Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away…My apologies; the recent purchase of Lucas Film by Disney has given me Star Wars nostalgia. I remember a time when stop motion photography and the destruction of meticulously crafted models were considered the pinnacle of movie special effects. It was also a time when I was working my may through university in retail. As I said, “many years ago”.
One of my fondest memories of working in retail was the folklore that was passed on from the store manager to the upcoming employees. The measures of performance were shared, such: Days of Supply, Turns, Stock to Sales Ratio, Sell Through Percentage and Gross Margin Return on Investment. Alongside these metrics we were also the recipients of instruction regarding sales and marketing addressing: Point of Sale Displays, End-caps, and Placement. But the phrase that stuck with me most in reference to merchandise presentation effectiveness was that it had to have, “height, light and movement”.
Needless-to-say, you haven’t seen anything as remarkable as a Christmas season display comprised of fifty, two-foot-high, electro-mechanically animated Santa Clauses, Father Christmases and Kris Kringles built into a monstrous tower. I’m sure it was the fodder of nightmares for many an unsuspecting child shopping with their parents.
In light of that past experience, and the trial and error involved in getting merchandise to not only fit in a display correctly but displayed in a way that was both attractive and that promoted sales, it is fascinating to see the direction that retail has gone as a designed experience. Today there is no “making it up as we go along” nor is there a reliance on the folklore of shop keeping. Retail has become a rigorous practice driven by data and psychology.
Nothing was made clearer about this shift than the recent presentation at the Dassault Systèmes 3D Experience Forum this week of the Perfect Shelf solution which,
Realistically simulates retail settings inside immersive, lifelike 3D environments, so that Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods companies can better imagine, validate and deploy optimum shopping experiences while increasing product appeal, brand & category profitability and differentiating themselves from the competition.
Even in the last decade the development of the retail experience has undergone a dramatic shift as real-world prototyping, affording an approximation of the retail space, has given way to 3D environments in which the smallest details may be shifted to improve the overall outcome. Consider the original Apple Store retail experience. The late Steve Jobs and former Senior Vice President of Retail Operations Ron Johnson (now CEO of JCPenney) oversaw Apple’s first retail store, which opened in May, 2001. Developed in early 2000 the prototyping for the first store was conducted by building full-size physical mock-ups in a warehouse in Cupertino, CA.
Recently Apple announced a new Apple Store concept would be built in Cupertino doors down from one it’s original stores. The development of this new store was handled differently from the original in that much of the design was done online, resulting in a,
16,600-square-foot, two-story store, in which Apple will be trying out a “new prototype” of its retail environment, according to documents filed with the architectural review board in Palo Alto, Calif., where the store is located. Along with the familiar all-glass storefront and the prominent use of stone, the new store will include interior trees and a skylight.
Read more at Venture Beat
The value of 3D modeling cannot be denied. It shortens the time between ideation and outcome by creating realistic experiences that validate intent (or confirm suspicions). It also enables the complete retail experience to be presented and explored thereby reducing the imagination required to bridge the inadequacies of a physical prototype (regardless of whether it is cheap or expensive to produce.) The value of feedback that can be obtained by sharing a 3D visualized experience cannot be over-estimated. By bringing the retail design to life in this manner it can be shared more effectively with a broader audience, further improving the design before construction. So, while there is still opportunity for height, light and movement in this new 3D world, but you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to see if it works. And that is “a good thing.”