How COVID-19 Will Change Retail Store Layouts for Good
Retail store layouts and design have never been more important as customers are now more concerned about public health and safety. COVID-19 has been the catalyst for evolving retail store design and layout concepts of stores in a number of different ways.
What’s become clear is that retail store layouts will not just change in the short-term. Physical stores must quickly adapt to tackle changing consumer behaviour and meet government safety guidelines.
Join us as we explore some of the ways COVID has influenced retail store layouts and how this may change the future of retail design.
How has COVID-19 Shifted Consumer Behaviour and Changed Customer Expectations?
Prior to COVID-19, retailers had a strong understanding of shopper behaviour and consumer psychology when it came to how consumers moved around their stores. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused far-reaching changes in customer behaviour and shopping preferences.
With stores across the UK now open, retailers must consider the changes needed to properly adapt their in-store layouts in the long-term and in line with new consumer expectations and behaviours. The retail industry saw an average of 10% growth in online sales during the pandemic, with many customers planning to continue shopping online long-term.
Consumers are now hyper-hygiene-conscious and feel more comfortable with online transactions. As a result, physical retail store layouts must adapt and change to inspire confidence and ensure operations continue smoothly to survive.
What Could Retail Store Layouts Look Like in the Long-Term?
Spacious and Uncluttered Retail Store Layouts
As a result of COVID-19 and government social distancing measures, future retail store designs will need to focus on creating more space within an existing store environment. Spacious and uncluttered stores will become essential across the retail sector to prioritise customer wellbeing while delivering a positive experience.
To reasonably follow social distancing guidelines (generally 2 metres, or 1 metre with risk mitigation where 2 metres isn’t a viable option), retail store layouts must adjust practices in the long-term. For example, grocery retailers like Lidl and ASDA are using floor markings to set out the recommended distance and remind customers to follow new regulations.
CACI found consumers will value retailers that put the safety of their customers and their staff over anything else going forward, meaning that safety measure reminders like floor markings are likely to continue in the long-term.
As well as that, customers will continue to expect retail store layouts with enough space to comfortably move around without coming into close contact with staff and other customers. According to Accenture, over a third of consumers feel reconfigured retail spaces and visible evidence of hygiene practices are vital going forward.
The need for regular cleaning and maintaining hygiene to uphold the health and safety of employees and customers is also bound to have an impact on future retail store layouts. A spacious showroom-style retail store layout makes the cleaning process simpler for staff regularly carrying out those duties while also allowing customers to see the physical product.
Controlling in-store hygiene without descending into sterility will be a key design challenge for retail store layouts of the future.
Retail Store Layouts with One-Way Systems
One-way systems could realistically be a long-term change to retail store layouts. Floor markings with directional arrows or posters can help create a smooth and continuous flow of customers in and out of individual aisles as they move throughout the store.
One-way walking systems eliminate in-store bottlenecks and pinch points while also allowing customers to avoid meeting other customers and employees head-on. Implementing one-way systems into retail store layouts is a cost-effective solution that doesn’t require a huge amount of new in-store infrastructure.
Dual-Entrance Retail Stores
In the US, retail company Target has shown the effectiveness of dual-entrance stores to avoid having all customers in the same space together at one time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only does having one door for entry and one for exit allow retailers to ensure social distancing and customer safety, but it also presents the retailer with an opportunity to have more flexibility over their operations. A dual-entrance retail store layout means the store can still cater to consumers’ needs.
For example, in Target stores, one side offers customers a quick grab-and-go journey with products like pre-packaged food and drink, while the other side provides a more inspirational and leisurely customer experience with homewares, technology and other larger purchases.
Dual-entrance and segmented retail store layouts can help retailers create personalised in-store customer experiences by tactically dividing the space to meet consumer needs while still following health and safety regulations.
Increased Technology Hardware and Digital In-Store Solutions
Public touch screens and AI assistants are expected to become more commonplace in stores to increase the efficiency of service and help decrease human-to-human interaction. As a result, store layouts will have to change to accommodate space for any new pos marketing technology hardware.
Technology could also mean shop floors shrink as retailers look to crank up their click and collect offerings. With click and collect, customers can order online for delivery to their home or choose to collect their order in-store.
Dunelm has even begun to offer a contactless click and collect car delivery service to customers which could be an indication for how physical store layouts may be repurposed.
With a smaller customer-facing retail store layout, retailers don’t have to rely on an omnichannel approach either. Catering for walk-ins enables customers to browse the catalogues or endless aisles then place their order there and then. Argos is a prime example of an existing model that dedicates most of its square footage to back of house product storage.
On top of that, retail stores are also allowing customers to shop in-store but with the power of their mobile device. Product information is discoverable by a quick scan of a barcode or QR code and customers can move throughout the store purchasing products as they scanned, paying electronically.
A New Chapter For Retail Store Layouts Going Forward?
There’s a great amount of uncertainty for the future physical retail stores as a result of the pandemic and months of lockdown. What’s clear is that retailers need to plan for a new era, by implementing changes that help consumers feel more comfortable in stores and encouraging them to return time and time again.
Discover how retailers and brands are investing in new and innovative store layouts to cut-costs and prepare for the future. Find out more about what the future of retail store layouts will look like in the post-COVID-19 landscape in our recent report: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Retail Industry.