Retail Design

Design Thinking in Retail

Value of Good Design Thinking in Retail? Effective 'Point of Purchase' Displays

How does a designer ensure all the goodness and efficacy behind Point of Sale touch points across retail environments? 
A few principles at work.


“ Few years ago, when my son was still a toddler, I took him one day to a candy store. It was his first visit and he was thrilled & squealed with delight. He ran about the store for a while with the intension of grabbing every bit of the colour feast unfolding before him. Eventually when I mentioned to him that he had to make a choice, he was confused for a while. He could not let go all that he was seeing in front. Finally, he settled for the brightest, biggest and the most accessible jar of candy.”

Concerned by the state of the world, revered German Designer, Dieter Rams, Chief Designer for the brand, Braunonce stated, – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Any modern retail or even a corner high frequency store presents a marketing & retail nightmare for creating an effective sales pitch at the actual point of sale. Customer may have been drawn to a store for a product brand through an effective advertisement campaign. Advertisements many a times are dramatic visual aspirationswhich present the products in a utopian manner.  The same products inside stores are a different story. They are lost amongst myriad of other products, store environments and simply too many people in our country.  

Retail thinking at point of purchase must be smart & effective. Purchase aids get fleeting seconds to engage the customer about product benefits. These rare moments are the one’s that determine whether your point of purchase merchandise is successful or a waste of valuable time & resources.

Modern retail today is a jigsaw of shelves with piles & stacks of merchandise.  Each is bolder & brighter than the other. If you are lucky to spot the product brand of your choice, you may as well clap and give yourselves a pat on the back. It is in these conditions that effective purchase displays create a breathing space for your products.  A well conceived product purchase display can very easily focus entire attention towards the product it is displaying, engage the customer (not entice!). There is a thin line separating a successful point of purchase and the ones lost amongst the packs of time. Good design thinking and smart application is the base of the few lessons that I have learnt.

Be innovative.

Great Point of Purchase displays are always differentiated. They present a new solution to display the goodness of the product in a manner not seen every day. Wow! moment’s can be built within innovative displays yet they must never overstep the product. 

Right position.

Point of purchase element must present itself at the right moment in the customer journey through any retail environment. This is that moment in the journey of the customer when her mind should not be occupied by other engagements. Catching her attention at the right moment is crucial to creation of an engaging share in the customer's mind.

Product placement.

It always helps to present the product at a convenient eye level. The product must be approachable and within easy reach. The visual access to the entire product must never be blocked in the line of sight. View must be the best view of the product.


Clear message.

When a customer understands benefits and key differentiation presented by the product on display, it is an example of good Point of Purchase. Message is dispensed quickly & effectively. Key points of the message are boldly presented and secondary information is segregated to areas where it will be most effective.

Visible aesthetics.

Shopping is an experience and a good display must appeal to the customer senses. Well-designed & executed displays add to the customer delight and general well being. They help create a positive attitude towards the displayed merchandise. Yet a display designer must always make products stand out through their presence or absence. Choice of colour, form and material must take into account the environment, competing products, shelf colour and lighting conditions.  

Tipping point.

Display designers must be aware of the unique selling proposition of the product on display. An effective display is a culmination of a series of events that take place in a flash, the moment your display catches customer attention. All these events must lead to effectively closing the deal by clearly indicating the unique benefits of buying the product. It must provide sufficient inputs to the customer to make an informed decision based on conviction and assurance. The display must help close the sale.


Point of Purchase must never attempt to manipulate a customer with promises that cannot be kept. Displays should never portray a product in a manner that makes it more innovative, more powerful and more valuable that it really is at present. Very quickly customers can lose trust built over years in the product or even worse, the mother brand.

Design is Detail.

Great modernist designer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, once said“God is in the details.” Execution of your Point of Purchase idea is as important as the idea itself. Don’t leave details in the display to chance. Good detailing shows respect towards the customer. A well placed screw or a tacky sticking attempt can spell disaster for a good product launch. Remember the quality of your display rubs directly on the quality of your product and brand.

Life and reuse.

Many times the displays can be reused to display products over a longer time period. Displaying other products from the range makes the display proposition cost effective. Make the display last even in today’s use & throw social norm. Be aware of the life cycle of the product display. Think if the structure can be reused or recycled.  Can it double as packaging? This way your rupee runs longer and so do the resources on our Earth. Don’t add to the waste already being created. Think environment ( No client or boss will tell you this ! )

Keep evolving.

Prototype. Prototype. And Prototype. Point of Purchase is not a onetime exercise where you fire & forget. Build in a step in your process of taking feedback from customers and field workers. A designer must understand what works and what does not work. This is critical to creating flawless displays, which relate to the customers.

I have always enjoyed displays that interact with me, educate me and say, “Hey, the choice is yours.”   That is what I call, a great Point of Purchase display experience.

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. 
An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a member of India Design Council & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several retail design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Bajaj Auto, Probiking, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICi Bank amongst others

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Adapting technology to create experiences

Adapting technology in physical environments : Create exuding experiences.

Branded environments in India are evolving. What trends are affecting experiences, how does new technology play a role in design of spaces and how does one connect with the new age end user.


Experience based environments encompass a variety of sectors in today's world, they span across the service , manufacturing and retail industry .

Within the manufacturing sector, traditional companies, rather than carrying out boardroom presentations, are now setting up experiential spaces to communicate their offering. Working alongside designers companies are creating user journeys to best experience and explain their products & services.

The service industry having realised that customer engagement for good service is about good experiences, are creating positive memories at various touch points. They understand the relevence of this model to keep up in the ever competitive market. Mobile service providers are offering in store expert advice and value added service like free wifi, refreshments in an attempt to give a wholesome experience to their customers.

Banks are adopting user centered approach to design to make customer journey seamless and a pleasant banking experience. Such experiences help create an emotional connect with the  customers, helping build long lasting relationships enabling a loyal customer base.

 Hotels are coming up with theme based rooms to offer exclusive experiences to their guests and to try and present something new each time. Spaces like hotels are emphasising on distinctive moods and perceptions. Themes, lights, textures, alternative seating options make each visit into a novel experiences within a single space.

In Retail, brands have moved past the requirement of maximum SKU displays , brightly lit spaces, and use of multiple colours and materials. They have started to realise the importance of consumer centric designing , thus focussing on creating differentiated  journeys  and better experiences in the space which do not directly relate to the selling of the product but to build lasting memories , loyalty and superior impressions of the brand.

We are seeing a period when local players are realising the need for innovative and creatively designed experiences in the space that would help them compete with the global brands that are storming the Indian markets.

E retailing is also growing at the rate that one had never imagined. Though the e-retailers are changing the way people have been shopping and a complete change in the mindset of these people as well , the brick and mortar stores still hold their own charm amongst these users and also are an important element in the marketing mix.

Axis bank branches designed to suit every need and comfort of the customer to the highest order. A customer centric design approach that ensures customer comfort and hence builds better relations and brand loyalty within the customers.

Axis bank branches designed to suit every need and comfort of the customer to the highest order. A customer centric design approach that ensures customer comfort and hence builds better relations and brand loyalty within the customers.

Over the last two decades advancements in technology and the rising internet and mobile phone penetration has changed our lives and the way we communicate, do business and the way we shop or receive a service.

Technology has reinvented almost every aspect of the journey of a user within spaces through new ways of browsing,  digital shopping cart, reinventing changing rooms, sizing and customising on screen, in store remote video broadcast, real time SKU tracking, multiple payment options and methods. Technology is affecting how a store operates, thus presenting a completely new canvas to the designer.

Design will not just be restricted to one channel but there will have to be a holistic approach towards omni-channel retailing. Design of these physical spaces will have to be thought of keeping in mind other channels, where essentially the same kind of experience will have to be replicated or where the digital experience will have to be seamlessly integrated with the physical space. It is about the digital interactions and journey that comprises of human to space ,space to human, human to digital and digital to human interactions.

One such current technology is the mPOS ( mobile point of sale). The introduction of this technology has comprehensively transposed the journey of a user in any given environment.

It eliminates cash counters, queues, paper receipts, dependency on wired or even WIFI internet connections, bulky billing devices, and much more. For the customers it means safe transactions, cash free wallets, hassle free multiple payments and no long boring queues, all this for more shopping time with a better experience.

mPOS is now being used by every retailer around us, at fuel stations, grocery stores , retail stores ,cab drivers,&nbsp; e-tailers for payment on delivery and so on. Ezetap is a good India centred example.

mPOS is now being used by every retailer around us, at fuel stations, grocery stores , retail stores ,cab drivers,  e-tailers for payment on delivery and so on. Ezetap is a good India centred example.

User fast adapting to new tech, are also evolving simultaneously. The needs and the demands of these users have changed drastically prompting the brands and the designers to take quick steps towards creating environments to suit their expectations. In this scenario designing environments will be more about mapping an experience of a target customer and less about clever furniture or a different looking space. Experience Retail will be less about trying to sell more things but moreso be focused towards great customer therapy.

Retail will no longer be just a place to buy. It will be more of social zones, hangout places, informative and educative. It will be a place that provides a holistic experience and a seamless integration with out-of-store engagements. People manning these places will be a lot more than just sales people. They will be the facilitators to conversations, educators and also designers that would make changes in the journey of a user based on his past experience with that particular user. Personalisation of experiences will be taken beyond the visible expectations of a customer like on the go, adventurous, relaxing, involving and so on.

Designers now will play a crucial role as an integrator, showing keen understanding of new tech, e commerce and people psyche’.

SHRISH TILEKAR is a Senior Designer, Environment Design at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Bangalore and with a Masters from IED, Milan, he leads a cool team of designers focussing on retail, special functional spaces and branded environments.

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Gold Trophy for Elephant

VMRD Best Specialty Restaurant Design, Gold Trophy awarded to Elephant for its work for Krustys at a glittering award ceremony in Mumbai today! Three cheers — with Rohhan JoshiVinay DhavalaeyRavi KabaraVidhiya JoshiMeenakshi Borgohain BApurva SonawaneAnkita ShrivastavaVidya GoreElodie NerotGerry RebelloAshish Deshpande and Partho Guha.

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