As urbanization grows, we become more disconnected from nature—which has been shown to negatively affect our physical, emotional and social wellbeing. This distance from nature pervades in places where we live, work, play, and even where we shop.
Retail environments are an everyday part of our lives, but the look and feel of a retail space can either stimulate or agitate shoppers. Realizing that shopping experiences aren’t helping with the disconnect, some retailers are using a concept called biophilic design to create more restorative, positive shopping experiences inspired by nature.
What is biophilic design?
Biophilic design (rooted in biophilia, meaning love of nature) asserts that humans have an inherent need for connection with nature, with many scientific studies reinforcing the physical, mental and social benefits. This approach attempts to integrate a connection with nature into interior spaces so that people can advance their health, productivity and wellbeing—even indoors.
How can retailers and brands benefit?
According to a report on The Economics of Biophilia,
- The restorative and calming effect of nature helps draw shoppers into stores and creates positive emotions toward making a purchase.
- Shoppers’ perceptions of the value and quality of goods increases in line with the amount of greenery and vegetation within the space.
- Shoppers are more likely to dwell longer within the store.
- Shoppers are more likely to accept higher prices.
- Stores lit by daylight can see significant sales boosts of 15–20%.
Here are five fun, strategic examples of how retailers around the world are leveraging biophilic design:
Walgreens Health System Pharmacy, United States
Walgreens used biophilic design to open one of its flagship stores at Galter Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois. On the first floor, shoppers encounter tree representations that that make you feel you’re beneath a tree canopy. Shoppers then feel as though they are walking beyond the treetops into the clouds as they ascend into the second floor of the store. The store is bright, with a white and gray palette and bubble-shaped lights that appear as illuminated clouds. The overall design is intended to make shoppers feel as though they are in a park rather than a store, leading them into a state of relaxation rather than stress.
Empora Department Store, Oman
In Muscat, the new Empora was designed to create an immersive environment simulating a “walk with nature.” Tall glass windows framed by angled tree branches encourage peeks into the interior. Inside, the asymmetrical design intentionally takes cues from nature walks to create a sense of adventure and discovery as shoppers navigate the store. This invites exploratory movement in the store in the same ways you might explore nature outside.
Innisfree Skincare, Asia
Inspired by greenhouses, the natural skin care retail stores incorporate skylight ceilings—allowing natural light into the store, rather than artificial. The interior uses a natural palette and greenery-filled walls to create a fresh and open garden-like environment. The overall aesthetics, lighting and open space draws shoppers to increase dwell time within the store.
Lochristi Fashion, Belgium
Designed by agency King George, this fashion retailer integrates a combination of natural elements and nature references to create a vibrant store. The design uses wood in various forms to create a range of textures, divide spaces and bring nature cues throughout the space. The space also features timber-like tree fixtures from floor to ceiling, giving shoppers a sense of being outside. The exterior garden transcends inside with a greenhouse-style partition, allowing natural light to flow into the store’s lower levels. The use of multiple natural textures layered across tables and check-out en mass creates a tactile environment that stimulates the senses of sight and touch, which are critical for fashion retail.
The Feast Restaurant, Shanghai
An award-winning design by Neri & Hu suspends 500 hand-blown glass lamps from high ceilings to emulate a starry night outside. The simple, effective, imaginative design transforms an average dining experience into an extraordinary one worth trying and sharing with others.
Monica Raugitinane Schultz is a senior strategist at Momentum Atlanta.