dedication to listening to customers. But no matter how good they are, your staff will need you to set the stage for a great customer experience with good design — by providing a space that you, your employees and your customers love to be in.

A well-designed space immediately says that you care about the details and that you want to contribute something fun and meaningful to your customers’ lives — it will help them to relax and talk about what they’re looking for. We learned this accidentally, and early on — at our first storefront, in fact.

Our first Virgin Records store in London, which opened in 1971, was essentially a place for us to listen to music and meet new friends. It featured listening stations where customers could play records before buying them and beanbag chairs so that everyone could hang out. From that experience, my friends and I realized how important it was to create inviting, unique spaces that bring people together to discuss what they are passionate about: music, mobile apps, travel, even banking.

Yes, banking! When we launched Virgin Money in Britain, one of our newest businesses, we faced the challenge of making banking both fun and meaningful for customers. Our team’s answer was to offer people the opportunity to integrate banking into their everyday lives by eliminating lines and teller windows: The banks are designed to resemble living rooms, with both comfortable seating and work areas so that customers can use the space to meet friends, colleagues or our representatives. They can set up their laptops and use the space to do some work whenever they like, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, power outlets and newspapers we offer.

When you are designing your space, think about the problems that your customers are depending on you to solve. Many of our spaces address specific issues. For example, some people waiting in airports would prefer to spend their time productively, while others just want to relax, so we targeted both groups’ needs when we made our plans for Virgin America’s Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport.

For business travelers, we included Wi-Fi, power outlets and plentiful seating so that they can be as productive on the ground as they are in the air. For people more interested in recreation, we built a yoga room, a lounge with plentiful food and beverage choices, and shops featuring the best of San Francisco’s markets and chefs. We’ve heard from customers that T2 makes the airport an experience to look forward to, rather than just another stop along a tiring journey.

Remember, when it comes to design, it’s rare that one size fits all. Since the types of customers for your services may vary from location to location, you must be flexible. And as always, be sure to ask your front-line staff for ideas and get their thoughts on proposed designs. We have Virgin Active health clubs all over the world, and while they share common values, we encourage franchise owners to customize each club to fit the local community’s needs.

For example, many of our gyms in residential neighborhoods have terrific kid zones where children can be looked after while their parents work out. This allows multitasking moms and dads to get a break so that they can exercise — and relax afterward, too. Virgin Active Soweto, by contrast, serves many business commuters, so it operates a hair salon: After a good workout, people will look as good as they feel.

Even if you are putting everything you’ve got into just getting your startup off the ground, design is not an area where you should stint. The thought, effort and love you put into your business space shows your respect and consideration for your customers — the building blocks of great service. Relaxed, happy customers who know they are valued are more likely to engage with your staff, ask questions and find solutions tailored to their needs.

Have you walked into a store recently that made you feel comfortable, productive, healthy and happy? How did it make you feel about the company? What do such spaces all have in common? Entrepreneurs, tell me about your design challenge on Twitter, @richardbranson.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225685

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brand upgrade

Following up on my previous post I feel obligated to mention the new Victoria Secret Flagship UK Store on New Bond Street around the corner, which just recently opened up. This strip, which is known for luxury retail, has now been conquered by a “masstige” retailer. Certainly this must be seen as their high-end version to justify this location. The upgrade is done with a chic facade all in black, showcasing theatrical window displays introducing a nightclub/cabaret theme that features the infamous angel models in stage light settings.

To encourage  full accessibility and break down any possible barriers of customer hold back towards expensive looking environments the proven formula of wide open doors leading into a dark mysterious space pumping with music, as seen in their sister brands such as Abercrombie&Fitch or  Hollister,  is also applied here. The customer sees the most glamorous part of the store from the entrance, the fragrance area, boosting crystal glass, mirrors and lots of reflections in the dark.  A grand oversized video wall of beautiful girls literally pulls anyone in, who cannot resist to the sexual undertone of this palace of senses. The cabaret theme carries throughout the store in variations, its darkness allowing to remain unrecognized while giving way to intriguing illusions of perfect beauty and sexual retail fantasies.

Retail theater at its best.

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Victoria Secret London

Victoria Secret london -video wall

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Moving the crowds- strategic planning_part 3

In my previous post “Leading the way!” I wrote about how strategic “attractors” can help pull the customers through space by providing a sequence of stimuli throughout the experience. Today I want to look at how care needs to be given equally to the layout of the path.

We believe that a store layout is more favorable when it allows for a customer journey without repetition.

Creating a round trip experience will keep the attraction and interest levels up. As they move through a choreographed sequence of experiences they will not realize their way through the store, unless the way is experienced backwards, even for some parts. The repeated path is usually without value for the retailer as the customer will have the impression “to already have seen it” and likely expedite their way through that area without any interest or interaction with a product.

A good example to this theory are IKEA stores. They have driven this idea to a point where it is impossible to turn back without loosing orientation. So customers are almost forced to complete the journey if they want to ever see daylight again.

IKEA store layout and customer path

The negative aspect of taking it this far is that not every customer possesses the same attention span and not being able to exit when you want can create adverse impressions and annoyance. IKEA may get some impulse sales out of a disoriented customer but the experience won’t have a positive perception. (see related article in “Daily Telegraph”) The journey should be offered, not forced.

Below is the layout plan of our store example from the previous blog – a jewelry store omni//form designed for the French brand Mauboussin in Singapore. We have mapped possible journeys from the main entrance as well as the secondary but equally important VIP drive way.

<omni//form for Mauboussin in Singapore>
customer journey mapping
red main, blue VIP

Even though the store is relatively small, it is organized to allow for a customer round trip with attractors setup along the entire journey.

Not every space configuration will necessarily allow for a comfortable round trip journey. Small retail stores very often are narrow and long. The trick is to get the customer to explore the entire space offering by setting up an attractor or a functional area at the very end of the space. When we designed retail stores for MAC Cosmetics with such conditions, we usually set up an attractor at the deep end of space .

This could be a stimulating light element, such as a large light box visual or video screen since humans tend to walk towards light in darker environments. Alternatively we would locate the cash register all the way in the back, so that we could be sure that the customer see the entire store offering before check-out.

A round trip journey can also be created by simply introducing island displays, if the space allows.

<regis pean for MAC Cosmetics in New York>
video screen at the end of the space as a far sight attractor
and island displays to encourage round trip journeys

<regis pean for MAC Cosmetics in Los Angeles>
light source and cash register at the end of space
island displays encourage non repetitive paths

<regis pean for MAC Cosmetics in Tokyo>
wall gestures and displays lead around the corner guiding customers through the space

store designs by omni//form, inc

www.omniform.us

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Leading the way

It is no secret that in store design way guiding is of utmost importance.  There is a whole science behind when and how customers make relevant decisions and what way they are taking through stores. The way customers navigate a store can not be left to coincidence even though all research and studies can never prescribe all the possible options a customer path can have. Because the goal is to get a customer interested, excited and emotionally connected to your brand to buy your product you have not yet won by bringing them into the store only. You must keep them interested all along the way.

As strategic planners for retail environments we follow a simple rule that has given us much success: we build a sequence of visual attractors throughout the store that pull the customer through the space. Visual stimulants are created to keep the interest up and raise the emotions when detected. They play with the ideas of discovery in the sense that the customer is seduced to come and see it from close up. They must be easily detectable, so ideally setup by themselves in high contrast. Lighting plays a big role in making them stand out from the crowd. When setup as multiples in sequence, it creates a controlled physical movement through space.

Here are a few examples of such attractors from a jewelry store for the french brand Mauboussin omni//form designed in Singapore, which we can use as an example for demonstration purposes:

first impression
a “wow” moment in the entry

Important is the first point of interest to engage the customer in the journey. If visible through the entrance door it can also create the most important customer movement: entering the store. In this example a big statement was created with a cascading chandelier  (light and height support the concept of attention grabbing) over product displays to create interest from outside in and lead the customer on a discovery path. Before they know they are engaged into the choreographed experience through the store.

“what’s back here”?
finish and lighting contrast boost the effect of the passage

“what’s in there”?
Treasure box display provocatively opened to invite viewing

“what am I looking at”?
intriguing mirror effects demand for understanding

“relief”!
inviting moments to relax

store design by omni//form, inc

www.omniform.us

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