These days, when people go to a restaurant, shop for a new couch — or even go to work — they’re looking for more.
They want “the experience.”
This is why activities like bowling have been experiencing a resurgence among millennials. It’s not just eating dinner or hanging out with friends — you are doing something. Even if it is bowling. (Sorry, not a bowling fan yet.)
Why positive experiences pay:
This push for experiences has made its way into the design of commercial spaces themselves. Let’s face it. Consumers today have choices.
- They can order almost anything online and have it delivered directly to their door.
- They constantly share their experiences, leaving online reviews and reading them religiously, and communicating with businesses directly via social media.
- They have high expectations, especially for customer service. If they’re going to come to a brick-and-mortar location, it has to be worth it.
Because of this, your customers need to have a good experience when they come — or they won’t come back. In fact, you might not even get them in the door if it doesn’t look inviting or interesting.
What is experiential design?
A business owner planning a new commercial space — or revamping a tired one — needs to embrace experiential design.
That means, you must consider not just how a space will look and function — but how it makes the person experiencing that design feel, how it impacts their overall experience.The goal of the design should be to get the user to engage in the environment itself.
Think about the last time you stepped into Ikea. It’s like a museum of furniture. You can sit on any chair or sofa, try out the beds, and even open and close drawers and closets in their “apartment setups”. Even if you don’t have the Swedish meatballs, you walk out of there feeling like you’ve been somewhere, like you experienced something.
Touching every sense:
Design has the ability to intensify the experience of the customer in any commercial space — from hotel to restaurant, even his own workplace.
This is accomplished via deliberate placement of elements that:
- evoke emotion
- stimulate different senses
- enhance socialization
- introduce technology
That’s why for example, for a rooftop lounge space on top of a parking structure in Texas, I incorporated lots of glass and natural design elements — so you feel like you’re standing at the beach, hearing the waves, as you relax with friends.
Experiential design in action:
Experiential design is what the modern customer craves — and many commercial spaces already deliver:
- Like Williams Sonoma, which incorporates spaces for cooking demos and tastings; you can hear the sizzle, and smell and taste the delicacies prepared on their cookware.
- Like myriad offices and universities that have developed green walls and bright, sun-lit shared spaces; the plants and flowers and natural sunlight promote creativity and facilitate teamwork.
- Like the white-washed, uncluttered, and uber-modern Apple stores set up for interacting with new technologies and learning more about them and the tech world — not just upgrading your cellphone.
You want your design to tell the story of who you are, what you do, and what you offer the customer. When done right, the customer will enjoy the experience and feel connected to the brand — and then they’ll come back.