Wander into the ING Direct Café in Toronto and you’ll be greeted by a pair of chipper employees. They’ll ask if you’d like to sit in one of their designer easy chairs, and whether you’d like a glass of orange juice (conveniently, their corporate colour). Maybe you’d like to ask about mortgages, or opening an account— but if not, that’s fine by them. Stay as long as you like.
Banks like ING and BMO, and telecom companies like Telus and (Canadian Business owner) Rogers are rethinking the purpose of their storefronts. After all, they have very little stuff to sell you—it’s more about branding, providing service and trying to build (or strengthen) a relationship with the customer. This new breed of retail space replaces the hard-sell shopping environment—stacks of products, rows of cash registers, sales signs—with a softer approach that turns the store into a walk-in advertisement. Here are some of the elements that go into remaking the retail experience for the post-stuff store.
(Illustration: Remie Geoffroi | Interactive: Trevor Melanson)