The Storefront Design Process: Architecture? Graphic Design? Signage Design? Display, All of the Above

Anatomy of a Design Concept. For more information or to see image enlargements please contact us here.

Client’s Visions – Clients often call me because they see something  suggestive in the portfolio on our site and want to create a similar look or physical presence for their own businesses. They may entertain visions of compelling displays that increase awareness and transform window shoppers into customers, or perhaps it is about creating and reinforcing an organization’s image, idea, point of view, or brand.

Design is a Process – Whatever the motivation, few would dispute that successful design is part and parcel of equally successful marketing campaigns evolving from resources and collaborations requiring lots of man hours. Design is a process which is always, at least on some level, retail.

Not a Commodity – Yet the business environment, including the traditional “fee for service” world in which most of us work, leads many to conclude that design is a commodity, something to be ordered from a price list. It forces an architect to quantify a client’s vision for a project into a competitive proposal before any serious work is done towards understanding that vision. It can be limiting and is often fraught with undefined expectations. It is not a model that works very well in a collaborative environment. Nevertheless, it always determines if and how a project moves forward.

Reconciliation – Overcoming this disparity has been a longtime goal of ours.  Consider this: if I tell a client that the fee for architectural services on a project will be a fixed amount, he may want to negotiate some concession, etc., but in general he feels secure and accepts the fee. If, on the other hand, I tell this client that the fee will not exceed a certain amount, he/she is thrown into a state of indecision and becomes unsure about how to proceed. Ask your self why? What makes a client back away, sometimes even leaving off an entire project?

Expressing a Vision – The answer is surprisingly simple. Both models require and deliver basically the same thing, that being a new design in which the client has participated. The difference is that, with the “not to exceed” fee for service model, the client is made aware that he is an active participant in the design process and as such has the ability, by effective communication, to affect not only the outcome, but also its final cost. This places some responsibility for a successful project squarely in the lap of the one who launched it. It also increases the chances of success. After all, are not we, as architects and designers, facilitators, charged with expressing a clients vision?

Demonstrating the Process – The concept images shown above demonstrate a design process. They become progressively more complete until the final design is reached in the last image. Each separate image is the result of direct communication, correction and comments from the client, who was involved in every step, beginning with the most basic parti up to final design approval.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Retail Doom & Gloom: Crisis or Opportunity?

Mid Year State of the Market: Maurisa Potts, in a mid year “state of the market” presentation sponsored by the Alexandria SBDC featured a headline stating, “Soft economy hitting big retailers hard.” There are, I might add, some small ones not doing too well either. Potts went on to note that online shopping is not the only reason for this, siting over built retail real estate, escalating rents, and shifts in consumer spending from goods to services. Whatever the reasons, there are few retailers not feeling the current uncertainty. This, according to Potts, begs the questions what is it, crisis or opportunity?

Clearly Unclear: I like this mindset. It presuppose important changes in the business model by which most retailers operate. Savvy retailers need little schooling on this topic, and outside of a reference list here, my interest is about how a physical store might be impacted. According to Potts the action takes place in three areas. The first two, customer focused retail and the resultant deep market analytics are technology driven. The third is the technology. Clearly the lines between the physical and digital store are becoming unclear. A retailer must decide which options to embrace:

mobile apps/enhanced mobile apps/personal concierge
smart navigation
mobile checkout
on demand customer service.
virtual fitting rooms
flexible fulfillment options
enhanced product information
community connections
target walk by shoppers
holographic product displays
delivery service
drones

Augmented Retail: Each of these items taken individually involves some type of electronic technology which must be both accommodated and invisible, a subject covered in previous posts so not detailed again here. Together, though, they define what is referred to as augmented retail, a situation with substance and influence on how a physical store will look. Rachel Shechtman, the founder of Story, a cutting edge store in Manhattan, described the design concept as a physical magazine. This is so telling. Store planners and designers have probably not seen such a revolutionary design idea since the emergence of big box retail. In the marketing world I would compare the trend to the early days of Martha Stewart Omnimedia which eventually consolidated her various publishing and media outlets into a single brand. It seems to have come full circle as omnimedia has finally found expression in bricks n mortar.

Design by Collaboration: Pick up a copy of your favorite magazine and flip it open to the index page. What do you see? I see an implied program for a store design, an outline of ways to engage the customer, often a recipe for co-creation where the customer participates in the outcome of his/her shopping trip. What combination of media, mobile apps, interactive displays, technology, and hard store design options a retailer chooses to bring into his/her store is a collaborative decision best made between the store designer, the retailer, the marketing team, and the all important technology consultants. When these things work together a really successful store can be the outcome.

The Positive Case for Bricks N Mortar: Barbara Thau, writing for Forbes, lists, “Five Signs That Stores (Not E-Commerce) Are the Future of Retail.” Worried retailers might do themselves a favor by considering the following:

“All But One Of The Top Ten U.S. Retailers Are Physical Chains

Stores Are More Profitable Than E-Commerce

Amazon Purchased Whole Foods

Millennials And Generation Z Prefer Real-Life Stores

Online Retailers Are Being Eaten By Legacy Retailers

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

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What do you mean by “Feasibility Assessment?”

Now What?
Now What? How do I turn this in to a new store?

Contemplation – Imagine you are a retailer contemplating this tenant space. Clearly, you might be asking yourself; “now what?” Suppose a few of the questions below move from unconscious reflection to conscious contemplation without ensuing answers, then assessing a project to see what is actually required could facilitate the decision making process and provide many benefits.

Resources – Landlord provided documents, previous project cost summaries, consultations with building departments, contractors, engineers and sometimes professional construction estimators are all resources informing project feasibility. The intent is to simplify, consolidate and summarize the probable scope of work, professional fees, construction costs and time that might be anticipated for a project. It is the purpose of a feasibility assessment and a highly recommended means of beginning most retail projects.

  • Do I need to build the walls?
  • Do I need to build the bathroom(s)
  • Why do I need 2 bathrooms?
  • Why do I need 2 entries?
  • Do I need to install the storefront system?
  • Can I use my own storefront design?
  • Do I need to have my own electric meter installed?
  • Do I need to install my own Air Conditioning and heating system?
  • What is the best mechanical system to use?
  • Is there water in the space?
  • What about hot water?
  • What about gas?
  • Where is the sewer?
  • How do I connect to it?
  • Will my store fit in this space?
  • Must I supply my own storefront sign?
  • Who will design it?
  • Can I design the store myself?
  • Can I turn a logo into a store design?
  • Where do I get the store fixtures?
  • What if I can’t find the exact fixtures that I need to display my products?
  • Are custom store fixtures required, if so who will design them?
  • What about lighting?
  • Who sets up the Point of Sale (POS) system and how do I hide the wires?
  • How do I accommodate the cabling and hard wiring for my computers?
  • How much can I expect to spend for all this?
  • A contractor told me he could build my store for $45/sq. ft. Should I believe him?
  • Do I need a building permit?
  • What does an architect charge?
  • Can I get this done in time to open before I must begin paying rent?
  • How do a pick a contractor?
  • Is the construction allowance from the landlord enough to build the store?
  • Does the location have enough parking?
  • What is the visibility from walk and drive by traffic?
  • Is this space a good choice for my project?
  • If I don’t take this space do I need to start all over with a new feasibility for a different location?

Please feel free start a discussion here and maybe even see some answers.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

How Businesses are Using the Yo App

The Yo app was initially ridiculed by media as being the simplest and most pointless social app ever.

But Yo app inventor Or Abel is laughing all the way to bank, as businesses have found ways to use it effectively and investors have sent millions in funding.

The Yo app, when launched, did one thing: Sent the message “Yo” to a contact’s cell phone.

Really – that was it.

But even at that primitive stage, a handful of restaurants realized the Yo app could be a replacement for those large “puck” pagers used to tell people when their tables are ready. And, the Yo app’s open API meant developers could start playing with integrating Yo into other services, like Instagram, Forbes reported.

Even though the “hype” around the app has faded, the app is continuing to develop. Now, a business or an individual can send a Yo with a link or a hashtag. The Washington Post is using it to send out breaking news alerts to Yo users. And some businesses are reportedly sending Yos and links to customers with special, limited-time deals or offers.

In late September, a featured launched allowing users to Yo their location to other Yo users, Business Insider reported. With the location based featured enabled, “if a user Yos his or her location to a service, they’ll receive recommendations, weather updates, news or other offerings from the partnering recipient,” according to BI. It would be nice to be the restaurant that gets recommended based on a geo-targeted Yo, wouldn’t it?

Before you dismiss an app out of hand, think about any possible way a business could take advantage of it.

Future Watch: What is Ello?

Next up on the social media hype wagon – Ello.

The social network was still by-invite-only at the time of this writing, but it’s getting plenty of attention for the promise of having no ads and no data-mining. Like other social networks, users can add friends and post status updates and photos to the network. Unlike Facebook and some other social networks, is has very little in terms of privacy controls, and warns users that almost anything they put on the social network can be seen by others, including search engines.

It doesn’t look like there’s any reason a business couldn’t create an Ello account and start posting photos, sales and useful information for customers and potential customers – but we haven’t heard of any businesses jumping on just yet. Still, it may be a network to watch the remainder of this year.

Is Instagram Right for My Business?

Instagram for Small BusinessWith more than 70 million users in the United States and a user base that skews young and affluent, many businesses are taking another look at Instagram.

Instagram is a mobile app-based photo sharing network, where an individual or business can post photos of events, items or anything else with captions and clickable, searchable hashtags. The platform also has tools built in so you can make your Instagram photos appear old, faded or artistic.

Overall, the social network does best for businesses that are visual in nature – retail, art, real estate, home improvement, jewelry, tourism and restaurants. It can also be useful for event-based businesses. There are always exceptions, but those in the finance and IT sectors be better served focusing on other social networks, such as LinkedIn.

In-the-Moment Marketing

Unlike most other social networks, Instagram is really capitalizes on in-the-moment photos of events in addition to products.

Since it’s mobile app-based, you can’t take an amazing photo with your $500 camera, Photoshop it and upload it to Instagram from your laptop. You’re stuck with your iPhone or Samsung or other web-enabled camera. That’s a mixed blessing. (Technically, there are ways around this, but it goes against the spirit of the platform.)

However, nice thing about Instagram is that it interfaces easily with Facebook and Twitter, so if you take a photo with your Instagram app and caption it, then share it on Facebook and Twitter instantly, which can gain your business more followers on all three networks.

Examples and Best Practices

It always helps to look at what other businesses are doing with a platform. Here are some examples of good, effective usage of Instagram:

In the tourism and publishing industry, Outdoor Life magazine has had success with Instagram contests. The magazine asked readers to take a photo with Instagram and upload it to the network with a specific hashtag and username mentioned. (Here’s a recent contest launch post from Outdoor Life for an example of how to set up an Instagram contest.)

To drive traffic back to the publication’s website, Outdoor Life’s website did a post embedding several Instagram photos from users.

You can also buy Instagram ads – Ben & Jerry’s ice cream had some success there – and there are ways through responding to user comments to encouraging and give guidance on purchasing, even though direct links to your website in photo captions won’t work. (A&E clothing is a master at encouraging people to go online to purchase items.)

Here in Alexandria, we love @VisitAlexVA on Instagram. What are your favorite local outlets on Instagram?

Beth Lawton is founder and CMO of Canoe Media Services, an Alexandria-based business that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses shine online with smart social media marketing, blog content and more. More information is available at www.canoemediaservices.com.

Which Social Network is Right for Your Business?

so-many-social-networks
so-many-social-networks (Photo credit: socialmediahq)

Options abound when it comes to social media – there are dozens of “major” social networks (those with more than 500,000 active users) and new social platforms hit the market all the time.

With the optimism and energy behind starting your own business, many entrepreneurs create business profiles on several social networks, only to find they don’t have the time to manage all of them. A social profile that’s neglected can negatively affect how customers perceive your brand.

So how do you decide where to put your social media marketing energy? First, think about why people visit different social networks.

A recent study by IPG Media and 140Proof showed more than 107 million U.S. adults belong to more than one social network. Of those, more than 78 million belong to three social networks and almost 60 million belong to four or more.

The reason, users say, is because different platforms are better suited to different interests. (In other words, your customers probably are not going to the business-oriented professional network LinkedIn to find the latest viral cat video.)

Here are a few questions to consider when choosing your social presence:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Is your business inherently visual in nature (like fashion or real estate) or is your business based more on information?
  • How much time can you dedicate to maintaining your social presence? Some networks require more work than others.
  • What’s your goal for your social media marketing efforts? Do you want to be thought of as an expert among other industry leaders, or do you want to increase the number of people buying a product from you?
  • What’s your brand’s personality?

IPG also has a great chart showing topic areas and what performs best on which social network – you can see the chart here.

The best advice for businesses on social media, no matter the platform: Be yourself, engage with your customers and clients (respond to their inquiries quickly and thank them for their contributions) and keep your social media presence fresh and updated.

Beth Lawton is founder and CMO of Canoe Media Services, an Alexandria-based business that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses shine online with smart social media marketing, blog content and more. More information is available at www.canoemediaservices.com.

Is This The Future of Advertisement?

sbdc_advertisingMaybe you noticed it but you probably didn’t.  It’s that post on your Facebook feed that is an ad, but its made to look like just another post from a friend.  In this day and age where we expect our newspapers, leaders, doctors, and teachers and to provide full disclosure of financial arrangements and other important facts, some of the biggest web sites on the Internet are playing fast and loose with our trust by passing off ads as just a normal post.

This type of ad is called “Native Ads” and because of their placement in our regular viewing area must illicit a higher than average response rate.  The fact that they provide no special border, or tag gives the user no idea that it’s a paid placement and that is just wrong.

My hope is that enough people begin to call out these ads for their mis-leading nature that the companies either remove these from our “organic” viewing area or else make it much more clear that this is an advertising and not a posting from one of our friends.

Follow the Trend – Increase Your Audience Using Social Media

20-social-media-iconsToday, staying connected to the latest social media outlets is almost the equivalent of staying in touch with the world; especially when it comes to business. Each day, as a business owner, you ask the question, “How do I expand my audience or clientele?” In order to generate revenue it is important to stay relevant. In order to stay relevant, you have to communicate to your audience by means of significant resources.  Some of the most relevant ways to stay connected to your audience include: Newsletters, Blogs, Mobile Applications, Media Blasts and Text Alerts. For all of the mentioned, there are many resources out there that will provide time efficient ways for you to stay connected to your audience using very few clicks and very little time and effort.

Speaking of time, you might argue that you do not have time to keep up with all of the various forms of social media and perhaps even figure out which ones work best for your business agenda. The purpose of new innovative social media resources is to help make things easier for end users (consumers or businesses). If you choose to go at this alone, there are many resources out there that will allow you to stay in the loop and make it easy for you to post items to more than one social media outlet by logging into one or few resources.

To stay in the loop, use RSS Feed Readers. If you need to know what to write about and where to post it, this resource will allow you to stay on top of updates made on various sites including but not limited to social media helping you stay relevant to your audience. RSS Owl is one of the best because it covers a long list of platforms; however, there are many others out there. RSS Feed Readers will at least give you solid clues on where to post content and what topics to include in your newsletters, blog posts and media blasts.

Now that you know where to go to keep up with what’s trending, you want to figure out a way to post your content on more than one social media platform at a time. I think most of us have heard about Hootsuite by now, but if you have not, this is a great tool that integrates the most relevant social media used by businesses today. If you can at least post to a handful of your social media platforms at once, having to log into one or two others is not bad. It is better than having to log into 5 or more individually.

At this point you might be saying, “what if I don’t want to manage my own social media at all?” Well, you are in luck because there are many businesses out there just like KQ Associates that are here to assist you. We understand that managing your social media can be a real chore.  However, we enjoy it! Managing social media and using it to grow your client base is like a game and although it can be challenging at times, it is fun for us! We all know when work is fun we can accomplish more. So, do some research and hire a company that will take this responsibility off of you at a rate you can afford so that you can focus on the things you do best regarding your business.

Lydia D. Washington, CEO

KQ Associates  – Your professional source for trusted administrative support that keeps you safe and moving forward.