In March this year, the very first Google Shop opened in a Curry’s PC World in London. Unlike more traditional retail displays, the Google ‘shop-in-shop’ combines impressive displays, the use of clever black out screens to make the pop-up stand out, immersive surround-screen, and a variety of interactive technologies. Delivering a contemporary ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience for customers, there’s no denying the Google store design is exciting, but does it create an improved retail experience for customers?

In a word, yes.

Having described the store as “a place where they [visitors] can play, experiment, and learn”, Google clearly has a vision for the new shop, a vision that takes the customer experience to a whole new level. A trip to the Google Shop is an event – one that transcends and fundamentally transforms the traditional shopping experience.

Of course the shop-in-shop concept is nothing new. Indeed this model has long been popular in department stores, with fashion and beauty concessions operating smaller retail outlets within a larger store. However, while it’s an agreement that has historically worked, all too often there is very little to distinguish between the smaller retailers when it comes to lighting, signage and display systems.

Today, however, we’re witnessing the creation of a new template when it comes to engaging shoppers. And bricks and mortar retailers everywhere need to pay attention or risk being left behind. Dixons Carphone boss Sebastian James certainly agrees, stating that retailers simply must prepare for the arrival of the “connected consumer” or be hit by an “asteroid” that could prove fatal.

The age of the connected customer

“Connected customers are customers that love your brand. They buy from you again and again; they spend more on your website; and they serve as brand advocates within their networks. The connected customer is eager to engage across multiple channels and devices. In the online marketplace, the connected customer provides the straightest path to success, paying dividends across the entire customer lifecycle.”


With today’s shoppers constantly seeking a superior and exciting shopping experience, just how do you turn customers into brand advocates?

Well, while price sensitivities and the use of technology to streamline and improve the customer experience are critical, the importance of appealing in store design should not be overlooked.

Of course, not all retailers have the budget to match the multi-national behemoth that is Google. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t employ displays that change store environments – and the customer experience – for the better.

This year we’ve seen a raft of the UK’s leading retailers turn to in-store design to differentiate themselves from the completion and offer a more interesting shopping experience. And this differentiation is something that 63% of today’s customer’s demand.

63% of shoppers report that if an item is the exact same price at four different retailers, they will decide where to shop based on the overall customer experience they have in the store.

TimeTrade, State of Retail Report 2015


Take supermarket Morrison’s for example. Introducing a new ‘Format Flex’ concept, the retailer plans to experiment with differing propositions, ranges, designs and environments in a number of key stores – all tailored to appeal to different audience types. Andy Newton, Director of format and space at Morrison states “Customers want their local store to be relevant to them and their family”.

Demonstrating a similar commitment to its customers, when River Island launched a new ‘flagship’ concept store at the Bullring in Birmingham, display and lighting were used to deliver the ‘wow’ factor and create a space that could be easily adapted to reflect the latest collections and respond to changing consumer tastes. Using light boxes, canvasses and statement displays to evoke the feeling of an art gallery, the design leads to a more enjoyable shopping experience and promotes merchandise in an innovative way – helping to boost sales.

Certainly, while there is no denying that quality retail design creates the multi-sensory experience that today’s savvy customer’s demand, just as importantly it can help influence shopper behaviour, resulting in increased profits. In fact, the launch of the Hudl tablet within Tesco allowed Unibox Retail to partner with retail design specialists Quantum 4 to create and manufacture a bespoke display solution comprising illuminated graphic messaging and LED edge-lit shelving. Used in 500 stores throughout the UK, sales of the Hudl have since outstripped every other brand of tablet within Tesco.

Today, bricks and mortar stores have to compete harder than ever to provide customers with an engaging shopping experience. Creative in store design and displays play a huge role in achieving this aim; capturing customer attention, reinforcing brand recognition and winning the hearts and minds of the connected customer.