Before meeting Qiu Qiping, I had always been curious about Shop & Face, a Guangzhou-based design agency. What is the charm that has been attracting a large number of famous brands like Haier, Midea, Suning, Ali Health, Aier Eye and so on to cooperate with them, and many of them have been cooperating for more than ten years.
It was only after coming to Shop & Face and communicating with the founder and creative director Qiu Qiping, from 3:30 pm to 10:30 pm, 7 hours down, that I slowly perceived the story behind this and what their value proposition is in the market.
As a professional agency that was almost the first in China to plow deeply in the direction of commercial retail space design, their rationality and restraint, their strategic ability that is hidden behind the design language, after deep insight into the market, and their systematic delivery that integrates strategy with creativity and design are the truth that they exist in the fierce market and continue to gain the favor of so many famous brands.
向他们团队抛来橄榄枝的是海尔集团，品牌方希望邱启平他们公司来设计世博会展馆。那时的邱启平尽管在空间领域做过许多案例，但这样的项目还是头一次碰到。时间紧， 任务重，在设计工作室只有 3 人的情况下，大胆地接下了项目。接下来的时间，就是连着加班，累了直接睡公司，醒来接着干。快提案时，邱启平带着台式机去了青岛， 在酒店办公，连续2晚没睡觉，通宵做图，最后的方案赢得了客户的赞许。
Many times, a person's career is full of stories and drama.
Back in 2008, more than 10 years ago, Qiu Qiping had an important opportunity in his life.
The brand wanted Qiu Qiping and his company to design the Expo pavilion. Although Qiu had done many cases in the field of space, this was the first time he had encountered such a project. With a tight schedule and a heavy workload, Qiu boldly took on the project with only three people in the design studio. The rest of the day was spent working overtime, and when he was tired, he went to bed and woke up. When the proposal was almost ready, Qiu Qiping went to Qingdao with his desktop computer and worked in a hotel, staying up for two nights in a row, working on the drawings overnight.
In the follow-up process, Qiu Qiping took his team to live and eat in the Expo Hall for 7 days in order to finish the interior decoration.
The beauty of entrepreneurship is the sense of value that comes with the challenge of being recognized, and after that time, many brands, including Haier, came to us in a steady stream of collaborations, which led to Qiu Qiping's real entry into the retail space design field. Qiu Qiping positioned the name of his company, Shops & Faces, in order to distinguish itself from other design firms in terms of its scope and direction. From the beginning of the company to today, Shop & Face has become a strategic partner for many Fortune 500 brands. It has also become a unique witness and observer of the development of China's commercial retail and consumer market because of its deep involvement in this field.
H: The changes in the three elements of people, goods and space have changed the function and efficiency of the offline commercial space, how do you see the changes in the retail space in recent years over the years?
Q: Especially in the last 5-10 years, along with the development and progress of the Internet e-commerce field, the marketing and channels of traditional home appliances have changed a lot. Our understanding, a domestic brand we have served, ten years ago their offline traditional channel sales accounted for 80%, but in recent years the online channel accounted for 80%, exactly the opposite.
These changes affect the design direction of retail space and bring some challenges and new opportunities for design agencies. The challenge is that, in terms of the overall number of stores, brands are drastically reducing the number of traditional offline stores and their budgets. On the other hand, brand clients are increasing their budgets for flagship stores, experience stores, and concept stores, and are more aware of the value of design in commercial spaces.
H: What kind of insight and thinking do you have behind these changes?
Q: You will see that nowadays the store it really delivers is not present necessarily to sell products to customers. From the customer's point of view, if they just need to get a certain product, there are too many ways to choose. But if the customer wants to really experience the value of the product, only online is not a complete solution. Only in offline physical stores can we experience the real product and brand value. A lot of the product delivery happens online, but the complete reflection of the consumer decision and brand experience must rely on the more multi-dimensional offline space.
In terms of design, brands no longer place too much emphasis on the efficiency of product delivery as the core goal of their offline stores, but instead shift to a new orientation of customer service and emotional experience value in terms of brand value, customer experience, and customer interaction. The traditional retail space is becoming more and more service-oriented, and the boundary with the service experience space is becoming more and more blurred.
H: What are the design trends of home appliance retail space?
Q: In recent years, the design trends of home appliance retail space in China are mainly in the following aspects
The first is digitalization and intelligence: with the popularity of smart home and IoT technologies, more and more home appliance retail stores are introducing digital and intelligent elements.
The second is personalization and scenario-based: more and more home appliance retail stores are advocating the concept of personalization and scenario-based consumption by creating different scenarios to present different uses of products, such as displaying home appliances in different scenarios such as kitchen, bedroom and living room. This makes it easier for consumers to understand the actual use of the product and increase their desire to buy.
We have a concept called space and the place where the story takes place. It is through a story line and the design of the plot into different product features, to reach the emotional point of the user, the customer's concern for the product, integrated into the brand's solution solution, and finally rise to the user's emotional concern.
We hope that brands are not just selling products, but should also focus on the products and services they provide. For example, some brands now have to rely on offline for their high definition products, which are not replaceable online. These products, the brand needs a full set of solutions output, online is not sold, need a scene, intelligent retail space.
H: From initially being a home appliance retail brand, to now expanding to health, medical and aesthetic fields, what are the differences in design level in the face of different markets and customers?
Q: Commercial consumer space, there are usually two types of understanding, the first is for the brand product display space, where the main function is to meet the product delivery space, the second is the service, value, experience-oriented business space, such as medical beauty, I think it strengthens the value of a service.
One is to deliver a product to you, and the other is to deliver a complete process of service to you. It seems to have great differences, but I think the core creation logic behind it is actually similar. The core point, I personally believe that the main value of the output, the final customer to this space, the final need to get a pleasant experience, only the result of the experience is different, one is to have a tangible product, one is to be pleasant satisfaction.
From this perspective, the starting point and focus of the brand and the designer are different. As designers, we are most concerned about what kind of experience and value recognition the consumer customers get in the space. This is what we have to think about. Thinking from the bottom, no matter it is a normal commodity retail space or a service space, the essence of the logic is the same.
H: Based on this insight, what are some of our project practices?
Q: In 2022, we helped Aier Eye Group with a new brand called Aier Grapefruit. We found through extensive research and analysis that although people come to eye hospitals ostensibly to treat their nearsightedness, the underlying insight showed us that treating the eyes is all motivated by convenience and beauty.
Based on this insight, we found that the space needed to reach out to the clientele, especially the young, and needed to reinvent a new space form. We felt that the space was no longer a clinic or hospital concept, but a place to discover and make beauty.
Therefore, our first step is to build a zero-pressure social space to meet the function of reaching out to customers and communicating with users, where we can arouse their curiosity to help them gain customers offline.
The second step is to build trust space, open out the professional equipment, testing process, etc., and present the business with a glass transparent space, so that customers have a sense of visit.
The third step is to help customers to make decisions. At this time, we give customers more VIP experience, fully convey the brand emotion to customers, and reasonably arrange some activity spaces such as aesthetic classroom in the experience dynamic line, so that customers can make full zero-pressure decisions.
Although behind all these designs, we will focus on how to help communication between the brand and customers, but from the beginning of the thinking to the strategy development to the final space design landing, we overturned the traditional design logic of medical beauty space and shaped a new medical beauty space with customers as the core.
H: What are the specific practices behind this thinking?
Q: We came up with a concept called reconfiguring the experience. We sort through the experience touchpoints and then break up the existing logical relationships and fragment all of them. Then, according to our goals and thinking, we reconstruct the different fragments and recombine them to come up with a new set of solutions.
Behind this thinking, it will be found that every aspect of our design points to one goal, and all functions can be broken up. This reshaped logic, when coupled with the performance of design languages such as space, material, relationship and color, will find consensus between rationality and sensibility, and better solve customer needs.
Behind this idea, it will be found that every aspect of our design points to one goal, and all functions can be broken up. This reshaped logic, when coupled with the expression of design languages such as space, material, relationship, and color, will find a consensus between rationality and sensibility, and better address customer needs.
H: There is a saying in Store & Face that makes retail space innovation more interesting and effective, is that how it comes across?
Q: Yes. Because we find that a whole lot of what we talk to clients about is effectiveness, and clients want to hear that. Because this is their core concern, no matter what you do, the final point is still effectiveness. But just talking about effectiveness, for users, you will find no difference between this brand and another brand.
Brands need to have a distinctive brand personality. Therefore, we propose the concept of fun. Not simply fun, but a higher-order space experience. Space is not just a container, it is an extension of the product experience. We focus on the emotion that art gives to people, and explore the balance between space art and commercial sustainability to create "every moment is unique". It's all about how to make the customer interested.
H: What do you think is the core competitiveness of stores and facades?
Q: In fact, you find that no matter design agencies or brands, everyone talks about "customer experience", but not many of them can really combine strategy, design performance and customer experience well and do it all excellently. Our core competitiveness is to integrate strategy, creativity and design language together to build a systematic delivery capability oriented to customer needs and customer experience, which I think is the core competitiveness of Shop & Face.
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