As the line between online and physical retail continues to blur, companies like The Container Store are enhancing the in-store experience by leveraging customer-centric technology. In order to overhaul the shopper journey with an eye toward ease of navigation and product selection, the specialty retailer recently called upon FRCH Design Worldwide (Cincinnati) and MJD (San Diego) to spearhead the endeavor.
The new concept launched at its Dallas flagship, and one of the goals, according to Brandon Avery, Creative Managing Director, FRCH, was to create a space where the retailer could test new customer experience concepts, technologies and fixtures before rolling them out. The hurdle in getting there was changing its approach to merchandising in order to more effectively connect with customers.
“They live in a niche market, they’re all about storage and organization,” says Avery. “But they executed their store experience in a very big-box way; lots of high racking and row after row of very tall fixtures. They carry a lot of quality merchandise, but it lived in the shadows of the fixturing. One of our goals was to create a space for those product gems to shine.”
In order to optimize product assortment as well as the customer journey, the team designed specified areas where certain categories could live, like kitchen, office and travel. Fixture heights were lowered in these sections and merchandise was situated to be more accessible to customers.
The Container Store wanted to elevate its custom closet offering, says Avery, so FRCH created a destination Custom Closets Studio that supports this goal. “We were able to create an experience around it, and an area that felt more hospitable and consultative, as well as inspiring,” says Avery.
The studio surrounding the custom closets section incorporates various digital touchpoints intended to help shoppers navigate selections, according to Avery (18 in-store screens guide visitors). Interactive components were finalized after several rounds of customer testing, says Jeremy Duimstra, Co-Founder and CEO of MJD, the digital agency responsible for the store’s digital elements. Designers found that the biggest hurdle for customers beginning a closet organization project was a feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of choices. To change this mindset, The Container Store developed The Organization Studio, where users can upload photo or video of their personal “challenge” online and set an in-store appointment with an organization expert, effectively combining the online and in-store experiences. The in-store experience isn’t only driven by tech, however.
“The power of the organization studio is [the] combination of the human element with technology,” says Duimstra.
Val Richardson, VP of Real Estate, The Container Store, agrees that the combination of the human element with technology fosters engagement. “While we believe in the ease and convenience technology can bring to the shopping journey, we also know that our expert store employees play a crucial role in providing a complete solution, and it’s something we’re very proud of,” she says.
The Container Store, Coppell, Texas
Design and Architecture
FRCH Design Worldwide, a Nelson Company, Cincinnati
Outside Design Consultant, In-Store Technology
MJD Interactive, San Diego
Villa Lighting, St. Louis
Graycor Construction, Chicago
Andreu World, Valencia, Spain
Coalesse, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Koroseal, Fairlawn, Ohio
Lab Designs, Mt. Airy, N.C.
Cambria, Le Sueur, Minn.
Nevamar, Shelton, Conn.
Wilsonart, Temple, Texas
DuPont, Wilmington, Del.
Photography: Mark Steele, Columbus, Ohio