September 10, 2020 /Consumer

Designing retail stores that embrace consumer behaviour insights towards wellness and enlightenment

Prior to COVID-10, Euromonitor published research showed that over half of consumers worldwide were seeking treatment solutions for sleepless nights. Following global lockdown, COVID-19 related anxiety has intensified this rapidly growing consumer concern. Consumer behaviour insights globally are united in the same theme for the capacity to manage mental wellbeing and health.

Sensor Tower published research findings that downloads of English speaking mental-wellness apps increased by two million in April. Leading meditation app Headspace reported that downloads doubled since March. Alongside this, an interest in immunity has also been evident. Against a backdrop of increasing concerns about COVID19, a report from Tastewise showed that between mid-February and mid-March 2020, online searches for ‘foods that benefit the immune system’ increased by 66%. The preservation of wellbeing, including sleep, immunity, mental health and anxiety management are leading consumer concerns. Thus consumers are looking to brands for enlightenment and the tools for self-care. They are hungry for knowledge so they can create healthier and happier lifestyles.

By consequence, a cross-sector surge in mindfulness, sleep and wellness products has occurred. In New York, a self-care app called Shine collaborated with Mental Health America to create a website that offered consumers tools for managing their emotions in response to the pandemic. This included resources such as financial deals, isolation and news-induced anxiety. In June, UK beauty retailer Boots collaborated with meditation app Headspace with an exclusive gift card which enables the user to enjoy 6 months of meditation sessions across four meditation collections: Health, Sleep, Focus and Mind.

What does this mean for retail stores?

The answer to this question is twofold. First, the application of wellness can be a design tool for creating considered retail stores. Secondly, wellness can influence the experience surrounding product discovery and services.

1. Designing More considered retail stores

The impact of COVID-19 has forced us to have more awareness towards our built environment and the surfaces we interact with on a daily basis. As retail designers, surface design is a critical part of our work. Innovation and Insights Agency, Stylus, shared intel that people across the world are recognising the relationship between our indoor environment and how this impacts our health. This conversation leads to questions surrounding ‘how does an environment boost health and wellbeing?’, ‘how do the acoustics, lighting, and the chemicals of the materials that people come into contact with impact their health?’ and, ‘how do all these variables impact consumer attitudes?’

Recently, Sheridan&Co Chairman Michael Sheridan touched upon the relationship between emotions, our environments and how this dialogue has become increasingly more important since stores have reopened. 

If we scroll through LinkedIn or industry headline news, we are inundated with sterile solutions and surfaces to keep our retail stores clean and hygienic. Plastic screens have been put up in place at checkouts to separate consumers and sales advisors. Whilst this has addressed the solution of preventing the contagion of the virus, we must remind ourselves that our environments influence our emotional and psychological wellbeing. Thoughtful design has the power to heal. After periods of lockdown and isolation, it would be damaging to design spaces that are sterile in nature. We must seek to find balance and ensure that people feel at ease and comfortable when shopping. 

More and more we are seeing examples of biophilic design arrive in urban spaces to provide a balance with nature so that people can benefit from wellness-improving environments. In London 2021,  Uncommon Holborn will become the UK’s first co-working space that offers a ‘Well Platinum-certified flexible office’ status. The space will feature natural materials and include pollutant-filtering plants. The design of the space will be registered with the global ‘Well Certification’, which is an organisation that seeks to improve building design and functionality to ensure the safety and wellbeing of human health. 

With consumer behaviour insights increasingly centred on the demand for wellness, retail stores have the opportunity to be designed with these parameters in mind.

2. Products discovery and services that are in line with consumer behaviour insights towards wellness

COVID-19 has made it possible for there to be a clearer distinction between the role of retail and the role of digital.

Freddie Sheridan, Global Director at Sheridan&Co

Freddie Sheridan, Global Director at Sheridan&Co comments that ‘COVID-19 has made it possible for there to be a clearer distinction between the role of retail and the role of digital. One of the key insights from our research, experiences in lockdown and conversations within our internal network, is that shoppers feel online shopping is a platform for products they have pre-existing knowledge about. The store is the place they wish to visit when it comes to learning about new products’.

Retail stores can embrace these consumer behaviour insights, and ensure that product discovery within retail environments are focused on wellbeing.  We can design experiences that provide customers with enlightenment regarding their wellbeing. This should become a key part to product education and overall brand storytelling. Not only should retail stores seek to ensure wellbeing and safety, they should be places that provide knowledge and offer consumers a platform to learn, develop and grow when it comes to self-care and their overall health and wellbeing. Yet at the same time, this storytelling should be embellished, and mark a key point of difference from the experience a shopper would receive online, when it comes to learning about wellness.

In our post COVID19 climate, it is critical that retail stores are destinations that excite and intrigue. Now is the time for brands to be original and creative when it comes to retail theatre and design. 

As we take strides towards recovery, emotionally and economically speaking, wellness will be a key part of the journey. If you would like to learn how this can be incorporated into your store design and product curation, contact