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#RetailEXPO19: Consider emotional engagement in customer experience

Why do brands so often default to idolising 'hero' figures - the global megastar in their sector - when their in-store experiences actually need to resonate with customers more at an everyday 'human' level?

This was the challenging question posed by Mike Roberts, chief creative officer at Green Room Design, which has recently worked with the likes of Adidas, The North Face and football brand, Pro:Direct, and is succeeding in persuading them to understand and acknowledge people's emotional lows as well as their highs.

"Sport - and sports brands - never cease to champion the 'faster, further, harder' mantra, yet for most people that's not how they feel," says Roberts, speaking to delegates on day two of Retail Expo. "More often than not, for ordinary people sport is joyous, but also frustrating. It's about achievement but also about failure. It makes them happy as well as sad."

According to Roberts, all brands, not just sports ones, need to recognise this more. He says: "Our research is telling us that if we can think more about the emotional drivers people have, the store experience can be better designed."

For UAE sports brand Sun & Sands, for instance, it recently found women were not engaged with the store, because of cultural fear around being seen to be interested in sport. So Green Room Design created larger, private changing rooms that also acted as places women could meet and relax together, and discuss the product.

Supported by a facility that allowed women to test products discretely, stores successfully increased female dwell time, engagement and eventual sales.

Roberts says: "Customers increasingly want to engage with brands in an environment where the things that matter to them are on show. That's why for another client - The North Face - whose stated consumer is 'the hardcore achiever' - we had to tone things down. We brought in biophilic design, but in its flagship London store, organized by having running and bouldering clubs meet from there, the idea was to bring to brand back to normal people."

Roberts concludes: "Winning at retail means addressing the lows as well as celebrating the highs. As creatives we can often be beguiled by the shiny stuff, but actually it's the smaller, more human details that really matter. Shopping often evokes the same emotions as sports. We should remember this. Brands need to bring back what it is to be human into their customers' shopping experiences."

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