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Leo Burnett Company, Limited
175 Bloor Street East, North Tower
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R9
+416 925 5997

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Three Key Retail Design Traits for a New Shopping Age

Here’s how brick-and-mortar locations can engage with millennial shoppers beyond the screen, writes Arc’s Glenn Madigan

Millennials are changing the world of retail. The old role of stores has shifted to digital channels — millennials browse online, not in-store and they scour the web for product comparisons, reviews and discounts days before their shopping trip — but the impact of physical spaces on the shopper journey has more potential than ever.

As an art director (and millennial) on a team designing retail environments, we strive to tap into brand stories that can’t be told online. Brick-and-mortar stores are still the best place to reach shoppers on the most human levels by telling stories that engage all five senses, resulting in more personal experiences than currently possible through computer screens.

Because of this, stores should no longer be just a place to shop, but rather a venue that marries inventory and interactivity while encouraging socializing with the associates, products and brand.

This new age of retail should feel less like shopping and more like a hands-on gallery or community lounge. Stores should be a place for you to try, play, taste, smell and explore products in whatever way makes sense, followed by a sale in-store or online or a mix of the two. This evolved form of retailtainment aims to place brand storytelling center stage, encompassing all store touchpoints rather than a one-off display.

As I’m brainstorming for creative retail solutions, I aim to focus on three key traits that complement the millennial shopper journey.

SOCIAL: Encourage interactivity in-store that’s also share-worthy online.
SENSORIAL: Explore storytelling that engages all five senses.
ADAPTABLE: Build a venue that empowers shoppers to make it their own.

Coast to coast, brands are already developing spaces geared toward these traits. My personal favorites welcome visitors into environments wholly crafted for their unique culture and brand voice.

Samsung 837 in New York is described as a “technology playground, cultural destination” and “a physical manifestation of the company’s brand.” The space is outfitted with the latest tech from Samsung that you can test out, an art gallery featuring tech-inspired installations, and a massive digital screen for special events or live streams.

The space isn’t meant to increase same-day sales (you can’t actually purchase anything in-store) but rather sell guests on Samsung’s culture of innovation to increase brand awareness after they leave. While eliminating transactions from a brick-and-mortar space would not be a recommendation for most, the reprioritization from in-person sales to storytelling is worth noting.

Dylan's Candy Bar
Dylan’s Candy Bar • Photo: Glenn Madigan

Dylan’s Candy Bar in Chicago is also beaming with brand personality. Dylan’s may err on the edge of sensorial overload, but the explosion of colors and candy is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. From a personalized flavor station to a 3D-printed candy kiosk to an in-store café, Dylan’s allows guests to rediscover classic treats in new ways that make it hard to walk out empty-handed.

Wingtip • Photo:

And out west in San Francisco, Wingtip provides “solutions for the modern gentleman” in a clubhouse that’s home to its clothing collection, a barbershop, private parlor rooms, shared workspace and a golf simulator. It has excelled at defining the needs and interests of its target audience and has built a one-stop social hub that’s catered exclusively to them.

Today, stores should create brand destinations that are equally stocked with products and experiences that engage millennials and shoppers of all ages. Give them something to do, something to share and something worth stopping in for.

Glenn Madigan is an art director with Arc Worldwide’s Retail Design Group.