As a graphic designer and self-confessed stationery addict, one of the best things about shopping for me is how my purchase is presented. Anything I choose to buy in a store will be influenced by graphic decisions that have been made along the way – swing tickets, POS displays, VM features, even the way it’s wrapped will have an effect on what I decide to buy.
We form lasting relationships with retailers through the experiences they provide. One of the earliest occasions I can remember feeling a sense of brand loyalty was shopping at (pre-rebrand) La Senza. As a teenage girl in the late ’90s, I loved being handed my new underwear, wrapped in tissue paper, placed carefully in a paper bag, nestled in scented beads. It was definitely one of the main reasons I went there to shop. Now it’s places like Liberty and Selfridges that make me want to buy; leaving with one of those iconic branded bags filled with beautifully wrapped new purchases is all part of the event. Boutiques and smaller stores, such as Aesop and Albam, are also keeping up with the pace and providing beautifully branded products with nice packaging to unwrap when you get home.
With e-commerce now an integral part of many people’s lives, it’s vital that brands ensure a consistent experience when delivering their product, whether it’s at a store cash desk or on a doorstep. Mr Porter is leading the way in online shopping, and delivering excellent customer service. Our very own Ashley Hodge ordered himself a new wallet recently – it arrived with well-designed collateral, beautiful personalised extras, even handkerchiefs are all part and parcel with a Mr Porter delivery. It’s this added value that has people rushing back to use the site again. But in general, are retailers doing enough to extend their brand experiences to consumers beyond the store itself? The answer is very split – while some are doing it extremely well, others have been completely left behind.
One retailer doing it well is Zara. The website feels entirely on-brand; the beautiful full-screen photography fits perfectly with what you’d expect to see in one of their stores. On selecting your product, you’re met with a seamless check-out procedure that gives you the option to collect in store – again reinforcing that connection to the physical retail experience. The clever part is the way you receive your items – distinctive Zara packaging, beautifully wrapped in tissue paper, presented with care in a cardboard box. The role of the friendly store assistant is also covered in the form of an informative step-by-step guide to returning your items, printed on nice paper and presented in an envelope with a return form, just in case.
Another good example is Cos. Its high-end stores are well presented, with minimal-style graphics in on-trend colours. There’s a complimentary brand newspaper showing key seasonal looks for you to take away and read on your journey home. Much like Zara, Cos’ products are delivered to your door in well-considered packaging, with the same styling and tone of voice that you find when shopping in store.
Other brands still have far to go in aligning their online offer to their in-store shopping experience. Consciously or not, it’s often the ‘takeaways’ that bring us back to the same brands again and again. Consumers expect more than ever from retailers and it’s up to us, as designers with strong retail expertise, to ensure that the brand is forever present and consistent in every way.