Place and Customer Journey

Leading retail experience consultancy Quinine’s seven-part webinar series discusses, defines and validates the meaning of ‘retail experience’. Here, Quinine’s Alex and Ian take a deep dive into the meaning of ’Place and Customer Journey’ within retail experience.
Brands seek to meet the emotional and functional needs of today’s customer through an emphasis on experience. To help define what the term ‘retail experience’ really is, leading retail experience consultancy Quinine has developed a retail experience framework. This tool helps light the way for retailers to create the right experiences in-store for the customer and the brand.
Our framework, at Quinine, is constructed around the simple yet powerful trilogy of ‘People, Place and Time’. When we go back to basics we understand that a shopper (People) have a need to be somewhere physical (Place) and it all happens at a moment in time (Time). We believe it is these three core components that interlink, overlap and combine to set the foundations of all experiences within retail environments. In Episode 01 we set out the overarching experience framework. Here, in Episode 02, we focus in on ‘Place and Customer Journey’. We break this central component down into tangible segments and reveal its crucial role in forging an emotional connection with the customer.
Episode 02 focuses on the 'Place' framework
In the First Place 
We believe the foundation of good retail design is anchored by a thorough understanding of the value of Place. We identify Place as a combination of eight stages of a customer’s journey within a retail experience. We take a close look at these smaller, definable component stages of Place and examine how each one plays a critical role in connecting with the customer in-store. The goal of creating a frictionless customer journey is made possible by ensuring that each of these eight places work in-store.

Place and Customer Journey is crucial because they frame the entire retail experience. They drive and support all the experience ‘realms’ or missions people go into a store seeking to achieve. Brands need to ensure each of the eight steps do not work just in isolation but work together seamlessly, before layering in any more complex, emotional, immersive or interactive elements. 


Badly placed price tags can hinder the customer experience

Sometimes a small detail that doesn’t live up to customer expectations can derail the entire retail experience: the lack of a peg to hang up your jacket when trying on a new one or labels and tags preventing you from comfortably trying on a new pair of jeans. Everything matters, everything needs to work.

Ensuring that Place and Customer Journey operates well is fundamental for connecting with the customer, delivering a frictionless retail experience and leaving them with a good impression of your brand. 


The Eight Stages of Place and Customer Journey
01. Attract
This stage is about identification, navigation and about letting customers know where you are located. Think about Benetton’s Oxford Street store which has a highly engaging digital façade, complete with LED cladding that showcases interactive content. It is a great tool for drawing customers in, providing excitement and intrigue but only if it is working - so it is paramount to ensure that it does.
 Benetton's fully LED digital facade draws customers in
02. Welcome
Here customers are made to feel special with personalised, warm and familiar design elements. This is where they are acknowledged, check in and move through to the next part of their journey. This stage encompasses everything from the ‘Please wait to be seated’ sign in a restaurant to the personalised entry point: “Welcome Mr Johnston, how can we help today!”. Here is the chance to reassure and delight. In a demonstration of its premium brand values during its famously queued-for Christmas sale, Harrods doormen welcomed cold customers through its doors with blankets and warm drinks.
03. Discover
This is where customers browse, explore, and discover new products and services.  For many retailers discovery is fundamental to the entire journey so integrating ‘discover’ as part of their store layout is key. For example, Danish brand Tiger’s stores feature a layout that offers the customer only one route into, through and out of the store, which demands discovery and invites the customer to explore. Big box retailer IKEA takes a similar route. It uses a curated discovery journey concept, but allows customers some element of control over it. Other retailers – such as Samsung in New York - take discovery in another direction altogether, lessening the immediate sales opportunity and using the store as a hub to ‘show-room’ products.
Samsung's New York location encourages customers to test and try products
04. Select
The select stage is where people compare, contrast and choose their products or services. Displays need to present a retailer’s products in the most thorough and controlled way. They need to be beautifully showcased, well-organised and easy to navigate. In its stores, wireless speaker brand Sonos clearly distinguishes the difference between ‘Discover’ and ‘Select’ but also enables the two areas to work seamlessly together. Discovery pods give items a broad context whilst the select stage of the store allows the brand’s range to be compared and contrasted, with detailed information on product and price. Having the right information visible is crucial, neither too little or too much.
05. Consult
This stage is about detailed conversations between customers and staff. It involves customers confirming their choice and being reassured that its right for them. Fundamentally, it involves empowering staff to deliver the on-brand service. John Lewis demonstrates this well. The theatrical training it gives to all staff works to build confidence and personal skills, which encourage better storytelling and more personalised narratives.
Nike's hands-on consulting approach encourages staff-customer interaction
06. Transact
With more ways to pay than ever before, retailers must provide transaction points to suit different customer needs with the ability to cater to high-tech watch tapping right through to cheque payments. The supermarket sector leads the way here, showcasing possibilities such as slow versus fast; full service versus self-service; and even self-directed zappers (scan and go).
07. On Boarding / After Sales Training
At this stage customers are given further information and educated about their products and services through detailed conversations with staff. The customer should find themselves at the centre of a seamless, frictionless experience, consulting with staff who have the right knowledge, tools and systems in place. Dyson, for example, uses a deceptively simple approach leveraging the same colourful plastic elements of its product design language to help communicate after-sales advice: ‘twist that red collar to activate the cleaning element in the blue tube’.
08. Goodbye or Thank You
The two most memorable moments of an experience are the peak of the experience and the end of the experience, what psychologists call the peak-end rule. This end point of the customer journey experience is where staff can go beyond just offering a product in a bag. They can take a large item to your car; offer a wrapping service at Christmas; or – as at Richer Sounds, if it is raining outside – gift free umbrellas. This place in the journey is a valuable chance to make a big impression.
Richer Sounds 'goodbye' umbrellas make a lasting impression


Everything within the retail environment must work and each component part matters, whether big or small. By considering place through the lens of the customer journey, retailers are able to conduct a thorough examination of the eight component parts. Through a variety of techniques such as role play, props, tools and prototypes we can identify and work through all possible scenarios and ‘what ifs’. Only once these have been established and solved can we deliver that all-important frictionless retail experience. 

It is only when this robust, working foundation is in place that retailers should begin to implement the more emotional and immersive activities in-store.

This article is Episode 02 of Quinine’s webinar series on the topic of ‘What is Experiential Retail?’. Subsequent webinars will take deep dives into each of the five experience ‘realms’. Details of all other titles can be found here: