The design and construction of brick-and-mortar retail stores play a significant role in shaping customer experiences. As retail spaces become more complex and dynamic, real estate design and construction leaders must adapt and innovate to stay ahead of the curve, control costs, and maintain efficiencies. One innovation transforming retail store design and construction is 3D technology–specifically, photorealistic digital twins. By adopting 3D technology, you can accelerate store planning cycles, identify and fix problems before and during buildout, and efficiently create engaging in-store experiences.
This blog post explores how digital twins are revolutionizing the process of retail store design and construction–from conditions assessment to buildout–while reducing costs, enhancing collaboration, and driving efficiency.
Retail store evolution in 2023
As e-commerce continues to experience a slight slump after peaking during the pandemic, brick-and-mortar is re-emerging as a preferred way to shop. The market is finally seeing more store openings than store closures–across the US and the UK, the number of store openings in 2022 overtook those from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
With increasing interest and foot traffic, brands are seeking ways to create engaging in-store experiences while controlling costs. The latest retail store design trends focus on creating an omnichannel experience and prioritize sustainability, flexibility, and adaptability.
“Phygitail” retail: Retailers are focusing on seamlessly integrating online and offline channels to provide a unified customer journey. Brands are integrating digital touchpoints with their physical stores, such as mobile apps, interactive screens, and self-checkout kiosks to enhance customer convenience and personalization.
Experiential environments: Going a step beyond omnichannel, store designers are creating immersive and interactive spaces to push the boundaries of traditional shopping. Incorporating elements such as immersive installations, live demonstrations, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and curated events enhances the customer experience and provides unique and memorable in-store moments.
Instagrammable spaces: Creating visually striking environments that are photo-worthy is crucial. Retailers are focusing on aesthetics and incorporating elements that provide immersive and memorable experiences for social media-savvy consumers.
Pop-up and micro-concept stores: Evolving store formats are on the rise. Short-term pop-ups allow retailers to experiment with new concepts, engage customers in different locations, and create a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Micro-concepts cater to niche markets or specific product categories, with a curated selection of products to provide a more personalized and focused shopping experience.
Sustainability: There is a growing demand for eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient designs in retail spaces. Retailers are adopting eco-friendly practices such as energy-efficient lighting and recycled materials, solar panels, smart energy management systems, and sustainable design elements to align with consumer preferences for environmental responsibility.
Shrinkage prevention: Retailers are implementing design strategies to mitigate theft and loss, including redesigning store layouts for better visibility, integrating anti-theft systems, and optimizing store operations to minimize shrinkage.
Each of these trends impacts how brands plan their store design and functionality. An increasing interest in digital and omnichannel shopping experiences drives a need to rethink store layouts and decide how best to incorporate technology to draw foot traffic. Brands may also re-evaluate how much inventory they keep on-site and decide to reduce costs with a smaller store footprint.
Retail design and construction process
If you’re planning design updates to your store portfolio, there are several key steps involved in the process:
Site assessment: Walk through the property to evaluate existing conditions and the improvements required. The project team will take measurements and document specific features and areas to address during the conceptual design phase.
Baseline drawings: Create floor plans, CAD, or BIM files of the space. These are necessary for the design team to understand the layout and dimensions as they create one or more store concepts.
Conceptual design: Develop initial concepts for a new store or remodel based on brand and customer experience goals. Retailers may outsource this work to an architect or execute it through an internal design team. This includes space planning, visual merchandising, fixture selection, color schemes, lighting, signage, and overall aesthetics.
Vendor RFPs: Source cost estimates from general contractors based on an agreed-upon concept selected by the stakeholder team and vet an external construction team.
Construction: Oversee buildout. The construction cycle may involve demolishing existing structures, installing new fixtures, updating electrical and plumbing systems, painting, flooring, and other construction work outlined in the design plans. Internal stakeholders will monitor progress closely to address issues, hold teams accountable, and ensure buildout happens according to contract documents.
Testing and inspections: Conduct thorough testing and inspections of all systems, fixtures, and equipment to ensure they are functioning properly and meet safety standards. This may include electrical inspections, fire safety inspections, and HVAC system checks. The contractor will also create a punch list of items that need to be addressed before final payment and handover.
Completion: Execute a final walkthrough to ensure all details are complete and the store is ready to open.
Digital twins can help you assess the as-built conditions of your stores and more efficiently plan new buildouts, remodels, or improvements. Using digital twins at each step in the design and construction process allows for faster assessments and documentation, reduced errors within design iterations, more accurate cost estimates, and a smoother construction process.
Benefits of digital twins for retail stores
At Matterport, we define digital twins as immersive, photorealistic, and dimensionally accurate virtual replicas of physical spaces. For retail design and construction, digital twins enable teams to virtually walk the property, document existing conditions, streamline the design process, and more easily manage vendors–all without visiting the site in person and disrupting activity. The impact you can expect from digital twins on your workflows:
Speed up your process. Digital twins can significantly accelerate your design and construction workflows by eliminating the need for physical visits to the site. Instead of spending time and resources on traveling to one or more properties across your retail portfolio, teams can virtually walk through the digital twin, saving valuable time and allowing for quicker decision-making and more time spent working on the project.
Gain a single source of truth. Digital twins provide a centralized, always-on representation of the physical space, serving as a reliable and comprehensive reference point for all stakeholders. This single source of truth ensures that everyone is working from and has access to the same information about the project, reducing misunderstandings and enhancing collaboration.
Ensure accuracy. Digital twins are dimensionally accurate replicas of physical spaces, ensuring precise measurements and layout representation. By relying on digital twins, teams can minimize errors, discrepancies, and missing information that stem from manual measurements and 2D photographs. This facilitates better decision-making and reduces the risk of rework or costly mistakes.
Ultimately, digital twins will save your team time and money while increasing productivity and speeding up project timelines. And, getting started with this technology is easier than you may think.
Capturing the Physical Space
Leveraging a trusted digital twin platform can ensure you capture high-quality 3D scans, centralize your models in one library for easy access, and retain ownership of all your property data. These scans will capture walls, doors, windows, ceiling heights, staircases, elevators, lighting, existing furniture, and displays–everything that is visible to the naked eye within your space.
At Matterport, we offer a variety of methods to scan your store portfolio:
Capture Services. Let us create your digital twins for you. You may have an overwhelming number of stores to capture, can’t get to the site easily, or prefer to leave digital twin capture to an expert. Our professional Capture Services team operates in over 700 cities around the world and delivers your scan in less than 48 hours. You can book an appointment online or include the service as part of your contract, then sit back and let us do the heavy lifting.
Pro3. If you’re interested in capturing spaces yourself, Pro3 is our top-of-the-line camera providing maximum speed, accuracy, and true-to-life detail. It’s highly portable, easy to operate, and requires minimal training. If you manage stores with large footprints, lots of windows, or outdoor space, Pro3 provides an easy capture method for top-quality scans in any lighting conditions.
Axis. For an easy entry to digital twin capture, take Axis for a spin. As a tripod with a rotating mount, Axis uses an adjustable arm to ensure precision alignment for virtually any smartphone. It pairs with the Matterport Capture app for both iOS and Android devices and is perfect for capturing spaces with a smaller footprint that don’t require the maximum level of dimensional accuracy.
Regardless of your capture method, each of your digital twins will upload and save to your Matterport cloud account, after which you can view, customize, and collaborate with your team.
Generating Floor Plans and Mechanical Drawings
Digital twins enable you to extract files directly from the as-built environment captured during the scan. As-built drawings are essential for both conceptual and schematic design–projects are often delayed due to missing files as teams spend time tracking down the architect of record or going back and forth with a landlord. Plus, if you discover your plans are outdated and inaccurate later in the design process, your team will spend additional time and costs on rework. Your contractors will also use these drawings to verify project scope and estimates and set expectations on the construction side.
With Matterport, you can generate two file types in just a few clicks:
Floor plans. Quickly and reliably access detailed schematic floor plans as a starting point for design and layout conversations with your team. Floor plans are a convenient tool for creating simplified visualizations of projects, providing added clarity and improving the planning process. Order a floor plan on-demand through your Matterport account and receive your file within 48 hours.
BIM. Eliminate the upfront time and resources of manual scan translation and get straight to scoping design requirements. Matterport provides LOD 200 BIM files with five different building element output options, including architecture, interior furniture, MEP, and complex mechanical and manufacturing spaces.
Enhancing Design Visualization and Collaboration
Once you capture your space, digital twins allow for accurate visualization and streamlined communication through the remainder of the design and build cycle. This enhanced visualization provides significant benefits:
Improve design accuracy. Ensure your design team has the correct files from the get-go. With floor plans and BIM files pulled directly from the as-built environment, designers can seamlessly import dimensionally accurate files into their existing modeling software. Not only does this eliminate time-consuming manual drawing processes, but it also reduces the potential for errors based on incorrect dimensions or layouts reflected on outdated plans.
Collaborate seamlessly. Digital twins are housed in the cloud, allowing for easy sharing across global teams. All stakeholders–executives, real estate, design, and construction–can visit the site as often as they need to review existing conditions and proposed improvements. Team members can add measurements and notes directly to the model to document and communicate ideas, questions, or issues, as well as reply to comments left by others. This ensures a clear communication trail and creates a single source of truth for the project.
Expedite timelines. Digital twins propel faster project timelines by eliminating the need for multiple site visits. Instead, vendors can virtually walk the property anytime, without any scheduling or on-site coordination. If they're missing dimensions, they can quickly add a new measurement in the model; if they have questions, they can reply directly to your team's notes. Plus, if your digital twins hold confidential information, you can create a distinct view for your vendor teams that only displays data relevant to the project.
By ensuring transparency and accurate reflections of the as-built in the planning stage, teams can avoid costly delays and rework on the job site.
Ensuring Efficient, High-Quality Construction
Not only do digital twins enhance design visualization, but retail teams can continue reaping the benefits during the construction process–especially as the reliance on external vendors increases. Digital twins can help provide transparency, streamline communication, and ensure everyone stays on the same page, enabling you to:
Reduce travel time and costs. Your team may have several active construction sites, which makes it difficult to visit them all in person. With digital twins, you can virtually visit or bring partners to a property from anywhere, at any stage of the job, with 3D walkthroughs. Visit as many sites as you need in one sitting.
Get a clearer eye on construction progress. While trusting your partners' expertise, you can remain actively involved by capturing project milestones with digital twins. Stay up-to-date on progress at set intervals, quickly understand and resolve any issues, and bring the clarity of photorealistic 3D models to meetings, keeping your whole team in the loop.
Accelerate project timelines. Use a digital twin to get eyes on any issues and enable faster decision-making and resolution. Keep internal and external teams aligned and accountable with a single source of truth for the project and reduce errors and miscommunication.
Reduce risk. Enable stakeholders to "visit" without the time and disruption associated with guest foot traffic in the work environment. Visitors can experience the property as often as needed without the inherent distractions and safety risks of in-person tours on an active construction site.
Digital twins are becoming an integral part of the commercial real estate design and construction process, enabling faster, more accurate, and cost-effective initiatives. With 3D technology, you can more easily assess existing site conditions, without the need to visit in person–saving time and money on travel. With always-on access, you can also visit multiple sites in one sitting to evaluate and prioritize projects faster, identify and fix problems early, and make data-driven decisions. These advantages translate into faster store openings and increased ROI.
To learn more, visit our page on digital twins for retail.