Construction trends: Retailers seek spaces for social media and tech

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Many retail clients build new sites with “social media sharing” spaces in mind, embracing bright colors and areas that make for excellent photo backdrops, as seen here at Zoës Kitchen, constructed by Maxwell Builders.

Dave Maxwell
CEO, Maxwell Builders

 

If you’ve purchased a product at any brick-and-mortar retail location in the past few years, you know the way we purchase products has changed dramatically. Online shopping efficiencies continue to evolve and retailers with physical locations work hard to keep up with the evolution. Some brick-and-mortar retailers are immensely successful, others struggle and still others have thrown in the towel.

The vast number of successful brick-and-mortar retailers, the thriving economy and the influx of people moving to Colorado have created a strong retail building economy here, and we are seeing several trends in retail construction because of it.

Enhancing the customer experience. Customers buy experiences, not just products. And anyone who knows today’s consumer knows that we like to share our experiences with the online world.

Deloitte, an international tax, audit and advisory firm, noted in its 2017 annual Global Powers of Retailing report the “experience sharing” trend of social media. Deloitte customer T2 is an Australian-based tea shop that has experienced tremendous success by creating lively, colorful packaging and in-store experiences that customers love to photograph and share on social media. The vibrant colors and store designs allow for visually attractive social media posts.

A majority of our retail clients build new sites with “social media sharing” spaces within their stores, from sitting areas outside the fitting rooms that make for excellent photo backdrops to expertly designed creative restaurant menu signs that people love to snap and share.

Restaurants are embracing the “eater-tainment” concept with signage, seating and locations that enhance the customer experience in busy retail hubs. As an example, Einstein Bros. Bagels utilizes bright colors in each of its restaurants. We incorporated bright color schemes in the 23 Einstein Bros. Bagels stores we recently remodeled. Similarly, Bank of the West requests bright colors and bold designs in its builds. Sephora opts for a bold design of black and white. All of these retailers seek to enhance the customer experience to draw people into their spaces.

Still other stores are competing with online giants by minimizing the “socializing” aspect of the shopping experience to focus on pure customer convenience. For instance, customers may visit a brick-and-mortar store, purchase a product electronically (either through a kiosk or with the assistance of a store employee), and have that item shipped directly to their home, often with complimentary shipping. You can buy a bulky item on vacation and not have to worry about getting it home, for example. Gone are the days of having to visit three different locations to find the size you want. You can order online in the store and have your sizes shipped directly to your home.

To maximize service and minimize technology headaches, general contractors source specialty subcontractors to build in state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technologies so multiple users can retrieve online coupons, purchase products and post pictures of themselves purchasing those products conveniently.

Many physical retailers also have self-checkout areas and product holding areas (for people who purchase online and come in the store to pick up the product) built into their construction for customers who want to get in and out quickly without any small talk.

The Kroger/King Soopers grocery store chain has embraced its ClickList technology, whereby customers order online and pay in advance. Employees pick and bag those ordered items from the store floor and then customers pick the items up in a holding area in the parking lot. To increase efficiency of this growing shopper convenience, builders are creating holding space in the store warehouses and special parking areas for ClickList customers.

Industry pioneers. Many people may be surprised to learn that J.C. Penney was an early adopter of the “scan-and-go” shopping concept. Before the retail pioneer hit its current financial challenges, it planned on building RFID technology into 100 percent of its merchandise by early 2013, allowing customers to bypass the check-out line and use their mobile devices instead.

Today, Walmart, Sam’s Club and numerous other retailers have built scan-and-go shopping into their stores. Customers use a smartphone app to scan items as they place the item in the cart, check out online and then receive a barcode receipt on their phone screen to show a store employee as the customer exits the store. The store employee scans the barcode to reconcile the purchase and the customer is on their way.

What’s next? With the exception of Amazon, all of the top 10 retailers listed in the Stores magazine ranking of top retailers are brick-and-mortar stores, including Walmart, Kroger Co., Costco, The Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens, Target, Lowe’s and Albertson’s. These stores will lead the way in exciting new brick-and-mortar retail trends.

Even Amazon’s brick-and-mortar Amazon Go grocery stores promise “the world’s most-advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line.” By using the Amazon Go app on their smartphones, customers just enter the store, place the items they want in their bag and leave. Amazon charges the customer’s Amazon account and sends them a receipt.

As Forbes.com predicts, physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.

Featured in CREJ’s August 2018 Retail Properties Quarterly

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