Sensorial Playground

Between experience centers, temporary pop-ups and engaging interactions, the winners of 2019’s International Visual Competition prove retail is forging new avenues for success
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Posted August 6, 2019

International Visual Competition Best-in-Show Winner
In-Store Home Goods Presentation
"Somany Tiles"
Submitted by: Four Dimensions Retail Design India Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru, India

Twenty-five years young and going strong, VMSD’s annual International Visual Competition highlights the cream of the crop when it comes to semi-permanent/limited-shelf-life in-store displays. Chosen by a judging panel of industry experts, this year’s picks exemplify popular trends in pop-ups and experiential retail. Above all, it’s truly the visual merchandising prowess of each project that holds all of the details together.

Take, for example, our 2019 “Best in Show” winner. Somany Ceramics (Noida, India), known for its tiles and bath/home fixtures, was founded in 1969 by the late Shri H. L. Somany and has locations in Africa, the Middle East, the U.K. and Russia. When the international brand’s experience center in the Hebbal neighborhood of Bengaluru, India, was in need of a facelift, Four Dimensions Retail Design India (Bengaluru, India) took charge of not only its design, but its VM strategy as well. 

One could argue that when it comes to home goods and residential fixtures, effective merchandising is far from easy, but Four Dimensions nailed it, according to our 2019 judges.

The design firm overhauled the approach, allowing customers to get up close and personal with a variety of products. The new theme was imagined around the concept of an “aspirational gallery of design innovations,” according to the firm. It was also intended to “de-stress” the decision-making process and serve as a consultative guide for its main customer base, comprising contractors, architects, project managers and everyday end users, say Four Dimensions Founders and Directors Shyam Sunder K and Nagaraja Ramarao.

Customers begin their journey at the concierge where the brand’s story and philosophy is conveyed via a “phygital” wall installation that includes digital screens and deconstructed tiles. Digital touchpoints are sprinkled in key zones and products are displayed to encourage shoppers to engage with them. Many of the fixtures – like a shower that turns on and an actual wet bar – are interactive. Imagery and text are printed on real Somany branded tiles, adding to the journey’s authenticity.

The big standout is how the fixtures are merchandised. For example, some sinks are mounted by their bottoms so a customer can see into the bowl at eye level, and other elements like tile, faucets and showerheads, are presented in a way that leaves them begging to be touched. Informational graphics also help guide the journey.

But how does the brand stand apart from its competition? “The key differentiation is the customer-centric layout and consultative visual merchandising that takes the relationship of the brand with the consumer beyond the products offered in store,” Ramarao says. “The store reflects the larger trend of transferring the power of choice and decision to the customer by empowering them with sensorial information in an experiential and humanized environment.”

It was a sure win with the 2019 VMSD judges. “The space is very experiential; inviting you in to touch and interact,” says Jalpa Patel, Senior Visual Merchandiser, Interior Architect, ZenGenius Inc. (Columbus, Ohio), one of this year’s judges. “It’s a response to how people want to shop today.”

“This design hits all of the marks for a great retail space,” said competition judge Christina Lubbers, Interior Designer, AGI (Covington, Ky.). “It highlights the beauty of their product while also showing the quality ... I love all the additional details that were added yet the space is still clean and well organized.”

For more winners of VMSD's annual International Visual Competition, please check vmsd.com throughout the month of August.