With competition on the rise and customer acquisition costs increasing, digitally native brands are increasingly looking to brick-and-mortar to expand their businesses and connect with consumers. One of the biggest players in online home furnishings, Wayfair, is following this trend in a big way with new physical stores for both its AllModern and Joss & Main brands.
MBH Architects is the firm behind the creation of both brands’ new storefronts, which aim to bring these digital brands to life in physical retail locations. For AllModern’s first store, which opened earlier this year in the MarketStreet Shopping Center in Lynnfield, Mass., MBH crafted an experiential flagship that mimics the convenience of online shopping but with all the perks of shopping in store.
“We did a full design-thinking exercise to figure out what this store should be,” said Helen Herrick, Studio Director at MBH in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “What does the customer want? What do we want to add into the physical space that the customer can’t get from the digital space? Wayfair knew they couldn’t expose the customers to everything they offer in the store, but what were the key elements that they wanted to convey in that store?”
For AllModern, they wanted to convey a sense of community that encourages customers to becomes creators. From the moment they enter below the metal canopy, the customer journey was carefully crafted to empower curious visitors to discover their personal style by exploring, comparing and researching the brand’s many offerings.
“True to their name, AllModern offers many different types of modern, from ‘country modern’ to ‘Scandinavian modern,’” said Herrick. “One of our big goals was to immediately share everything they had inside with customers who had no idea who they were, so the front is very open yet curated to serve as a backdrop for all the different types of ‘modern’ that they sell.”
Taking cues from the historical architectural precedents of classic pavilions, peristyle courts and basilicas, the 10,500-square-foot store is centered on a circular atrium with simulated skylights.
“This kind of old world atrium colonnade, especially when there’s light associated with it, draws people in, and even as you navigate away from it, there’s always that anchor, you know where the central core is,” explained Tom Dulik, Project Architect from MBH in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “So that was the idea of the central colonnade, and then all the space around it was actually left more flexible so you can set up different ebbs and flows depending on what furniture sets are being featured and what’s being marketed at any given time. Luckily, in the first store we had almost a perfect set of column gridlines so we were able to use some of the existing columns, and then we actually added in others.”
The central colonnade is anchored by a Design Bar surrounded by fabric, tile and carpet samples. The Design Bar is a creative and interactive area where customers, inspired by the products around them, can envision how they might fit into their own homes and be customized.
The store also features a communal worktable and individual workstations for people to sit with in-house designers and collaborate on their dream spaces.
“Unlike other [furniture] brands, AllModern wanted an experience that was very curated so you could come in there and get design help,” said Dulik. “I wanted it to feel like a nice architect’s office where you have samples on the wall, and you can throw your plans out on the table and sit there and sketch.”
As one would expect for a DTC brand, digital screens are featured throughout the store to allow shoppers to access the thousands of additional items available on the brand’s ecommerce site.
“We wanted to make sure that that those digital screens were integrated within the design in the hope that as someone is buying a couch and a chair, they can also search for a coffee table and see what the whole room looks like together,” said Herrick.
As opposed to other furniture stores that may serve more as waystations for ordering and pickup, AllModern’s well-established ecommerce presence allows the store to act “more as a laboratory and experiential space,” said Dulik. “The integration of that technology allows you to take a couch that’s in the showroom and see how that couch might look in denim or khaki.”
With the rise in in-store pick-up, implementing a designated BOPIS section at the front of the store also allows for a speedy and hassle-free transaction, further enhancing the customer journey. An additional POS station in the Design Bar also means that customers purchasing items that are not in the store itself can easily check out there as well.
This first AllModern flagship will serve as a test for potential future AllModern locations across the country.
“What we love to do after these first stores are done with our clients is to sit down and ask what worked aesthetically, but also more importantly what worked operationally, because we want to design stores that we’ll see all over the country,” said Herrick.
That’s why it’s important that this first store not only “make a splash, but you want to make this repeatable and cost-effective,” explained Dulik. “On the corporate side, if you’ve got shareholders, you’ve got to justify that the store is going to support the sales and the construction costs, so you’ve got to think through all those things architecturally — schedule, budget and design. It starts with design, but it doesn’t do anybody any good if the stores are too expensive to build in the long run.”
© Photographs courtesy of Richard Cadan