How do you design a retail space consistent with all your channels—and not just in photographs? You design “Instagrammable” moments.
Creating a successful retail space is challenging. The store must be experiential, offering something a website can’t. And functional, with good flow, well-highlighted products, and the ability to sell. Hit those marks and you’re on your way to a successful retail space.
But, that’s still not enough.
Today, your store must also be shareable, and that means it photographs well professionally and through amateur iPhone photography. Why? Because shareable moments create reach well beyond what you’d be able to capture by local traffic to the store, and it’s essentially free advertising.
For the last decade, I’ve worked with direct-to-consumer retail brands to build out their physical store strategies, with over 100 stores and pop-ups. Both the purpose and future of the store has been hotly debated as traditional retail brands like GNC, Pier1, and Macy’s shutter thousands of stores, and newer players like Warby Parker and AllBirds continue to expand.
My take is that the store is brand-building, out-of-home marketing, and a sales channel that can be profitable and work for both customer acquisition and retention strategies. The coolest is when brands acquire customers through the store, then path them to shop online—and vice versa. What I believe is key to success is an “omnichannel” strategy, meaning brands offer a consistent experience across stores, e-commerce, and social commerce channels.
So, how do you design a retail space consistent with all your channels (omnichannel), and not only photographs well, but also encourages customers to take photos? You design “Instagrammable” moments all over your store. Here are a few tried-and-true moments to consider . . .
The exterior of a retail space can make or break a business. The more interesting and enticing your exterior is, the more likely a person is to wander in off the street.
Clear Signage Is Critical
Your signage is free out-of-home marketing dollars, so make sure it’s legible and lit (get that nighttime glow on!). In this photo of the Crocs store, you can see how the large, white letters really stand out against the deep green.
Use Inviting Colors
I love when retailers use murals on the exterior of a building, especially for driving cities like LA. The neon green of this Louis Vuitton pop-up is impossible to miss walking down the street, and looks vibrant in the photo. If you look closely, you can see they’ve even painted the fire hydrant and a bike outside of it in the same hue.
Here, you can see how Ray Ban took their signature logo—white script on a red background—and directly translated it to the storefront. The white logo really pops and it’s instantly recognizable to the customer familiar with the brand.
Play with Exterior Furniture
A bench can be extremely inviting for a photo op. Plus, people will likely sit and hang out, which makes your store look busy and fun.
Use flowers and plants to create lots of life. Props can work, too, like a painted bicycle or sculpture. I love this photo of a plant and flower wall contrasting with the pink paint. It makes an excellent background for a selfie.
Who wouldn’t want to sit outside this adorable ice cream shop and admire the ivy wall? The composition of the organic green against the clean, modern concrete makes for an urban, edgy image. Which, in turn, reflects the brand.
It’s important that customers recognize your brand right away, both from the street and inside. This is often visual through a set of colors, material palette, logo, and catch phrases. It can also be achieved by music and signature scent. The look and feel should match all other creative assets including web, social, and packaging.
Hashtags are also a fun way to encourage posting on social media.
Mirror placement is a clever way to expand the space and create photo opportunities. It’s important to design mirror placement to understand what will be reflected when a customer takes a photo. For example: Does it catch your logo or a signature product? If a customer posts a selfie on social media, their followers should be able to identify that they’re posting from your store.
In this image, you can see how the selfie in the mirror perfectly captures not only his outfit, but also merchandising of neatly-folded jeans and sneakers, along with the brand name and logo.
Neons and Lighting
Neon signs are a fan favorite and usually get photographed. Just be mindful when designing that they don’t cast a strange color on your product or create shadows in the space.
In this photo, you can see how the table and chairs create a vignette with the neon sign and flowers. It’s beckoning for a customer to sit with their friend and take a picture.
Most designers you meet will say “lighting is everything,” and it’s true. The product must be lit well, and mirrors and any place a customer tries on must be considered. People want to buy things when they look good!
The overall lighting should create an atmosphere. Natural light photographs particularly well. Big open windows or a skylight can be a huge asset to the lighting plan.
Visual merchandising is everything when it comes to highlighting product. A monochromatic installation or color story photographs nicely.
I love the neutral and clean color story in this photograph. It feels architectural and aspirational.
A monochromatic base can make a product stand out. Any product placed on these pedestals would really pop. I’m picturing animal print shoes, or brightly colored handbags.
Do not underestimate the power of the bathroom selfie. People love to take pics in the bathroom. Creating an unexpected bathroom moment is a wonderful “surprise and delight” for the customer.
I love this photo as an example of many themes we’ve discussed—neon signage, contrasting bright colors, and bright lights.
This vanity mirror literally tells the viewer to take a selfie in neon. I know I would.
In today’s social-media obsessed world, it’s more important than ever to create retail spaces that are shareable. By deliberating designing “Instagrammable” moments in the exterior, interior, and even bathroom of your space, you’re guaranteed to capitalize on free advertising. If you’re lucky, your store will go viral, increasing brand awareness and sales both online and off.
Need a few more social media and design tips, tricks, and techniques, check out these articles:
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