Holistic retail design is the sector’s commitment to reconfigure purchases by introducing common strategies and improving retail experiences. This trend ranges from the points of contact between loyal, temporary and digital customers with the brand and the products on offer, placing the emphasis not only on what but on how.


To understand what holistic retail design is, we must first remember the definition of retail. Retail is the business that sells retail, markets a massive stock to multiple end customers. That is, all the actors involved in the sale to the final consumer.

And within this sector, the trend that has gained the most followers is holistic. What exactly does it consist of?

Holism is the conjunction of all the parts in one, that is, everything is or should be connected. Therefore, holistic retail is a discipline that seeks to know how to mix and harmonize all the elements, processes and channels in unison.

Holistic retail proposes that functionality, style, usability, design, space, lighting, commercial equipment, environment, atmosphere, etc. goes hand in hand. In short, the product should be as important as the packaging and the setting where it is sold.

In relation to this concept, retail design is the design of spaces focused on the creative creation of commercial spaces. It is something that goes far beyond the mere design of stores because all the design factors of the commercial space work on, such as music, showcases, furniture, smell … In short, it is a strategy designed to optimize communication, space and sales of a brand, drawing inspiration from social and consumer trends.


© Copyright. Clinique Retail Focus



Multiple experience in holistic retail design

Considering the omni-experience that holistic retail design must provide to customers and consumers through all its channels, the two branches of holistic design that must be taken into account the most are branding and shopping.

Analsying and studying trends and innovation in the market and society makes it easier to understand the role of retail commercial strategy at all levels. It is from there, always betting on professionals in the sector, when there is a clearer vision of the elements that are incorporated in the design of a commercial space, such as sensory perceptions, furniture, shop windows, etc.

Once we know the concept of retail design and what strategy we will carry out, we must investigate the types and functions of retail, demand and new trends. How consumers want their shopping experience to be at the point of sale and more importantly, how it will end up being in the future.


The holistic, therefore, leads the sector to perfectly combine the purchasing process and the space where the design and the product are offered.



© Copyright. Frame



The holistic configuration of retail

The consumer experience is a holistic process that includes the consumer’s cognitive, affective, emotional, social and physical responses to the retailer. In other words, the customer must be the centre of retail, but not the only one, since all the aspects involved must be in harmony.

Starting from the inherent need or desire to purchase, we can say that the holistic configuration of retail is based on three factors:


The social factor
Appeals to consumer and supplier insights, as well as the business environment and branding.

The physical factor
It refers to the establishment, its shape, decoration, style, signs, etc. It is closely related to the environmental factor, where the visual, the auditory, the olfactory and the tactile have to be combined.

The innovation factor
It refers to new technological and automation trends, the omnichannel nature of distribution and sales channels, creative strategies, etc.



© Copyright. João Morgado Architectural Photography




Keys for optimal holistic management in retail

Among the elements that we find to properly manage holistic in retail are constancy, empathy, coherence, resource management and sociology.

Retail is one of the businesses that requires the highest level of perseverance, since it focuses on satisfying a wide range of customers through sales. With social media, these customers also have the ability to influence commercial policies, so the retailer must have a high level of attention, a good image 24/7 and know how to handle the (sometimes overwhelming) volume of opinions from the consumers.

The ability to put yourself in the place of the other, that is, empathy, is also a key factor. Knowing how to treat clients and work teams, capture information, listen and interact, is synonymous with improvements in commerce.

In this sense, with the progressive and total implementation of omnichannel, retail must be consistent: do what is said and deliver on what is promised. Be consistent with the sales and pricing policy, with communication and brand positioning.

For this reason, decisively managing resources is also a fundamental point, given that the optimization of stocks is increasingly complex. A precisely complex tool that will facilitate all processes in commerce is artificial intelligence (AI).

Finally, every ‘retailer’ must be open to social evolution and the different challenges that arise not only in the medium term but on a daily basis. Generational changes happen faster than ever, especially with the advancement of new technologies.



Examples of holistic retail design

Holistic retail design is the most important and creative phase in the conception of commercial spaces. This concept not only aims to achieve a unique visual imprint, but all the elements that can make it must be related and associated.

Under this umbrella, everything goes beyond being a summation, but rather the context and the parts are addressed in an integrated and correlated way.

Whether they are a lifestyle, experiential or concept store, what the holistic branch of retail design proposes is to bring everything together, since the brand is positively or negatively affected by each of its design elements.

If we talk about selection, product design, atmosphere or style of the establishment, a well-carried out holistic proposal is what defines the difference between a conventional store and a unique experience.

Some success stories of holistic retail design can be found in Barcelona, ​​such as the Papabubble and Happy Pills candy stores. Papabubble, more than a store, looks like a laboratory of the archetypal mad scientist who makes candy, while the Happy Pills chain presents the candy with the typical packaging of medicines and its stores recreate a “candy pharmacy”.

In Manhattan (New York), the Story store is known for changing its aesthetic and its “story” every three months.



© Copyright. Story


It is also worth mentioning some of the most spectacular retail design projects, such as HI Panda in Tokyo, whose flagship store combines digital and analogue characteristics in a masterful way.


© Copyright. Satoshi Shigeta


In conclusion, the challenge of holistic retail design of commercial spaces is to interrelate all aspects and elements through unique and creative proposals, which turn the visit of the clients into complete physical and sensory experiences.



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