The Australian retail industry is rife with exciting change. As market demands, new technology, and consumer expectations continue to change, so too does the definition of retail space – what it looks like, how it works, and what it offers its customers.

It’s up to every brand to interpret and integrate the brave new world of retail into its own brick and mortar offering.

Here’s a look at two noticeable key trends in the retail industry that influence how we as interior construction specialists approach the physical realm of retail.

There is an influx of highly sophisticated retailers calling for commercial grade quality

The luxury and premium retail market in Australia has seen phenomenal growth in recent years, and it’s not expected to slow down, with IBISWorld predicting a 9.2 per cent annual growth rate for the next five years.

Louis Vuitton Australia, Prada Australia and Tiffany & Co. Australia are established players in this region’s luxury market, and other recent premium entrants include the likes of Williams Sonoma, and the soon-to-arrive cosmetics giant, Sephora.

Inside Prada in Perth

Inside Prada in Perth

For designer flagship stores in particular, experience is everything. Customers are invited to engage and interact with the brand through the physical retail space. Premium environments are created to offer a more tailored customer experience, which represents the brand and its offering as a market leader. This shift has seen the rise of commercial grade quality and customisation applied to the retail space, a sector where “racks on walls” and disposable shop fittings were once the status quo.

Tiffany & Co. Collins Street Melbourne

Tiffany & Co. Collins Street Melbourne

The demand for a high end product means patrons are expecting a high end finish in the retail experience. This sees the creation of elaborate fitouts featuring bespoke joinery, custom light fittings, exuberant colour schemes, and top of the line wallpaper, carpet, signage and furniture.

Online shopping is giving rise to new brick and mortar opportunities

New technology has impacted every facet of modern life, and the retail experience is certainly no exception. With more and more customers wanting to shop online and via mobile apps, and demanding the same immediacy and control in store, retailers are working to provide a seamless, integrated experience between their e-commerce and brick and mortar operations. This presents a unique opportunity for the physical retail space, one that Australia’s leading brands are leveraging well.

online shopping

Banking industry leaders Westpac and Bank of Melbourne offer two examples of how savvy brands are leveraging the power of the local branch to create compelling, real-world connections with customers despite an equally strong push to service customers online.

For banks, it’s about instilling a sense of trust, offering an innovative experience, and providing a genuine localised service for people in urban and rural areas. Their branches seek to break down physical and emotional barriers between customer and staff, and assure customers that services are shaped to suit their specific needs.

 Bank of Melbourne

Inside the Bank of Melbourne

Face to face customer service remains a key point of competitive advantage for businesses with a physical presence. Retail space needs to be designed in a way that provides the opportunity for staff to engage with customers and to encourage them to come back. The quality of the space plays a role in the perception of customer service. The space should offer an intuitive way for a customer to quickly and easily find what they are looking for and to self serve when preferred.

Understanding that the quality of customer service makes a significant impact on a product’s attractiveness is what sets the leaders apart, and is why the importance of building a one to one personal relationship with the customer will be bolstered, not diminished as time goes on – a parallel we as construction specialists see in our own service-based industry.

In a world where people can access just about anything with the click of a mouse, the physical retail interface has an even greater responsibility to build brand equity than ever before, to connect with customers, and engage them on a local level.