The energy and hype that Instagram has created is leading to an enormous transformation in the retail business. Brands and retailers need to catch up with the latest technology–and have to react to the behavior and needs of the so-called Generation Y, the digital natives.
Retail expert dfrost from Stuttgart, Germany, specializes in helping brands and retailers make their stores “Instagram ready.” Founded in 2008 by Nadine Frommer and brothers Christoph and Fabian Stelzer, dfrost currently has a staff of around 50, specializing in retail window display, visual merchandising, retail architecture, POS events, visual communication and digital solutions for clients including Swarovski, Peak Performance, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Victorinox, and Porsche Design.
SPORTSWEAR INTERNATIONAL spoke to co-founder and CEO Christoph Stelzer to learn about how the innovative Swabians are developing new store concepts to fulfill modern needs, finding contemporary solutions for displays and merchandising products and leading their clients through the digital jungle.
What do you think is the biggest change since Instagram has gained such huge influence on young consumers’ lives?
Formerly, magazines like Vogue and i-D had a massive impact on consumers. They determined how, if and when products and pictures were shown, which was basically the old-school type of influencer marketing. Now there’s a new democratic approach. The use of hashtags has led to a kind of snowball system for the distribution of pictures and if you want to reach the digital natives, you have to rethink your presentation methods and, in consequence, also the interior design of the stores.
What does it take to get recognized by young consumers and how can you maintain their attention for a longer period of time?
You have to emotionalize the store. We believe that you need to create “breaks,” kind of “disruptors” and an arty approach, which can guarantee a permanent interest in your store. The product is no longer the main focus. Instead, graphic designs are becoming increasingly important. If you want to create an Instagram-ready subject‚ you need to have different angles. Visual principles like the golden ratio are used without the consumer even being aware of it. The final picture needs to be prepared and perfected to make for a successful photo that will translate into a post that is shared by lots of people. You are acting as the invisible hand, a director, who subliminally influences the consumer.
Do you have any examples of an Instagram-ready store concept that you developed lately?
Yes, we designed a pop-up store recently, a so-called “makers shop” in Berlin for essence, a cosmetic company that belongs to cosnova, just across the Hackescher Markt on Große Präsidentenstrasse. Consumers got the chance to make their own lipgloss there. People could mix colors, put glitter in, add fragrances and, of course, take pictures during the production and of the final results. On the basis of a student pitch organized by essence we developed the ideas further, which were then finalized and brought to life by us. We created special walls and spaces that could be used as backdrops for selfies and at the same time included a smart message of the brand. Trendy interior design elements and objects were used throughout the store, creating an Instagram-ready ambience that triggered people to take pictures and share them with their community. Neon signs, jungle wallpaper and mirrors were the tools. The idea was: We want to tell a story, but with a sense of humor. In the basement, we set up a social media lounge with printers and free Wi-Fi. In the end the concept turned out to be very successful: People were queuing up for one and a half hours to get into the store. So we really created a hype.
Applied to a wider perspective: What does “Instagram-ready” interior design mean exactly for your work?
We want to create a stage for the consumer with mirrors, spacious changing rooms, flattering light. You have to avoid hard shadows and you need more space than before. Products need to be displayed on the wall or on the floor, rather than on a table, so that pictures can be taken easily. We call it the “showroom look” which means: less items per square meter, and more performance and presentation. The only way to survive the upcoming years in brick-and-mortar retail is to recognize what the digital natives want. You have to twig on from an early stage and react instantly.
What do you think the consequences are for bigger brands and their visual merchandising?
The art of visual merchandising, as it was in the past, has to be revived. Visual merchandisers have to develop their own signature style. Styling and uniqueness are important again. Verticals that have the same window dressing worldwide simply won’t be able to hold the attention of the ever-curious generation looking at them and will soon reach their limits in the social media channels. Young people want to discover unique content on Instagram and it’s really important for a brand to keep its signature style in this process. You need to be recognizable. Aesop is a great example for a brand that succeeded. Their stores all look different, but are still highly recognizable. This company really is “Instagram ready”