The OPSM Eye Hub in Melbourne is one of a kind. e2 Melbourne’s NATHAN BELL reveals how the creation of a space that surprises, educates and inspires customers was achieved, and imparts how a similar experience can be created, regardless of budget.
With the latest technology playing an increasing role in today’s retail environments, store managers are often installing state-of-the-art equipment only to wonder why no one is using it. How do you create a space that maintains an honest and compelling conversation with customers, rather than becoming a showroom for the latest tablet or iPhone?
Over the past year, we’ve noticed a swing back to retail basics, using traditional theatre and entertainment to engage, entice and often distract consumers. Provoking emotions, especially in our highly commoditised world, helps to define the choices people make; it’s human instinct to do what makes us feel good after all.
Think about how healthy and righteous you feel at the beginning of your weekly supermarket shop surrounded by all those fruit and vegetables. Or, how easy it is to rationalise the need for a freshly baked croissant when you’re immersed in a space that actually feels like you’re standing on a pastry-filled Parisian street.
Experiences that emotionally connect people to products, services and, of course, people must be created. Experience is implicit – it’s experience rather than understanding that influences behaviour. Instrumental in creating a memorable experience is connecting with all five human senses.
When OPSM parent company, Luxottica asked us to create a category-changing retail experience, we promised the client we would deliver a flagship store that would not only redefine the industry, but the Australian retail landscape. The result, the OPSM Eye Hub in Hawthorn, Melbourne is the first and only store of its kind in Australasia.
STRIKING UP A TWO-WAY DIALOGUE WITH CUSTOMERS
The OPSM Eye Hub challenges conventional healthcare models by providing a customer journey unlike any other. It reflects a movement towards customer-centric retail environments and sets a global standard for commercial interior design. Since launching in July 2010, the design has won eight awards for best practice internationally, including Best Retail Design in Asia Pacific at the International Property Awards.
The OPSM Eye Hub employs an experiential design that strikes up a two-way dialogue with the customer. It engages customers in what is relevant, whoever they may be, as the design is built around the fundamentals of education, health, staff, service and product. It’s not just about selling frames or creating an attractive environment. The design intent is far more purposeful: to make the customer feel comfortable and cared for. This is achieved by increasing the volume of optometry rooms, installing interactive mirrors and thoroughly mapping out product testing areas and groupings. The design makes in-store navigation intuitive and the latest technology accessible, enhancing the overall customer experience.
The Eye Hub boasts state-of-the-art optometry equipment in all seven consultative rooms, as well as ground-breaking interactive mirrors at the front of house. To create a space that reflects the same calming feel as a health spa, select materials, colours and finishes were just as important in design development as the level of technology incorporated.
At the centre of the Eye Hub is a cylindrical design feature, symbolic of the eye’s retina, which includes an inner customer chamber showcasing luxury eyewear and a re-skinnable supergraphics exterior. Behind the scenes, technology is used to create a seamless transition from optometrist to retail representative.
One of the design highlights is live product testing. If any customer would prefer to select their own frames, or rely on a friend for consultation rather than sales personnel, then interactive mirrors, which have been fitted with web cameras, facilitate this. Customers have the option of replaying a video of themselves wearing selected frames or uploading photos to a friend or social network for a second opinion.
HOW TO IMPROVE A CUSTOMER’S EXPERIENCE
While this particular design is ground breaking in its approach to the retail experience, there are fundamental design and service principles that any retail or management team can apply to their brands and experience, regardless of budget:
- Remove barriers: even banks have incorporated a key concierge now. By removing the sales counter and encouraging staff to engage with customers, retailers experience higher conversion rates. It’s the side your bread is buttered on, after all.
- Let customers explore on their own: the environment should be both intuitive and interactive, so let your customer discover your space and ask for assistance at their leisure.
- Promote escapism by engaging all five senses: piped music and halogen lights are the enemy. Engage every sense, not just sight and sound. Many clients overlook the importance of touch in live product testing and the lasting impression that an unexpected tactical experience can bring.
- Know your customers and cater to as many segments as possible: from the core audience to new clientele, create an experience that allows visitors to browse, test or buy and encourages them to return.
Creating an environment that leaves the customer surprised, educated and inspired is paramount in better brand engagement. This tried and true method results in a truly memorable brand and retail experience, in which increased retail conversion is almost guaranteed. A brand is a breathing, living, holistic entity. The home it lives in and the ‘guests’ you’re inviting over expect and deserve a higher standard of hospitality.
Nathan Bell is the general manager of e2 Melbourne. He specialises in customer experience design. e2 helps connect people and brands through communications and environments.