Shared Identity in Retail Design, Yay or Nay?

Shared Identity in Retail Design, Yay or Nay?

What do we mean by Shared Identity anyway?

Do you notice the face similarities of people in the picture? Will it feel awkward to see resemblance of yourself everywhere you go? That’s probably best analogy to describe shared identity. Similarly, if you happen to look across shopping malls, you may notice that there are lots of shops or restaurant or café that look pretty much alike to others one way or another. In fact, sometimes it can feel like you could swap the shop’s name to some other brands, interchange the merchandise and some people probably won’t even realize. So, like the picture above, it seems that a lot of brands subconsciously (or consciously) shared identity with each other.

Why does this happen, and to bring the point further, does it matter?

Well, yes and no. For a start, let’s take a look at the target market of these so-called shops with shared identity. In retail, especially those related to fast fashion, the industry is quite saturated, and they are all chasing after the heart of millennials. This particular target market has different buying behaviour. As described in the Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty‐somethings are Revolutionizing Retail, they tend to move around emotion. It’s about desire to purchase and it doesn’t really depend on loyalty. They believe in “design democracy” in deciding what to buy, and tend to switch or do mix and match between brands.

The nature of fast fashion, in addition, force retailers to move even faster, changing shapes and trends and “must-haves” as fast as you flick your hair.  In result, the environments of retail are expected to be highly adaptable and responsive to any kind of changes in style. It is also normal for brands to benchmark themselves against their competitors. Similar characteristics, albeit unintentionally, thus, emerged from the interpretation of most-talked trends in the industry at the time.

Hence, the generic display of retail environment or what we like to call as shared identity.

So back to the big question again, does it matter? Is it good or is it bad?

As the theory of economics goes, it will open up further opportunity for retail design supplier to cater for one-size for-all material and display fixtures. Retail brand may also experience cost-efficiency by using modular mass-product produced in result on how common it is used in the industry.

On the bad side, though, winning customers with shared identity require harder effort on the retailer. Similar characteristics plus fast fashion that continuously change in short amount of time, make competition tougher. They will always have to share their position in the market with their competitors.

So how much does identity mean for your business? Are you willing to share identity with others? Do you want to be retail trend setter or follow others’ trend?

But more importantly, do you think your identity and distinctiveness equal to better customer engagement thus equal to better business?

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Yarrow, K., O’Donnel, J. (2009) Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty‐somethings are Revolutionizing Retail. San Fransisco: Jossey Bass.

De Mozota, B.B. (2003) Design Management: Using Design to Build Brand Value and Corporate Innovation. New York: Allworth Press

Neumeier, M. (2005) The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design. Berkeley: New Riders


picture ” what if you see yourself everywhere?” courtesy of müinterior Designer Lihui

photograph & editing by müinterior BD Casper

and blog written by müinterior BDM Keri

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