1. Interactive Technology. Consumers have accepted in-store interactive technology as a tool to make their shopping experience more convenient. Self-checkout systems provide faster and more secure transactions, and touch-screen kiosks allow customers to get the answers to product questions without having to seek out a sales representative.
Manufacturer-supplied CD-ROM disks and Web pages allow customers to search through product offerings to find patterns, styles and colors and even check on the availability or delivery status of their choices.
2. New Lighting Techniques and Technology. Retailers are incorporating new lighting techniques that help draw the eye of the easily distracted consumer. "Lighting can make a major statement, be an art form and offer color and visual personality to a store," says Greg Gorman, president of GMG Design, a company specializing in retail design and visual merchandising.
3. Integrated Marketing. From your Web site to your retail showroom floor, make sure all of your marketing efforts are sending coordinating, complementary messages about your business, products and services.
Why is The Gap one of the most successful retailers in the world? Because everywhere a consumer looks its marketing message is consistent. Consumers know what to expect and are never confused by conflicting marketing messages.
4. Multi-dimensional Store Fronts. As competition stiffens, retailers must look for ways to visually differentiate themselves in the eyes of consumers. Using multi-dimensional storefronts, retailers can create a unique identity and a distinctive look that stands out in a strip mall or a freestanding retail location.
5. Flexible and Cost-effective Interior Graphics. By using lifestyle graphics, retailers build merchandise themes and create personalities for their stores. New sign and graphics technology allows retailers to quickly create images and change signage to meet seasonal or promotional needs.
Retailers also are using plasma-screen technology such as the 40-inch television-like units offered by Pioneer for in-store video displays. This technology also can be used for store signage. It lets retailers display their brands, logos or messages in full-color while giving them flexibility to change on the fly.
6. Accommodating the Shopper's Need for Convenience and Entertainment. Time and convenience are valuable commodities in this fast-paced era. Retailers must cater to time-challenged shoppers by creating convenience within the store and paying more attention to cross merchandising.
Shopping-as-entertainment has attracted families and created the destination location concept of retailing. With food, games, service and products all under one roof, families often choose shopping instead of a movie or fun center. Today, retailers are focusing attention on making that shopping experience as pleasant as possible for tired parents and energetic children. Keeping children happily involved within a retail setting gives families a reason to choose your store.
7. Flexibility in Fixtures and Complementary Designs. Retailers are discovering that changing merchandise displays more often will attract consumer attention. Flexible fixtures that can easily be reconfigured are in high demand. Fixtures not only serve to hold products, but also to complement them and draw attention.
To add a more contemporary look to displays, retailers are buying fixtures made of contrasting materials, such as dark wood combined with a brushed metal finish. "Mixing a variety of finishes and colors adds to the overall ambiance and excitement." Gorman says.
8. Growth of Home and Lifestyle Products. Sociologists say the Baby Boomer generation is nesting, creating tremendous growth in the sales of home-related products. As the population ages, people are spending more time in the comfort of their homes, hence the need for more things to make the home comfortable.
"As people cut back on entertainment costs, they want to buy the things that make them feel happier in the nest," said J'Amy Owens, president of The Retail Group, a Seattle, WA-based design firm.
9. Branding and Co-branding. What's in a name? These days it's everything. Retailers are discovering that branding not only adds value to their products, but also helps to differentiate them from competitors. By partnering with manufacturers to offer co-branded products retailers can create personality and value for their products, thus building equity for their nameplates.
10. The Return of the Neighborhood Retailer. Some larger retailers are recognizing that shoppers do not have time to travel far to different stores. In response, many are creating smaller neighborhood format stores.
GlobalShop is sponsored by the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers (NASFM) and is produced by Shore-Varrone, Inc. For additional information, call (800) 646-0091; www.globalshop.org.