How Store Design Can Establish and Reinforce a DTC Brand
As a DTC Brand, you know the importance of brand consistency across all outlets. This is no different as you move into the real world.
From flagships to pop-ups, your retail space will be your home. It’s a place where you can hold events. It’s a place where you can build a community, reward your fans, and connect with your website. Often, this will be the first time your brand meets a customer offline. Store design will be critical to connect your online and offline identity, so you’re going to want to make every impression count.
So how can you reinforce your brand throughout your physical space? We’re going to look at some of the ways to approach this below.
Note: This is part of our much larger clicks-to-bricks series. Be sure to check out the rest of our posts on moving a DTC brand from digital to physical:
- The Rise of DTC and the Path to the Storefront
- Top Reasons DTC Brands are Opening Retail Spaces
- What Makes for a Successful DTC Retail Space?
- Clicks to Bricks: An Introduction to Flagships
- Pop-Up Shops and Why They Matter
- Shop in Shop 101
And stay tuned for the rest of our series by signing up for our email list!
Background: The Importance of Brand
What is a brand? Defined by Investopedia, “brand refers to a business and marketing concept that helps people identify a particular company, product, or individual.”
Is it a logo? Tagline? Color scheme? Mission statement? Yes… and no. Yes, those are elements of branding. Those are things that someone might think of when they think of your brand, but that’s what they are—elements.
For companies who do brand right, they know that despite being an intangible concept, branding elements are very tangible. And they appear in every interaction you have with a customer.
It’s the overly friendly greeting of a Chick-Fil-A. It’s the deep thunk of a BMW door. It’s the voice and the tone of your ads. It’s the checkout experience. And yes, it’s the logo, tagline, color scheme, and mission statement.
But when looking at the difference between a digital branded experience and a physical, in-store one, the differences start to manifest.
Digital Branding vs. Physical Branding
For pure-play direct-to-consumer players, the branding elements you employ are as online-focused as you. Website colors match your standards. The voice and tone of landing pages, content, live chat, and social media reflects you. And the unboxing experience is scientifically designed to encourage people to share.
But when you launch a physical store, the tactics evolve. Brand color profiles move from looking good on a website to looking good throughout your store. User experience still includes the way a guest travels through the store—but now includes aisles and merchandising instead of webpages.
The unboxing experience gives way to package design—and this design needs to catch the attention of a guest. Tone and voice is the same, except that instead of tasking a copywriter with the job, you’re trusting a battalion of retail professionals. Add to this some of the physical elements—music, feel, and even smell—and you realize that branding the experience is intensely different.
Branding Elements to Consider in Store Design
From the moment a customer arrives to the time they depart, they’re interacting with your brand. Each element of your space can impact the customer experience, reflect your values, and tell your story. Who are you? What do you stand for? How do you want someone to feel as they approach, peruse, and purchase your products? These are all questions to ask when planning your space.
Everything that impacts the senses can be part of your brand in store. You can tell when you’re within a few hundred feet of a Cinnabon. You know what an Ikea looks like from the outside (and inside). With a cohesive approach from approach to checkout, you can create a memorable experience that reflects who you are.
The Approach and Exterior
Whether a customer is driving by, parking, or walking up, how they find you and get into the store is part of your brand. Thought experiment. Name a grocer with unusually small parking lots. Did you say Aldi or its subsidiary Trader Joe’s?
That’s part of their business model—and brand. Small format stores often get small parking lots. But instead of shying away from this, they embraced it. Now, it’s a meme—and a talking point.
But even if your parking lot might not be your most important branding element, other parts of your exterior could be.
Signage, the façade, exterior lighting, and more can establish the feel of your company and space before a guest even makes it to the entrance.
Now for the first interaction a customer has with the store itself. In a strip mall or freestanding building, the entrance is built to welcome guests. In malls and cityscapes, entrances and window displays can turn a passerby into a shopper—or even drive additional sales. In fact, according to Adweek, window displays influence sales 24% of the time.
Why is the entrance so important in both retail design and brand identity? Simple. When a customer passes through the doors—they’re entering a different world. Your world.
The path to create a welcoming entrance could include a variety of elements. A chalkboard, custom window decals, digital signage, and more can show off your personality and set the stage for the rest of the shopping experience.
Learn more about how to improve entrance & exit displays here.
Is layout part of your brand? It can be. You might not want to turn your store into a maze like a certain, well-known furniture retailer, but the layout of your store sets the tone for the shopping experience.
After all, are you a brand built on exploration and product discovery? Or do you want customers to gravitate to a specific location? Consider two brands under the same umbrella in Banana Republic and Gap. You can tell which of these stores you’re in simply by looking around.
Defining the preferred customer path through your retail environment is important to maximize sales—but will also define the way a customer thinks about who you are as a company. And for more information on making the most out of your layouts, check out Shopify’s guide to store layouts here. Learn even more from their guide to in-store branding.
Though lighting is critical to product presentation, it also can play a significant role in the environment you create. Lighting can create a feel. Lighting is what makes an Apple Store sleek. It’s what gives teenage staples like Hot Topic and Spencer’s their unique vibe.
Lighting can connect with other elements as well. For example, our friends at Wally’s pride themselves on cleanliness—and use their lighting to show they have nothing to hide.
The way that you use lighting both overhead and within your fixtures can go a long way in presenting your brand the way you want to be seen.
Using Fixtures & Displays to Define Your Space—and Your Brand
Everything listed above creates the environment, and fixtures connect the dots. Fixtures are going to interact with lighting. They’re going to create the layout. They’re going to facilitate transactions. And they’re going to show off the product.
Knowing this, custom fixtures aren’t cheap. But when done right, they can create the space and leave a lasting impression. Why? Because they show off who you are. Shoppers will know that your store is yours. They’ll feel what you want them to feel.
Especially for DTC brands, who are now competing to stand out both in store and online, these fixtures and displays will tie together and deliver a unique, unforgettable experience.
How Custom Fixtures Deliver a Unique, Unforgettable Experience
All in all, it’s not easy to develop your brand online. It’s just as hard to make this work in store. At Morgan Li, we’re only focused on the latter. With decades of experience and millions of square feet of production space, we’re ready to work with designers and brands to build fixtures, furniture, and graphics that create unforgettable experiences.
Get to know more about who we are and browse our successful DTC retail projects below:
- Luggage brand Away turns to Morgan Li for Dallas, Houston, and Boston
- Brooklinen launches Brooklyn flagship with help of Morgan Li
- The Sill enters Chicago and trusts Morgan Li to create the space.
- From curated delivery app to corner store, Foxtrot works with Morgan Li in rapid expansion.
Ready to get to work? Contact us to request a quote.