Tag Archives: mauboussin

roll out strategy

When retailers decide to take their brand abroad they know they must implement  a strategy of brand identity that represents them at best and stays relevant in the very diverse world of global retail. For a while the formula has been to develop a scheme that prescribes a predefined look at point-of-sales and as many standardized guidelines as possible to assure consistency in the brand message wherever they would go to open a new store.

What we realized though after a few years of this practice is that the world of retail started turning into a dull and very uninspiring scenario: everywhere you would go, you would see the exact same carbon copies of store concepts. Merchandising and window displays were the same and consumers could not differentiate any longer if they were in a mall in China, the US, Brazil or the UK. On the other side the local markets felt like they were imposed a retail scheme that, while representing the brand at its best, did often not really click with local consumers.

What was missing was the integration of cultural context.

Today we are looking at international roll-out designs with a different perspective. We like to design retail scenarios that follow a strong brand concept, previously developed at the heart of the brand. However, the declinations throughout the world are developed with cultural relevance to the local markets. These sometimes small variations to the original concept are key elements to hit the love-mark with a customer. Consumers in foreign countries have different shopping habits. We all follow cultural rituals, we have learned from early on, influenced by our heritage and culture. So it is no surprise that things are done differently in Japan or in Saudi Arabia than in the US. It is more likely to create a successful retail environment by learning these behavioral variations and adapting them into the design concept.

When we took Mauboussin, the french jeweler from Place Vendome in Paris, to Casablanca such adaptation seemed necessary. Even though there is a long-lasting affinity between France and Morocco there is a strong difference in the cultural context as well as behavioral patterns. Led by tradition and religion the role of men and women are very different from the western model, hence the shopping rituals, especially for jewelry – often a prestige object to show affection between the two – had to be taken into consideration.

So for this store we made two major adaptations that I list here as example to support my theory above:

1. we included a women only tea salon. The idea was to encourage women to come on their own as we provided a “safe” environment for them. This unit is attached to the retail store, which enables women to meet with their friends and family without male company and combine that with a shopping experience, which otherwise would be less accessible.

2. we removed the cash desk from the sales floor. This creates a decent environment, where money transactions are being conducted in privacy, secluding the sensitive part  from the communal shopping experience. A very important scenario for male customers in this cultural context, who do not want their shopping partners to see what they are spending.

In addition we adopted local materials and construction techniques in some areas into the design to create recognition to traditional crafts and therefore connect to local customers on an emotional level. For example the facade was covered in broken tiles, a technique found in many residences in Morocco, enriched with sparkling pieces here to make it look precious. Interior walls were covered with Tadelakt, a rich plaster and application method unique to this country. Further we created lace covered moldings on the wall reflecting on the rich local culture of embroidery. All of this did not distort the image of the brand but instead gave it a meaningful interpretation. Now, 2 years after the store opened, we can attest that our strategy was successful as the store has become a staple in its hometown.

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Interiors - Tadelakt and lace molding

Interiors – Tadelakt plaster finish and lace molding

Tea Salon

Tea Salon

Mauboussin, Boulevard Al Massira Al Khadra, Casablanca, Morocco

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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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Get them in! strategic planning_part 1

One of the most important questions for every shop owner is: how do I get customers to come into my shop? I would like to analyze two very different strategic approaches on how a storefront design can support a potential customers decision.

The first storefront example is the one of the stores omni//form designed for French jeweler “Mauboussin” in Singapore (see previous post for more on that store).

First we took a very atypical approach to the storefront by making it floor-to-ceiling glass. Jewelry stores are usually closed off or “shielded” to convey secured value and provide privacy to a customer, who is ready to spend money. This brand’s aim is to deconstruct that old fashioned notion and instead to reposition itself as being fashionable, young and accessible. The openness of the facade is the first tactic to convey this message.

The second tactic is the logo. It’s the far communicator. Its size is readable from across the street. It sits on a bar that not only illuminates it for better reading but that also guides the eye to the entrance door. The logo acts as an underlined title to the display window area below.

Next is the store front content, which is structured in 3 layers or tactics:

1-The immediate window display plays on the notion of discovery. Open displays -“treasure boxes”- are setup for discovery and tease the viewer with select merchandise. They are internally lit and thus each create a highlight that draws attention.

2-The feather curtain acts as a back drop to the window displays to isolate them out of the interior context but simultaneously allows a peek into the vestibule of the boutique because of its sheer quality. The space behind is conceived around a central cascading chandelier fixture over product displays, which serves as focal point. This visual magnet can be “previewed” from outside to generate interest and desire to enter and explore.

3-The interior of the store can be glimpsed at from outside through two openings from the vestibule. This is crucial for a jewelry store that would typically suffer from what I call “threshold angst” as a hesitance to enter in fear of being engaged with an environment that does not suit the customer’s financial status. In this case the guard is down and customers can see what it is like inside, deconstructing the angst upfront. It also re-enforces the notion of an all inclusiveness supporting the brand message of accessibility.

The overall theme for this design was accessibility and discovery in a attempt to recruit a broader customer range.

A very contrary example to this is a store front we designed years earlier before the brand decided to change its positioning. This store was built in New York, on Madison Avenue. The aim was to convey exclusivity and a secure environment for precious goods. It was in line with the expected customer in this neighborhood, where the most exclusive stores settle and people come to spend money.

regis pean+omni//form strategic planning example

Here the logo was reduced to a decent hint to communicate exclusivity.

The storefront communicates a curated selection of merchandise but does not offer additional layered information.  The inside of the boutique remains an experience to explore for the ones who dare or belong.

The entrance is marked by a bright and sparkling opening in the otherwise dark store front.  Full glass doors offer a peek into a glitzy vestibule, which leads the way to the real entrance door further in. The passing of two door thresholds was introduced to re-enforce the ideas of safety and privacy.

The shop window displays draw attention similar to the first example. Bright lights create contrast and highlights for the eyes to fall on. Brand iconic treasure boxes are opened up for discovery. Here is where the brand communicates its offering. But additional information is very limited: cropped openings in the back drop around the displays allow for a peek into the vestibule behind and the ones, who look carefully through the center opening, as it aligns with the entrance door behind, are rewarded with a peek into the boutique. The goal was to  raise interest and desire to explore the tease. The theme in this example plays on intriguing luxury for the Madison Avenue customer.

Both examples show how strategic design tactics can create very opposite effects while achieving the same goal: to get customers into the store!

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Adapt your concept!

Mauboussin Mandarin Galleries, Orchard Rd, Singapore

When French jewelry brand Mauboussin asked us to take the brand new retail experience concept we had created for their Madison avenue store to Singapore for a new flagship store, we knew we had to make some adjustments.The democratization of fine luxury, as the brand had initiated it in France to reach a wider demographic, seemed not to be the appropriate strategy for the local market in Singapore. Instead we felt that a more successful direction was to turn up the volume on the exclusivity and the french heritage, both aspects that seem highly valued by the local affluent customer. So we put personal customer service at its center and created an interior that is reminiscent of a french palais. But it would not be recognizable as Mauboussin, if it did not have twisted moments of surprise and playfulness in the details. In the end it is as important to show that Mauboussin is a french luxury heritage brand with a very young and fresh spirit at heart.

Mauboussin, Mandarin Galleries, Orchard Rd, Singapore

design by omni//form,inc

      

  

   

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keeping up the dream!

Keeping a competitive edge in the jewelry business is certainly a high call. Competition is fierce and the distinctions between high and low end are blurring continuously. So it can be a designer’s call to help keeping a brand on the forefront.

One thing is certain: the fascination about jewelry plays with notion of the surprise and unknown. Jewelry is mostly meant to represent value as in “appreciation” or  “quality”. Certainly it is important to keep the mysticism about the product alive. Which woman would want to know the “truth” about the piece she is being offered? What matters is the fantasy that is attached to it, the story that carries the product. So a way to success is to keep the dream alive that accompanies each product. Never talk about price or origin of product unless the customer asks for it. That is certainly true for jewelry.

Design can help. Packaging can improve on the fantasy that comes with the product. Rich and delicate packaging will help emphasize the value of the product inside. Display fixtures can present product in a most refined but also intimate way to make the observer feel special. So does the shopping environment. A retail store can help carry the notion of mystery, luxe and secrecy for its customer. A space that supports dreams, personal discovery, romanticism and mysticism keeps the dream alive. It can be theatrical, dramatical and sensual and must evoke emotions in the customer to create the notion of the fantasy that is attached to the product.

Below is an example of a store we designed a few years ago for the French jewelry brand Mauboussin on New York’s Madison Avenue. The store occupied three floors of a town house and was very much designed to be a dream land inside a private mansion. From the outside one would not see the entrance – it was disguised by show windows that one had to “peek” into to see the merchandise. This played with the idea of private discovery of a valuable. The façade would transform at night into an animated display of sparkling shapes and colors.

Once you entered the store you would be engulfed in darkness, creating a surprising moment. A sparkling display was the only thing one would see before they eyes adjusted and one would discover randomly placed “treasure boxes” in the space, which would reveal the merchandise once approached. Trick mirrors in some displays supported the idea of being in a fantasy world. Private sit-downs, to look at merchandise, would be facilitated in areas with oversized comfort furniture slightly distorted in proportions to underline the surrealist nature of the environment.

As one would ascend through the mansion to the upper level the color schemes would change. Silver walls and dim light defined the diamond level and bright lights with a white color scheme characterized the bridal floor. The colors of the finishes in the spaces would lighten up as one progressed upwards towards the sky. The bridal level was finished in the most sumptuous white materials such as goose feathers, satins panels, soft leather and murano glass beaded wall coverings, long hair carpets, Ostrich feather dividers and a soft tufted ceiling feature to create a sensual environment for a customer in a very emotional state.

The idea was to create a retail environment out of a fairy tale so that the dream of the product comes to life in the store.

The store is still there – 714 Madison Avenue, New York, even though the 1st and 2nd floor have been altered since the original installation.

http://www.omniform.us

storefront with nigh theme

first impression

treasure boxes to discover precious items

diamond bars

diamond level

private consultation

bridal floor

treasure box displays / bridal floor

 

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