Using Sensory Design to Compete Against Online Retail

With the dawning of online retail and the displacement or forced evolution of places like bookstores and malls, designers are beginning to use sensory design to win out (or at least stay in the running) against their online competitors. You see, such brick-and-mortar retail stores are tapping into what the senses can yield from design, to make shopping in their business a true experience. And this experience for the senses is what limits online retailers today.

As branding expert Martin Lindstrom points out:

“You can’t compete on volume, you can’t compete on prices because the online retailer will always win.” (1)

Sensory Design Retail
Image Credit: © radenmas | Fotolia

Shopping as a Destination Point

Of course, shopping has already been a place where one can meet up with friends, go to see new fashions or gadgets, and even simply do a quick run to the store to get that one missing item fast. But what else can brick-and-mortar stores do as they lose business to the online retailers that offer great discounts?

In this case, shopping becomes a destination or attraction, where shoppers go for the experience, the sense of place and the people. For instance, the super market Lowes Foods is doing just that. Complete with singing shows, kinetic signage and mini-stations for tasting and talking — shopping here becomes a unique experience that the online retailer cannot match in quite the same way. (1)

Next Steps for Online Retailers

Perhaps the online retail world can create new experiences of their own, albeit, the digital kind. As Amazon further tests such technologies as drones and one-day shipping, perhaps speed, price and “digital” experience will help online retailers to feed the senses in different ways.

Yet, it will be interesting to see how the brick-and-mortar businesses carve out their evolutionary path as digital retailers gain more and more momentum. Does this mean that brick-and-mortar stores will need a “digital” face as well? And does this mean that those brick-and-mortar businesses are being forced to evolve to bring even greater value for their customers who shop in person?

Different Kinds of Personalization

One could argue that the brick-and-mortar stores are more personalized — where the employees know you by name and where they know what you buy and can make great recommendations. Yet, online retails can do this too — not face-to-face, but with perhaps a bigger selection from which to bring you what merchandise you want and need.

Thus, brick-and-mortar businesses will need to excel with sensory design in different ways than online retailers. They need to offer what the digital world cannot — and perhaps this means offering a community, a unique experience and unparalleled products coming from a memorable brand.

The online retailers do different things best. Sometimes they compete, but other times they can be complimentary. As the battle between online and brick-and-mortar businesses continues, it will be interesting to see how each will evolve. Both must use sensory design — even if capitalizing upon it in different ways.

Reference:

(1) Yates, Kristina. Retail in the Digital Age: Chicken Dances and More. CNBC. July 11, 2014.

What Makes Poetic Architecture?

Poetics: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Poetics is that moment in architecture when elements yield more than the sum of their parts. But what does this really mean? What is it that gets “yielded”? It could be, perhaps, the way architecture is able to “touch” its occupants on deeper emotional or spiritual levels. It could also be the way architecture can convey beauty together with meaning that leaves one feeling more fulfilled.

Pantheon: Poetic Architecture
Image: © Boggy | Fotolia

In this article, I am encouraging you to think about what makes your work poetic. Is it the way you guide your occupants through, as they engage with your architectural features on their experiential journey? Or is it the way you use and play with light within your work, where you help occupants to experience it in new ways? Or is there a certain meaning conveyed through your work — where you use metaphor or symbolism to express a community or a culture’s sentiment?

Whatever the case, it helps when designing to think about how it may reach poetic heights. This will call for your architecture to do something more than serve core functional and aesthetic requirements. It will call for your design to “move” people through deeper beauty and/or meaning. So, what poetic message does your architecture convey? And does it help those who experience it in some way?

Poetic Architecture that Helps People

You can “touch” someone deeply with an architectural work to hopefully leave them off better than before they first experienced it. So, how does one bring value to occupants through poetics? Perhaps this means designing a memorial that serves to restore hope for a people. Or perhaps it means designing a place of worship to help reconnect a community. Whatever the case, it is good to think about how the poetics of your work will impact those whom it “touches”.

To help you with this — it is best to delve into what a person, community, or culture needs before you design. Understand how your built work can serve them as a valuable and needed asset to their lives. For example, by tying together a community’s need with the purpose behind your poetics, you can be more confident that its effects will be “felt” positively — as it helps the people with whom it engages. So, think about the value your architecture brings on multiple levels — yes, the functional and the aesthetic, but also, the poetic.

Use Sensory Design to Boost Building Effectiveness

Understanding Cause and Effect within Your Architectural Design

In a previous article I taught you about meeting occupant needs before they arise, as compared to meeting them after they arise. This is important for effective building design, as your building needs to help its occupants meet their goals and enjoy their journey while striving to achieve them. And after all, when architecture becomes an active participant in an occupant’s journey, then their likelihood of achieving success increases.

Now, to help you better predict occupant need, which can often be a daunting task given many of today’s complex programmatic requirements, — sensory design can be used to help you unravel the “occupant need” architectural challenge.

Sensory Design
Image Credit: Puckillustrations | Fotolia

You see, sensory design allows you to dissect your building’s qualities to better understand how they will impact your occupant — and by having a better grasp of why your building works (or does not work) for occupants the way it does, your environments are more likely to improve because you would better understand the cause and effect relationships presented within your architectural designs.

The Role of Sensory Design within Your Creative Design Process

Sensory design is a way for you to think about how your building impacts your occupants — from the way they perceive it through their senses, to the way they react to it on all five levels of experience: physiologically, intellectually, emotionally, behaviorally, and spiritually. By building more humane architecture that actually taps into what an occupant needs, when they need it, you will be able to increase building effectiveness exponentially.

But how does this fit into your creative design process? Well, sensory design is a way of thinking and strategizing — where your design decisions directly impact the occupants whom your buildings serve. You see, there is great leverage in knowing about sensory design, because when you understand your building’s impact earlier on in the design process, then your building design outcome is much stronger: where it is more likely to be cherished by occupants because it is more effective in helping them to achieve the successes which they want.

Understanding Sensory Design’s Impact on the Architectural Design Discipline

If more architects used sensory design within their design process, our built environments would not only be more humane, but would actually help their occupants to thrive while within them. Within a hospital, for instance, patient recovery would occur in less time and with higher quality, all because the architect understood what the patient and medical team needed to ensure a speedy recovery from a particular illness for a particular type of patient. This would mean meeting occupant need in real-time, with real life-determining issues, and with real precision.

The beauty of sensory design is that you can get very detailed with it as you design. That is, you can really delve into occupant need, and fine tune building-to-occupant impact on macro and micro levels. This is extremely powerful for you as an architect — to ensure that both your grand design gestures and your architectural details are all aligning to yield happy and healthy building occupants.