Retail Design

Organized Interior Design: Form & Function Maximizes the Effect of Promotional Display

The general rule for architects is to determine where to install walkways that follow traffic paths.  We’ve all seen the worn grass paths cutting across and through the intended design of geometric and aesthetically pleasing hardscapes originally created to direct pedestrians from one point to another.  As a result, experienced designers take the time to see how people use a particular space before laying the brick, spreading the gravel or pouring the concrete and install the systems based on what the users determine is the most user friendly.  This thinking should apply to most design elements, promotional placement and services within your business.

During a recent credit union visit we noticed a brand new motorcycle parked between the customer service counter and the teller lines. Placed there as a promotional prop for low interest loans on motorcycles, the bike theoretically was in a great location.  The problem is that the waiting area is positioned in such a way that customers have to zigzag, not only away from the motorcycle, but also away from another beautiful promotional display. This particular credit union was very diligent in establishing stimulating promotions, but not how their customers navigated the space and as a result, essentially deemed the promotions invisible.

There is a science and a lot of psychology involved with properly creating an effective and user-friendly retail and service-oriented space. Successful grocery stores have mastered the art of effective layout and design, which result in more sales and customer retention. "Nothing in the store is by accident. Everything is by design," said Paco Underhill, founder and C.E.O. of Envirosell, a retail-focused research and consulting firm in New York. One of the things that the Food Marketing Institute and the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute have told us is that roughly 60 percent or more of what we buy in the supermarket wasn't on our list," Underhill said. "If I stop somebody on their way into a store and have them review for me what their mental list or written list is, and then I look in their basket as they walk out the door, roughly 60 percent of what's in that basket they didn't tell me about walking in." The key, says Underhill is to get the consumer to ‘stick around.’ This is why grocery stores have pharmacies and banks. The longer a customer is in the store the more they are likely to buy.

"Certainly a retailer tries to direct you through a store in a way that's more advantageous to generating more sales," said David Bell, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "They're going to be stimulated by promotions and things in the environment."

However, the promotions and stimulations must be positioned in such a way that the consumer can’t miss them and this is done in combination with strategic design, but also in realizing where and when a customer will most likely engage in a promotion. Grocery store science is long studied and considers every action and thought of the consumer from what hand they push the cart with to what is at eye level versus waist level. (Read More) So when was the last time you took the time to observe your customers in action? How do they move through your space or more importantly, how do they want to move through your space? Where is their focus? Are they occupied trying not to bump into things or noticing the shiny new motorcycle they hadn’t considered buying, but now imagine the wind through their hair because they have been able to feel the leather seat and sparkle in the paint? Do your customers frequently ask the same questions? If so, then perhaps it is time to resolve the issue by making a change and reinventing a system that eliminates the confusion.

Consider the frustration you’ve felt as a customer when you can’t find what you are looking for and have to ask where to find something. It should be your mission to eliminate as much frustration as possible for your consumers while also welcoming them into a user friendly space and inspiring them to interact with your promotional items. After all, you’ve invested the time, energy, money and space into a promotional display so you want to maximize the effects of it and capitalize the results it produces.  This, of course, is accomplished by positioning the promotion in a place the customer is most likely to engage with it. Where do customers take pause? Where are they moving at a fast pace and head down? Where are they forced to stop? Remember that the average attention span of the average American is now eight seconds. Figure out where you can capture those eight seconds and position your promotion in that spot.

Digital displays are fast becoming a solution for the over active mind and distracting environments. Static displays can become a bit like furniture and instigate an element of apathy while a consumer navigates a space. Digital displays function in the realm of the modern mind and offer enough movement and change that a consumer will likely take notice. Like a fish to a shiny lure, digital displays prompt a consumer to see what it moving on a screen and if the image and content is compelling enough you can get your message across within the six seconds offered.

Element, specializes in creating efficient retail spaces and effective promotional items, but we encourage you to observe your customers. Watch not only how they use your space, but also how they want to use your space. This will help you learn how to better accommodate your customers and get the most from your promotional displays.

Sometimes major design changes are needed, but sometimes it is as simple as moving some furniture and directional but as we always say ‘Every Bit Matters.’ 


Article written by Brent Beckett for The Element Group.
Edited by Lyndsay Reese. 


Small Branches with Big Impact: 6 Ways to Maximize Space in Retail Banking Centers

While community banks and credit unions continue to grow, the physical size of branches are getting smaller and smaller. With the rise of online and mobile banking, along with the introduction of new technologies like smart ATMs and video tellers, today's banks are able to offer more of their services in smaller spaces. While this is great for many reasons, including significantly reduced overhead and operational costs, designing for a smaller footprint introduces its own set of challenges. Our team of experienced designers know that when it comes to small branches, every bit matters. Here are some of their pro-tips:


We immediately perceive well-lit spaces as being larger and more inviting. Let more light into your space by utilizing different materials, such as office walls made of glass. This can improve the amount of natural light let into your branch and give it an airy, open atmosphere without compromising privacy. Still have problem areas? Try illuminating dark spaces with decorative light fixtures or LEDs. This not only brightens your space, but also helps to build your brand experience.



Cluttered workspaces immediately feel more cramped and claustrophobic. Resolve this issue by ensuring every area of your branch has usage-appropriate storage. Choose office furniture that is built to accommodate necessary file storage. Identify tech-heavy areas of the branch and install outlets and power-strips nearby to avoid running wires and cords through your space. Make sure millwork is built to the specifications of the equipment your staff uses every day, such as computer monitors, printers and cash-dispensers.



Blue Hills Bank // 1,500 Sq. Ft.   Learn more about this project   here  .

Blue Hills Bank // 1,500 Sq. Ft.
Learn more about this project here.

We all know that digital signage can be a great investment for many reasons, but did you know how much it can help maximize your retail space? Larger banking spaces have traditionally had ample room to hang posters, display artwork, and promote community events. However, a smaller branch can mean significantly reduced wall space. Enter digital signage. In addition to providing engaging and dynamic content, digital signage allows for limitless messaging opportunity without taking up too much real estate.



Blue Hills Bank // 1,500 Sq. Ft.   Learn more about this project   here  .

Blue Hills Bank // 1,500 Sq. Ft.
Learn more about this project here.

A bold wall color can help create a focal point and also gives the illusion of receding in space, making the room feel larger. This is an easy way to support your brand, while making your space more contemporary. Incorporating large-scale environmental graphics or textured wallpaper are other ways you can achieve a similar effect, and add texture to your space.



Straight lines and sharp angles can appear to close off space and create a more rigid atmosphere. Instead, try using more natural, organic shapes. Think about introducing oval fixtures and curving lines to your space. Flowing forms can help open up small spaces, making them more inviting while increasing visual space.



The materials used in fixtures and furniture have always been of key importance when determining the look and feel of any interior space; in smaller spaces material selection is more important than ever. While the possibilities are virtually endless, we have a few tips when it comes to designing for smaller spaces:

1) Use Light Shades. Darker materials carry more visual weight and can therefore have a heavier feel. Try to pick lighter shades that reflect more light, giving the illusion of having more space.

2) Introduce Some Contrast. While lighter materials tend to work best in small spaces, it's important that there is also some contrast. Using too many similar shades can visually flatten a space, and runs the risk of feeling sterile and weightier. Try creating depth by using a darker trim or introducing a contrasting material like metallic accents.

3) Play With Pattern. Adding pattern is another great way to create contrast within your space. Try incorporating patterned fabrics on furniture, or consider tiling your flooring to create interesting geometry.



Is your bank or credit union looking to build a new branch or acquire a new space? The Element Group specializes in small- and micro-branch design, including the recent completion of a full-service branch within a 150 square foot space. Ask us how we can help with your next project today!


Article written by Anna Taylor for The Element Group.