What does the front of a website look like?
Is it a homepage or a landing page? Probably.
How does it feel? Intuitive? Welcoming? Is there a sound or music that plays automatically?
You probably catch my drift here. The online retail experience, for all of its charms and conveniences, still doesn’t have the same sensory power that a physical store does. What’s that down to?
The answer to this is long and not necessarily water-tight, so let’s focus on something more tangible and something that quite blatantly differentiates physical stores to their online counterparts: architecture.
Here we’ll take a closer look at the power of architectural design upon us as consumers and why it should matter to your business.
What makes something real? Often, it’s argued, something is only real if we can see and feel it.
We can see a website. We can’t feel a website, touch it with our own bare hands. It is, for all intents and purposes, abstract. It is code and it is an algorithm. It’s a series of numbers and letters that together form a coherent digital structure.
We can see a building. We can feel a building. It is, for all intents and purposes, real. It is bricks and mortar. It’s a wealth of atoms, matter that’s been moulded into shapes that together piece by piece form a coherent physical structure. It’s also a piece of art.
There’s a parallel debate that could be had here about whether or not websites can be art, I’m not going to welcome that debate here, however.
What cannot be debated is architecture’s physical power, both as an artistic expression and as something that jolts one’s senses into life, creating raw feeling as we enter a building, as we stand outside it, explore it’s jagged edges, and touch the sandstone brick that’s outlived us up to now and will likely survive long after we’ve gone.
Think about that power.
Finnish architect Alvar Aalto notes that “the ultimate goal of the architect…is to create a paradise. Every house, every product of architecture… should be a fruit of our endeavour to build an earthly paradise for people.”
Web designers don’t shoulder responsibility in the same way architects do. That’s not to dismiss their work as frivolous at all, but rather to pay architecture the status it deserves. The physicality of these buildings means whatever is housed within has the added advantage of being part of a powerful sensory experience, something akin to an art exhibition, and as such retailers should be acutely aware of how to best capitalise on what is a very physical experience.
ARCHITECTURE, BEAUTY & MEMORY
Do you remember the house you grew up in? Do you remember the patterns of the wallpaper or the shape of the staircase? The roof tiles? It’s likely a vivid memory we all have. After all, where else do we spend such formative years with those we love? It’s home. It’sfamily.
Does the dilapidated home of a neighbour fill you with both sadness and a curiosity to know what’s gone wrong? Possibly. The neglect of a building seems like an act of reckless abandon. Sir Norman Foster, designer of some of the world’s most famous buildings points out “Architecture is an expression of values – the way we build is a reflection of the way we live.”
If this much can be said about the home, a typically small building that serves only to house and, as we’ve pointed out, to reflect the lives of those inside, then just how powerful is the design of a building that houses a multinational, multimillion, or multibillion dollarcompany?
For one, it’s a bigger building. It’s seen by more people and more people enter to see what’s inside. They see the logo on the door, or on the side of the building. Every nook and cranny speaks to those who both walk within its walls, and see it in pictures, as they pass by it on the street or as they form a picture of it in their minds as others describe it to them.
“The [insert brand name here] building on the corner of [street name], that place is…”
As a retailer, any property where you wish to set up shop, as it were, should be chosen carefully, not merely based on a desirable location. After all, even if the property itself isn’t a new-build, it will be treated as such. That is to say that customers and clients will see the building as an extension of the brand.
Architecture is no mean feat, and shouldn’t be dismissed as such.
Listen to how people feel about architecture, and how they feel about where they shop. About your building.
How do they feel about it? What does it stir in their heart? How will they remember it? Pay attention, the answers to those questions might also be the answer to how they feel about your brand.