A positive connection between customers and your brand can mean a higher return on your investment.
If you read my previous articles about Interior Branding and Experience Design, you might be wondering how to create a memorable brand experience for your guests.
In this article I’ll guide you through the process I use to design interiors that resonate with guests and build a connection with them. It is a method that mixes interior design techniques with concepts of branding and user experience.
This process was structured like that because it’s critical for interior design projects for commercial/hospitable purposes to have a strategy behind its interior concept. At the end of the day, these businesses need to be profitable and without a strategy in place, that becomes even harder.
I believe that this should not be the main goal but if companies strive to create connections and memorable experiences with guests, the venture has a much higher chance of succeeding. Simply because we are more likely to share and repeat positive experiences.
Have a clear vision of brand identity
More than which colours you can and can’t use it’s important to have a clear vision of your brand identity.
What are some attributes that can describe your brand? What does it stand for? Which story do you want to communicate to your guest? How do you want to be perceived/remembered by them? What’s the voice of your brand? What’s the essence of your brand? Which images describe your brand?
Research your targeted audience
Not everyone will like your brand and what you offer. Trying to create an experience that will please everyone will only lead your brand to a generic level where it can’t connect with anyone.
To create a desirable experience it’s important to make it clear who your target audience is, the age range, where they live, what they like to do, what they like to listen to, what brands they aspire to have, how they spend their money and so on. There are endless questions to be asked about them and all the answers will be a great source of insights when planning an experience that will be desirable to them.
Research the market
Market research is very important in the creation process. Not to have something to copy but to be aware of who your competitors are, what they offer and how you can stand out from them.
Let’s say you’re planning to open a sushi restaurant in Sliema. Are there any other similar businesses in the area? How do they operate? Do you see any flaws that can be improved in the concept? What experiences do other sushi restaurants offer around the world?
Create a concept of your new development
A brand can manage to keep its identity even when exploring different design concepts. Starbucks is a great example of it. There are no two shops that look the same but still, you can always feel the Starbucks atmosphere when you’re inside one.
What do you offer? How do you want your customers to feel inside your premises? How long do you want them to stay? How do you want them to interact with your brand? How do you want them to interact with each other? How should the space be used? What’s the average check price? Where is this new venture located? Which characteristic of your brand do you want to maximise?
Your main concept idea will come from these questions. However, sometimes words are not enough. I find that the best tool to have a concept done and understood by all the people involved in the project is a visual mood board.
This mood board should translate into photos the main ideas that you want to follow.
Map the customer journey inside of your venue
After you find the best spot to open your business, you’ll probably find out its strengths and limitations. The best way to guarantee that your guests will have a smooth and pleasant experience is to map out the whole journey they will have inside your venue.
In the case of lodging business: how should the check-in and check-out processes be done? Is the reception counter easily available? How many people are expected to be in the reception at once? Is there a waiting area for the guests? How easy to follow are the signs to go to the rooms? What’s the path that they need to follow to go to the other areas of the hotel?
In the case of a catering business: should the client wait to be seated or should go straight to the table? Which environment cues will communicate that? How is the ordering process? Is there table service or should the client order from the counter? If there’s table service, should the menu be on the table or should it be handed to the guest after being seated? If there’s no table service, how big should the collection counter be? Are the lines for ordering and collecting the food going to clash during peak hours? How can this be improved?
Answering these questions will help you to create the best layout for your guests and your staff.
Seek different inputs when deciding on the floor plan and materials to be used
Not everything that looks good on paper works in real life. Including operational and management inputs of your staff during the design process will help you to be aware and tackle issues that otherwise would just be discovered after the opening.
However, you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new. Is not because a system/process works in many businesses that it is the best solution for it.
Refer to the project concept every time a decision needs to be made
Memorable experiences are consistent experiences.
Every item, from the micro to the macro should communicate the same message to your guests.
When deciding on the furniture, lighting, finishing materials, colours, signage, decoration, equipment, uniforms, tableware, bedding, wall art, soundtrack, signature scent, menus, payment methods… basically everything, you should ask yourself if that item is aligned with the main concept and what the message you’re sending your guest is.
Give full attention to the “small” details
Actually, no detail is too small to be left unseen. After you map out the journey of your guest, you have very insightful information about where you should focus their attention and together with the concept and market research, you have the necessary tools to choose which items will help you to deliver the message that you want
In the end, these are the items that tie the whole experience together and make an impact on your guests.
If you’re planning to open a new boutique hotel, restaurant, bar or coffee shop and you need help with the project, I’m offering a free 1-hour consultation for the 5 first companies to reach out to me. You can claim this design consultation by filling out the contact form on the bottom page of my website www.inparconcepts.com.
Bruna Rodrigues Founder and Designer at Inpar Hospitality Concepts