Scaling design based on retail location

Alright, so I’m designing an incredibly basic TOC/Tower unit for a chain store. There really wasn’t an opportunities to do any real design on this thing, just straight edges, nothing fancy – which makes sense since this will only sell $20 product. After sitting down with the brand team to discuss the design, they say they love it, but it looks too nice for this retail market.

When does something look too good for a retail? I thought you would want to look the best you can in any market, but apparently you don’t want a customer going into a “higher end” store and seeing certain product at a higher price then walking into this lower end store and seeing DIFFERENT product at a lower price.

Wouldn’t a consumer understand if you go to a certain store you’re going to get product that matches that level of retail? Is it really necessary to look worse in a lower end retail market?

I don’t know that I would say “Look worse”… I don’t think that’s the right term to describe it. I would say make your display fit the environment it’s going in. Obviously a display for Target will look much different than a display for Macy’s. Without seeing exactly what you’re doing makes this more difficult, but perhaps simplifying your design a bit and reducing some of the finishes will make it more fitting for it’s environment. Plastic vs. Aluminum, etc.

Make sense?

Like NURB said, tough to critique without seeing the display, the product, and the environment it’s going into. By “too nice” they might have felt that its sophistication level for the intended customer was at an inappropriate level.

Clean, simple design doesn’t always resonate with the target market. Does it carry graphics as well, maybe it’s a matter of re-working the graphic design.

If they are the brand team they should be able to tell you more about the target customer and what would be appropriate.

OK, you’re right “look worse” would not be the right way to describe it. I just thought that in any market you want to look your best. I guess I’ve never really noticed something looking less lux in Target vs Macy’s. It makes sense, now that I think about it. It’s just how can you make something more simplified when, honestly it’s already very simple.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for a critique. The design is down and dirty and for a specific purpose. Proportions are pleasing, graphics work well, it functions well, and the brand teams like it.

I understand there’s a big difference between real high end and mid range, but I never saw that much of a difference between mid and low, as far as displays go. More of a difference perhaps in branding and packaging.

This just came up and I thought I’d start a discussion in regard to levels of design based on retail markets, and other people’s experiences.

You have various points of interaction with the consumer before they even touch your product. The challenge is to encourage them to have that tactile interaction with your packaging. As a result, if your display is too “high-end”, they’ll easily make the asumption that they can’t afford it and immediately dismiss the product.

This can significantly impact sales of your product. It can be significantly challenging for a company to understand this because if they’re not aware, they won’t make that connection. They may believe the low sales are attributed to brand placement or the product itself. When in reality, it was simply the presentation of the product in the retail environment. There are a few studies out there that show when a consumer physically interacts with your product, the likelihood of them purchasing increases dramatically. From what I understand 75% of purchasing decisions are made right at the retail shelf. So that means the success of your sales depends primarily on your display and packaging in these instances.

Thanks Boosted. I will definitely be on the search for those studies. All of your points make sense, and I’m going to have to learn to separate myself from the design. As one consumer, I am not the general consensus so what looks normal to me, might be higher end for others.

I wonder though, is differentiation between display/branding per specific markets more prevalent for certain products? Maybe it’s just more noticeable for products that are housed in their own display, rather than working within a retail store’s existing merchandising infrastructure?

I think Boosted has nailed a lot of it. I know that when designing a store area for the company I am at, I almost always have to ‘dumb it down’. Usually this is due to cost issues for pieces I want (moving parts, pop-offs, lighting), but sometimes it is because this market is not forward trending enough. I am pretty much not allowed to do anything modern or too innovative. Our buyers/merchants need us to stick with what the customer knows and understands (which usually mean traditional). The only way around this is long term planning. Every season we try to push them just a little bit. Some times it is with a new fixture, others it is updated graphics they would have never expected. Slowly they are coming around, it just takes a few misses to figure out how far out you can push per season.

From my experience, there is a direct correlation to the retail channel (big box store, department store, speciality, c-store, etc.) and the structure of the design. As a secondary aspect the brand is incorporated into the structure of the display at various levels. If it’s a high-end store the brand will heavily influence the structure and graphics. As you get down to lower end retail channels the brand will only influence the graphics. On the lower end (Wal-Mart/Costco), the structure will be influenced by the packaging/display standards of the retailers.

Your specific markets as identified by the brand team will feed into these retail channels. Understanding the shopping behavior through various retail channels should help inform you as how to approach the design of the packaging/display.
Here’s an example of a chart I did showing the various shopping behaviors associated to retail channels. The hard data I got from my marketing department which used AC Neilson Homescan.

Great thread. I’ve had the same feedback before.

Here is what someone told me, “if it looks too good, people will think they can’t afford us and won’t shop the product.” That’s why you will see really garish ads for furniture stores with huge yellow “BUY NOW” and “SALE” stars all over them. This looks cheap, therefore, I can afford this.

I don’t know if that really works though. Look at Ikea. Slick design all around, but it’s some of the least expensive product. Are there a lot of college students that don’t shop at Ikea because they thought it looked expensive? I don’t think so.

I’d like to hear more!

I’d say IKEA is the anomaly in this scenario, purely based on reputation. Someone who’s never heard of IKEA asks “What’s that?” Someone inevitably says “Oh! It’s so awesome! Everything is so cheap!” and there’s your advertising.

Boosted, that’s an awesome example, thanks!

I would definitely agree, somehow IKEA has become the exception to the rule. It seems like for years the “it looks great, so I can’t afford it” mentality has been engrained in society. Only recently, IMO with companies like Target pushing design for the people, this concept is being slowly eroded. There are plenty of others, plus the fact that good design is being considered a necessity rather than a luxury. I just feel like this idea of thinking is traversing its way into CPG and lower priced items. I think it will take a while but sooner or later, good design will not necessarily = high price, in the consumers eye.

Personally it’s a sad moment, when in school we are always pushed to do great and beautiful designs, then in the “real world” you realize sometimes great design can actually have negative effects.

Apple and the car companies definitely fall under the same umbrella as Ikea mind you.

Apple continues to dominate MP3s and increasingly the cel market. Sure, they charge more, but they have 50% share with mp3 players. That makes them the Wal-mart of the industry…the 500lbs. gorilla in the room. However, their designs are as pure and beautiful as Bang and Olufssen, who charge 10 times the price.

The car companies too. When was the last time we’ve seen a car designed to look cheap sell well? Maybe some commercial trucks and vans (rubber floor, no interior, no carpet or door panels in the back). Even the most basic Yaris or Cobalt has little design details that could be from BMW or Mercedes.

It seems like management has the blinders on this one. “Sure that works for Apple, but I’ve never seen anyone in our widget market sell 100k units a quarter with a sober, well-finished design.” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

end rant hehe.

It would be fun to start a thread looking for examples of high volume companies succeeding with industrial design.

I think you need to differentiate between product design and retail presentation.

In the case of Ikea, for example, the design may be nice, but generally the product is presented in a “discount” way that is in sync with the market price level. Note in any Ikea the large price signs showing “$9.99 or SALE, was $9.99, now $6.99”. Plus they often put cheaper stuff in overflowing bins (a technique I’ve heard is very common in stimulating consumer interest as people feel they get a bargain if they have to “search” for it).

Same goes with US car and some cheaper foreign car lots. Stupid colored banners, flags, inflatable giant gorillas, florescent signs, all make the product look cheap and on discount. You wouldn’t find anything like that on a BMW, MB, or Porsche lot, to be sure. Not to mention all the low production value used car ads you see on TV that look like they were filmed on VHS by the managers brother-in-law.

Perception certainly does have an effect on consumer perception of price and value. It’s no coincidence for example that certain colors are used in discount stores (ie. yellow in Best Buy and Ikea), and that often messy/less-refined = value in the consumer’s eye.

As a side-note in terms of product design, I always believe the key is designing for different interaction levels. The product should capture your eye at 20 ft away, then in front of the wall at 5 ft should have something new to see and and capture your attention. Then, once the consumer picks the product up, there is again something new they notice and capture their attention. Again, once they buy the product or try it on, they notice something even more in detail that captures the attention. If you can design in this way I think you have a great product design. If the product (or packaging) doesn’t give you more upon closer inspection, I think you’ve failed and have a one-dimensional design.



No cheese at BMW:

I know I also saw a BMW ad that said something along the lines of, “why buy an Honda Accord, you can have a brand new BMW 3 series for less!!!” big star around it. I can’t find the ad for some reason…

Good catch on some of the POS techniques at Ikea. I’ll let that percolate.

Great thread!! You have to remember all of the other componants that come when designing POP. A display has to fit the feel of the product and the brand. If a bargen product is placed on a high end display the customer becomes confused and will not buy the product. This does not mean that it is not good. Good design solves a problem and fits the ocassion.

That’s hilarious, because I drive by that exact billboard everyday on my drive to work. I remember something about it causing a lot of commotion because of the child sitting there.

Anyway, I sincerely appreciate everyone’s input. As I’ve moved onto working on a high volume, multi-channel brand, I’m discovering there is a lot to learn. Specifically in regard to retail presentation and branding, i.e. POP and Packaging design. As much as there is to learn about product design, molding, materials, UI, etc. There is just as much about POP design. It’s really about understanding each market you are designing for as a designer, not a consumer, which isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do since you are one in the same. By and large, it’s the psychology behind consumer behavior that I personally don’t know enough about. Richard’s example about ikea, even though their products have a nice design aesthetic, they really do have yellow “SALE” signs everywhere and the technique of bins for bargain hunting, never thought of that. While this may not apply to what I’m working on now, these are sound principles that can easily enhance anyone’s design methods.

It’s funny you mention this, because I have lost count of how many times the brand team or management has brought over an image of Jawbone and apple packaging saying this is what we want. Then you get the response, oh this looks too good. The first time I heard that I literally asked, “Are you serious?” High volume retail presentation is certainly a different world.

Great thread… I feel like I should chime in, being as this is the industry I am involved in but you guys seem to have it all covered.

I recently did some designs for 2 different manufacturers of Appliances and flat screen TV’s… in both instances I was told not to make them too fancy because they were for Costco and they have an ethos that if the display is too slick their customers will feel they are not getting the best price.

We managed to pull off a bare bones display that looked quite striking, was in keeping with the brand and elevated the product slightly higher than it’s competitors… turns out it increased sales by 50% :slight_smile:

It would have looked awful though in any other store I think.

Going back to Richard’s point about putting things in dump bins… there are 2 reasons that play here, one is as Richard said… people like to hunt for a bargain. The other, especially at Ikea when everything in the dump bin is the same product, is there’s the perception (rightly so) that Ikea buys in such vast quantities that these economies of scale translate into cheaper prices for the customer.