VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

Retail By Design | The Brand Experience

Designing the Customer Experience: Book Offers Retail Strategy for the Omnichannel Age



In the field of branding and strategy, we talk a lot about the customer experience and how the brand extends itself into the marketplace, and into the hearts and minds of consumers.


In their new book, Holistic Retail Design: Reshaping Shopping for the Digital Era, authors Philipp Teufel and Rainer Zimmermann challenge segmentation of the branded experience in today’s retail.  The book is equal parts theoretical, pragmatic, and experimental in its approach to modern retail.


That the world of retail has undergone seismic shifts is true, but the authors do not lament such a fact.


“The old school principle of the retail industry is defined by compartmentalization: architects don’t talk to visual merchandisers, who don’t talk to brand managers or public relations or the interactive department,” says co-author Zimmerman, in an interview with b. on brand.



An example of storytelling with visual merchandising concept at Swedish store Nordisk Museet where Dandyism is imaginatively presented for the modern hipster.

“Today we have a need for holistic shopping experiences across all touchpoints, which requires people who are able to judge, plan and develop design and communications in digital media as well as in a spatial context. Architecture, design and communications for retail must be organized in an integrated way.”


Zimmerman and Teufel, both doctorate scholars in the fields of strategy and communications and graphic design (respectively), ground their design insights in richly documented case studies that offer compelling examples of global best practices across all retail channels.

{ “Today we have a need for holistic shopping experiences… Architecture, design and communications for retail must be organized in an integrated way.” }

All too often, it is still the architect who sweeps in and create their “vision” for the brand’s three-dimensional expression, even if quite often, they have little to no knowledge of the strategic and operational goals of a retail store. For them, the store is showplace more than holistic brand value system, one that must – if it’s effective – be harmonious with all the spokes of the brand wheel.


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The authors use the paradigm of three historical models for retail: the Market, Warehouse, and Museum, each with its own strategic value system.


“While verticals like H&M or Zara are heavily addressing the average consumer, a growing number of hipsters are looking for individualization and differentiation,” says Zimmerman.


“I think it is good news for independent and small retail players that their market potential is arguably rising. Mainstream retail is still determined by scale and mass, whereas independent retailers are successful with a business model of margin and scarcity.”


The hunger for an individualized experience is a key driver for millennial consumers, which is why from high luxury to mass market, brands are engineering bold design concepts to further elevate the customer experience.


Zimmermann and Teufel’s book goes in-depth to explore the tangible strategies for holistic brand design, from stationary to temporary to digital customer touch-points. The crux: no successful brand can avoid expanding their vision for how they engage with the consumer.

{ “Mainstream retail is still determined by scale and mass, whereas independent retailers are successful with a business model of margin and scarcity.” }



Swedish brand Aesop has been universally recognized for innovating a fresh brand approach with each of their store locations. “What its projects have in common is authentic materials and the sensible use of the existing space and facade.”

A beautiful store is just that, but in the end, what’s the ultimate expression of the brand?


“Most of the retailers have not yet started to reinvent their personnel and service quality,” cautions Zimmerman.


Case in point, sales associates regularly complain that stores lack efficient stockrooms, rest areas, or selling spaces that make cross-selling easy. The sales associate is typically back of mind. Add to that a lack of adequate training and the store — no matter how lavishly appointed — is but a shell.


Great retail is a performance, one in which the customer plays the starring role. So why don’t brands take more care in hiring the supporting players?


“Most of the sales staff is still under-qualified and underpaid. The fluctuation of personnel is still high, so that a lasting human-to-human customer loyalty is impossible to install. Abundance and oversupply is the main problem for the consumer. He needs advice not in adding possibilities, but in reducing them. Maybe the retail industry should start not to recruit, but to ‘cast’ their staff.”


It’s just one of countless provocative points raised in this lavishly illustrated book that lifts the veil on an industry that is still, alas, begging for innovation.

>> Holistic Retail Design: Reshaping Shopping for the Digital Era by Philipp Teufel and Rainer Zimmermann (Frame Publishing, 2015). Get the book for 15% off the list price. Click here and use the discount code BONBRAND at checkout.





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