Recently, AXIS ATTENDED VMSD’s International Retail Design Conference.

We continue to participate in this event because there is immense value in listening to the perspectives of our retail design counterparts - brands, retailers, architects, agencies, and other suppliers to the industry. We all have a stake in the creation of great retail, and no one entity can claim success without the acknowledgement of the effort of all.

Throughout the event, we came across (3) main points of conversation:

  1. Building Authentic, Purpose-Driven Community

  2. Location-Based Store Customization

  3. The Micro-Migration Away from In-store Digital Use

We’d like to explore the first with you now. Keep a look out for Parts 2 & 3!

the purpose of community-based retailing

Most people have a need for genuine human connection; it’s through our interaction with others that we learn more about ourselves and our place in the world. This is something increasingly important to today’s shoppers, especially those under 35. As brands and retailers recognize the significance of this, they are being challenged to…

reimagine retail not only as a place of transaction (or even experience) but as a conduit for social interaction and change.


Building community in retail does not just happen by turning stores into event sites, test kitchens, ambient cafes, or service-based centers for engagement. It’s more than the incorporation of multi-sensorial displays, DIY customization stations, and feature walls created for content generation or “selfie spots.” Building authentic community is about owning your individuality as a brand, understanding what differentiates your brand from others, and creating a tribe around those outliers.

It’s less about doing, and more about being what you already are.

Every brand stands for something, even if that something doesn’t fit the typical “purpose-driven”model many companies focus on today. A brand’s purpose is simply what they believe most strongly in - the highest message or impression they wish to leave with the world at the end of the day. For some, this could be humor or a no B.S. culture. For others, it could be obsessive attention to detail or a commitment to be the best outfitter for the burliest outdoorsmen out there.

A purpose does not have to be grandiose, but it does have to be genuine.

True community is built through shared voice - through brands listening to their shoppers, responding, and contributing back to the conversation. As retail designers, it’s our job to find and extract the larger narrative that binds shopper to brand and use that knowledge to provide shoppers with opportunities to explore, express, and reinforce their value-sets within yet another context - retail.

With or without the inclusion of literal community-building elements (such as hosting weekly events), community can be subconsciously created through making smart design decisions related to every facet of the store experience - from paint color and materials, messaging and merchandising, music selection and inventory management. Every square inch of the space should be able to answer the question: How does this decision support my brand’s purpose?

How does this create an atmosphere where “brand aficionados” feel at home?

The opportunities are there, we just have to be willing to look outside of the typical system in order to find that inspiration.

Want to talk out what this could look like for your own retail scenario? We believe some of the best ideas stem from a willingness to start exploring. Contact us for a free consultation.