A distinctive personality makes a brand memorable. And, because personality helps customers to become emotionally attached to a brand, it also makes retailers more competitive. However, in today’s informed, connected, and socially aware age, customers can’t be fooled. So, before they buy into your unique brand identity, first and foremost it must be authentic.

The truth is, modern shoppers have become sceptical; backlashing against retail design that looks overly corporate or (depending on the brand) excessively stylised.

For example, exposed brick, filament bulbs, and vintage fonts may have been ideal for cutting-edge retailers a few years ago, but as this counter-culture became more mainstream, too many brands jumped on the hipster bandwagon. Today, if you're not careful, retailers who adopt this aesthetic run the risk of looking like they're just copying everyone else. And, while you might think you look good, faux authenticity is unlikely to win hearts and minds in the long run.


The value of storytelling in retail store designs

Savvy store designers know that the easiest way to engage with consumers is through their emotions. And, to tap into your customer’s emotions, nothing beats the power of a good story.


“If people love a brand story, more than half (55%) are more likely to buy the product in the future, 44% will share the story and 15% will buy straight away." Headstream


Storytelling helps retailers to connect with shoppers and capture their imaginations. It communicates your personality and establishes the values and experiences of your brand.

However, your story shouldn’t be about what you sell, but who you are and what makes you different from your competitors. Consider Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign which launched in 1997 for example. Centred on “The Crazy Ones” poem, adverts celebrated the innovation and individualism of people who step away from the norm and think outside of the box to change the world. It was powerful stuff that has retained brand advocates to this day.

Likewise, only last year, the very first Google Shop opened in a Currys PC World in London, combining impressive displays, immersive surround-screen, and a variety of interactive technologies. Delivering a contemporary ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience, Google’s store design was not only exciting, but it also transformed the traditional shopping experience while telling a unique story.

The good news is you don’t need the budget of Google or Apple to tell your tale. Colours, materials, sound, graphics, and lighting all help to create retail vignettes that make brands believable. 


How to add authenticity to your retail store design


Light helps retailers to communicate potent, multi-sensory experiences that induce genuine customer emotions.

Lighting has the potential to bring brands to life and convey a unique identity; with bespoke lighting solutions helping to express individuality, maximise impact, and reinforce brand awareness.

Indeed, as retailers strive to deliver an enhanced customer experience and, ultimately, increase sales, how lighting is used in store has never been more important.

Neon-like LED derivatives, LED lightboxes, and illuminated shelving can all be used to help tell your brand’s story.

Concrete Clad Lightboxes



When it comes to retail design, both tactile and visual texture can be used to add impact and appeal.

For example, in 2016, concrete has become one of the hottest design trends. Used correctly, the industrial-style glamour of concrete can help to accentuate a range of different retail campaigns, trends, and products as the finish doesn’t detract attention away from the display itself.

By cladding lightboxes and graphic displays in different material – such as ultra-thin concrete panels - retailers can add interest. Concrete can also be used to give a unique finish to shelving such as our Kontakt range currently installed in River Island. 

Likewise, textures such as wood, brick, and soft furnishings can add a humanising component to otherwise high-tech or corporate spaces, helping to bridge the gap between commerce and people’s everyday lives.

For example, when working with Pantheon interiors, we used a variety of different materials to create standard retail displays (e.g. showcases, tables, shelving) combined with various finishes to complement the new store aesthetic. 

Retail Display Tables



Touch helps to create a personalised, engaging, and memorable shopping experience.

While online retailers are often difficult to beat when it comes to price, they simple can’t recreate the pleasure that comes from feeling and handling products before purchase.

With studies showing that holding products can lead to a sense of psychological ownership, retail design must amplify the sensory quality of merchandise in a bid to increase sales. 



Signage can be an excellent way to communicate brand messages. However, if these include overly corporate/rigid typography, they can lose that sought after authentic feel.

Consider neon-style signage, to engage hearts and minds without the challenges of traditional neon. In 2016, both independent and multiple retailers are using its retro appeal and bright colour rendition to catch the eye and attract customers.

Neonist Neon LED Signage


In conclusion

Of course, being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do, and who you serve. So while concrete finishes or neon-style signage might be right for some retailers, they may not be suitable for you.

However, by being true to yourself and your business, and using your store design to reflect this, you won’t only elevate your business above the competition, you’ll also help people to become emotionally invested in your brand, and turn these customers into advocates.

At Unibox, we transform ideas into a technical reality, collaborating with retailers and design agencies to create attractive, engaging retail displays and environments that sell products more effectively. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us today for an informal chat.