Personality: The Competitive Advantage
Each retailer has a unique identity, a brand that is their own. The first objective for Mega Design’s team is to discover it. Next, it’s finding ways to make it stand out. According to Carole Vallières, Director of Design, “Uncovering each merchant’s individual identity and understanding what makes their store the consumer’s choice can sometimes become its own obstacle course, because all of them are convinced that they offer a better service than their competition!” So, the question comes back: why do consumers choose one store over another? The main points discussed with the merchant in order to discover their competitive advantage are:
- What types of consumers shop at their store?
- What are the sales strategies, per category, that can be presented innovatively in order to best support the store’s overall vision and increase their bottom line?
The answers to these questions enable Mega Design to design a store related to the retailer’s global sales strategy. They then develop the most aesthetic, creative solutions that highlight that retailer’s strengths and what differentiates them from their competition in order to attract more customers. Loyalty is an important factor in increasing store traffic; the idea is to get consumers to like what they see in order to get them to keep coming back.
Through several conversations, Ameublement BrandSource Signé Daigneault requested that the display area for carpets be located close to the fabrics and wood samples. All were to be spread out close to one another so that they could be easily visible. Then, demonstrating their expertise in décor, Ameublement BrandSource Signé Daigneault would help consumers make their selections, offering this personalization service as part of their overall ensemble, for no additional fee. Understanding that this was a definite competitive advantage, Mega Design’s next step was to find an optimal way to present this to consumers.
The idea of a decoration center was born. Perfectly visible from the entrance, the brilliantly-displayed range of samples allows the consumer to be aware, as soon as they arrive, that not only are the products presented available in a range of colours, but that they can further customize their selection with the help of a qualified team of experts.
A well-established family business since 1939, Wiens Furniture wanted to further demonstrate its expertise in high-end appliances by means of an expansion project. Rather than presenting rows upon rows of products, Mega Design assembled complete kitchens. In doing so, the focus became the quality rather than the quantity of available products. This form of presentation was particularly impactful to the imagination of the consumer; it made it seem as though the product was already installed in their own kitchen with the most innovative products on the market; enough to make all cooks dream.
Having succeeded in putting forth their vision for this project, Al and Dylan Wiens called upon the Mega Design team for the complete renovation of their store’s furniture section.
The Space: Leveraging it for Success
Many owners of independent stores also own their building and have done so for a long time. Over the years, most of these buildings have been expanded, often with limited budgets. The amount of square footage took precedence over the consumer’s freedom of movement within the store. Now, how can they break free of the maze?
Mega Design builds on unique structural features already present in a building and transforms what could be considered a weakness into a strength, even an attraction, for the consumers that make their way inside – thereby improving the quality of their in-store journey. Their mission is to improve each product’s exposure, regardless of its location. Traffic strategies and logical placement for each category each allow the consumer to follow the path outlined before them–motivating hassle-free navigation throughout the store from beginning to end.
Before establishing the layout of how the products are presented, Mega Design determines zoning plans defined by the space available, and where the best location for each category is physically located. Some categories benefit from being placed close to one another, such as the mattress and bedroom departments. Smaller, less expensive products are placed near the counter so that they can tempt the consumer, using the same principle as the gum counter in a convenience store.
Any architectural element can be utilized to create impactful features. For example, if a ceiling is particularly high, the upper part of the wall can be exploited to present products that benefit from vertical placement, or to bring attention to signage. Each alcove will be awarded a finishing treatment that will enable them to become a point of interest, sure to attract potential buyers.
Multiple floors in a store can be off-putting, at times discouraging. At Ameublement Serge Prévost, to circumvent this effect, part of the architecture has become an ode to the building and the brand by representing its logo and corporate mission. The use of unique lighting and the exaggerated size signage attracts consumers’ eyes and encourages them to discover the second floor. “Where the eyes go, the feet will follow.”
The location of a store is also an important marketing tool. Bruno Sévigny learned this lesson when the old Thetford Mines bowling hall became available. Located in the heart of the city, on a main street, facing a highly-frequented department store and popular grocery chain, he secured a location that was sure to bring in curious shoppers. But like most bowling halls, the building was built on three levels. The auditorium format, however, lends itself to become its own focal point. Mega Design took advantage of this bird’s-eye view to position high-traffic categories strategically. From the entrance, appliances and floor coverings have excellent visibility. The ramps required to change levels were minimized in order to ensure an effect of size and selection. The space near the entrance is dedicated to the inspirational categories, such as living rooms and dining rooms. The peculiarities of this building, instead of hampering sales, have become a unique advantage in of themselves.
The above depicts how examples of how BrandSource Outlet is displayed in-store. Click on the thumbnail to view the larger image.
The Shopping Experience: A Means of Building Loyalty
A great deal happens online now. Groceries are bought, reservations to change winter tires are made, and it’s easier than ever to get a meal at our favourite restaurant – it arrives at our front steps by car, even by bike! Products can easily be found in the comfort of every home at competitive prices. “Traditional” shopping should be its own form of entertainment, otherwise, why would anyone leave the house?
Mega Design aims for a inspiring, dynamic shopping experience that is also simple, almost intuitive. Products are presented in the context that they are to be utilized, free of any packaging. The ability to touch, see and use are legitimate reasons for any consumer to physically visit a store rather than shop online; it is therefore necessary to make these options readily available during every in-store visit. Take a look at this pillow display design for the Sleep Experience gallery at Ameublement BrandSource Sévigny as an example.
At Ameublement BrandSource Serge Prévost, the customer’s journey begins with an inspirational aisle that presents them the living room, bedroom and dining room collections. The style, materials and accessories in each “room” are all perfectly coordinated with one another. This aisle, also brought to stand out from the others by means of a distinct use of flooring, a ceiling with a trendy pattern, and suspended lighting, is supported by a wall that can easily be recoloured or covered with wallpaper. It grabs the customer’s attention as soon as they enter.
Digital Signage presents consumers information to help in their purchase process. A touch-screen application allows them to refine their search. This is also helpful for the retailer, who virtually gains an extra staff member that keeps customers engaged and interested in the selection of products available.
Kitchens equipped with appliances bring a certain level of excitement, as they demonstrate hands-on the full range of features available on each device. In addition, these fully functional kitchens allow for the organization of special events, such as cooking classes or live demonstrations by a professional chef. With the installation of bar stools, the kitchen also becomes a unique discussion venue, one that enables staff to build relationships with customers, who will be more likely to come back as a result.
The more varied the selection, the higher the chances it will meet an individual shopper’s personal tastes. However, to much choice can also be overwhelming. It must therefore also be presented in a manner that piques the buyer’s curiosity so they actually want to learn more. Mega Design has made it so that in addition to the products available in-store, a touch screen provides visibility to the range of products that can be purchased, even if they are not visible. Every consumer is invited to browse multiple options through both wall and on-screen signage.
To complete the shopping experience and add a touch of comfort to the visit, a café corner is available to customers for a moment of relaxation. Interactive games grab the attention of the little ones. This moment is used to present products on an iPad and position the business as being owner-operated and deeply engaged in its community. In this particular case, a timeline draws attention attention to multiple milestones in the retailer’s history.
Communications: A Sales’ Strategy
The communication between retailer and consumer is an essential one, and an important part of a sales strategy. Communication begins with the retailer’s website, moving towards the storefront and inside the store, where a cohesive look is maintained throughout, in accordance with consumers’ expectations. The forms that it takes can vary:
Informative – Directional – Playful and inspiring
An informative form of communication can be found on Ameublement BrandSource Sévigny’s storefront, where large-format lifestyle images offer passers-by a clear message about the categories represented in-store. Each photo chosen acts as advertising, and should therefore be selected with care, attract the viewer and offer them a comfortable lifestyle, as product-centric images eventually become outdated. Inside, informative communication such as a clearly-displayed business mission demonstrates the level of commitment that the retailer has to the consumer, almost like a personally-delivered satisfaction guarantee. At BrandSource, a photo of the team of experts is visible upon entry. A structure frames the thumbnail and highlights the banner slogan to clearly demonstrate the mission and values put forth by the brand, establishing a rapport of trust with the customer who sees it.
Signage can also contain a message about the store’s current offer. It can even occupy the consumer’s attention when retailers are overwhelmed on a Saturday morning, allowing a level of awareness to be established about the services available before the customer leaves the store.
Directional signage facilitates the consumer’s in-store journey while offering an appealing solution to a building that may otherwise seem like a maze. At Ameublement BrandSource Sévigny, the oversized signs leading to the restrooms are very modern and clearly illustrate the intended message.
In its playful form, large-format images reflect the latest decoration trends and add a visual touch to the store’s layout. At Ameublement Serge Prévost, a mix between playful and informative images brings life to the Appliances’ department. A customer that visits a store containing signage is clearly better informed, moves around more easily and is more conscious of what the retailer offers. The retailer also benefits from a much more professional image.
Independent dealers are often prominent members in their communities. Most of these communities are small, family-oriented and build upon the links forged by common values. The journey of a family business and the multiple generations represented must be visible in order to effectively share this wonderful story with the customers, with the goal of retaining them for even more generations. Mega’s way of representing this is another way that they help their clients stand out. Most “About Us” sections mention the major steps as expansions, acquisitions, or moves, but Mega Design chooses to bring value to the less formal occasions, involving known faces from a staff that could include the cousin, sister-in-law, or of childhood friend of the person who visits the store. Team unity is also placed at the front line in order to establish the consumer’s confidence in the store he or she is visiting; people that view these structures are more likely to see that their own interests will be well-represented, and that they will receive a level of attention that they may not find anywhere else.
For the Mega Design team, there is no greater pleasure in meeting a challenge head-on and finding solutions for each step of the process. Each merchant’s personality is different, as is their space, their achievements, and goals for the future. Each new project, regardless of the projects that preceded it, can come with its own set of obstacles, and the team always keeps the overall goal of the merchant in mind. The coordination of each project following development allows retailers to see their dream unfold before their eyes. By providing an open line of communication and a high level of commitment, Mega Design establishes its own bond of trust with its merchants, who also receive the satisfaction of a job well done.