We’ve been busy designing a series of ‘showcase’ stores for EE, the UK’s biggest mobile operator. The latest was unveiled in Oxford in November, following successful openings in central London and Nottingham.
Working closely with the team at EE, the driving thought behind these new stores was to ‘showcase’ the best service, the best network and products on offer from EE and BT (EE became part of the BT Group in 2016), positioning the brand beyond mobile phones and into the multi quad-play market.
These premium stores invite customers to get involved with the latest technology and network innovations. As well as exploring the latest mobile devices, customers can get hands on with live products such Google Home, Apple Watch, EE Live TV and Samsung's VR headsets.
To grab people’s attention, we developed a theatrical design language called ‘Show Time’, which uses exaggerated proportions and dramatic lighting for product displays and service experiences. At the same time, we didn’t want things to feel ‘hard-edged’ or techie. So we softened the space with raw and human elements and introduced an easy, conversational tone of voice.
The ‘cathedral’ principle
The overall store experience is designed around the ‘cathedral’ principle, something we use quite a lot at Quinine. High ceilings at the front of the store ‘wow’ customers as they step inside. Lower ceilings at the centre create a more ‘intimate’ space, for face-to-face chats with staff.
Once they’re in, customers are greeted by EE’s new showcase stage, a flexible display space, designed for all kinds of physical and digital experiences. EE staff use large digital screens and display props to engage with customers, with themes changing every three to six weeks, to keep everything fresh and relevant.
EE’s London stores launched with a gesture-controlled dance experience, with customer and staff dance moves popping up on a digital backdrop, to promote a six months free Apple Music offer. The Nottingham store opened with a dedicated iPhone 8 event.
We put familiar devices like phones and tablets right at the back of the store, so that people get the chance to browse new products and services as they walk through. An illuminated wall and dramatic, oversize product displays invite customers to browse, select and compare.
We also developed a flexible display system that works in existing stores and allows new product ranges and categories to be easily switched around and merchandised by store staff.
Thanks to a mobile till system developed with EE, people can pay anywhere in the store. This frees up floor space as there’s no need for a traditional service desk. It also makes things far more fluid and flexible, with different opportunities and nooks for interaction between staff and customers.
EE’s commitment to service is highlighted by a dedicated Help Hub, positioned in the heart of the store. It is set away from the walls to encourage customers and staff to walk around and use the whole structure. Raising the height of the Help Hub by 70mm subtly encourages customers to lean in, a more comfortable and informal way of connecting with staff.
Familiar yet modern
We created a familiar yet modern look and feel. We used European white oak and felt-like fabrics are applied to upholstered seating in the service areas. A subtle palette of grey, black and white walls is lifted by powder-coated metal in the aqua and yellow EE brand colours. There’s soft seating throughout the store, with round café style tables creating a relaxed, open ambience, and no barriers between customers and staff. Privacy booths provide quiet spaces for more in-depth demos and form filling.
Dynamic signage helps customers find their way around easily, and brings a light, fresh friendly tone to the store. There’s also a brand wall featuring a local hand-drawn sketch of the relevant city, subtly connecting the store to the local community.
The format we’ve devised can flex between different types and sizes of store — from showcase to local. It’s flexible, modular and scalable, with versatile fixtures and architectural details.
We are currently doing the rounds of mystery shops, exit surveys and advisor research, leading to a full review and commercial evaluation of our work … which we hope will recommend a further roll out of our EE ‘showcase’ format.