Sketch drawing of a street side and store front.

Activating the “Curb Appeal”

The retail industry continues to navigate the process of reopening businesses and bringing consumers back to brick and mortar locations. Retail stores are facing increased challenges due to pandemic-related restrictions, from being shut down completely to being allowed to open at varying levels of occupancy.

Implementing re-opening protocols and establishing a level of comfort for the consumer require a significant amount of time and effort. As a result, entry and storefronts have taken on even more importance. In the short term, stores have put up “We are back and open” signs along with limiting the number of people in stores, requiring masks and designating queues for customers waiting to enter. While functional, these makeshift solutions are not sustainable in terms of maximizing customer experience and often clash with the design and programming of the store’s intended use.  

What are viable long-term solutions in response to the new standards of consumer engagement?

While big box and large format retailers have the advantage of vast parking lots and high-volume drive-throughs to serve customers – what can be done for smaller businesses and urban density to drive sales?

We’ve opened our sketchbook to contemplate solutions to help brick and mortar retail adapt to the new environment.

These thought starters are prompted by the age of “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS) and quick convenience, partnered with the need for touchless/frictionless engagement.

Whether it be for Small Town USA, a dense urban environment or a mixed-use development, the new approach can be a collective design solution – a platform that all adjacent businesses can share.

Centralized solar powered kiosks could provide an order pickup hub for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists, who would be prompted through their mobile device that their order is ready at that specific station. Store employees would then meet them at these stations to fulfill the orders.

Pickup point kiosk

Furthermore, storefronts can be utilized for entertainment and education through display screens, with interaction powered by handheld or virtual assistants. This is the modern era of “window shopping” and now more than ever the level of engagement and enticement needs to be elevated. Interaction helps drive the desire for customers to return to a store, while enabling struggling tenants/vacant spaces to be revitalized. Customer engagement through entertainment, brand education and the extension of shopping helps activate previously dormant areas. For pick up and sale interface, storefronts can be opened up for product handoff, while customers remain outside.

Interactive storefront

There are several advantages to permanently applying these modifications to the retail landscape.  Small business owners are able to evolve and meet the new demands and shopping behavior of consumers by providing ecommerce and frictionless shopping opportunities. Moreover, increased foot traffic and additional access will boost consumer engagement for all retail businesses.

Aerial of modified storefront

While every solution will require some level of financial investment, reconfiguring the interior store design to activate storefront solutions would be the easiest for most business to implement.  With signs indicating the end of traditional brick and mortar retail as we know it, the modifications presented here may very well become the standard for the future.