We’re celebrating a milestone. We’ve designed 100 unique Design Studios since we started offering this service!

When I opened Success Strategies 13 years ago, we were focusing on strategic operational improvement and marketing/management-type consulting services around home buyer personalization. Some of those products/services we don’t offer any more, and many new ones have been added (and even more exciting new services are coming this year). After a few years of making improvement suggestions to design studio environments, a builder asked me to create the space plan. I had spent much of my pre-Success Strategies career working with homebuilders and architects analyzing and refining home plans and had a strong understanding of space allocation, site lines, flow, etc.

I began a massively intense study of retail theory and the science and geography of shopping and how to influence customer behavior through physical presentation. I became fascinated by how we can influence perception of value and how we can increase desire for products, and particularly how we can facilitate and streamline customer decision-making. I am entranced by how an environment influences the experience that unfolds on top of it.

I never expected to have the unbelievable honor of designing these incredible retail spaces 100 different times and to be recognized nationally for Design Studio Excellence 16 times over the last few years, in addition to numerous regional and local awards.

We’ve been busy crunching data and here are some fun facts (to the best of our knowledge): By the end of this first quarter, over 50 of the 100 studios will be open with many more scheduled to open throughout 2015.  From a size standpoint, 23 are either under 1000 square feet or over 5000 square feet but more than 77 are between 1000-5000 square feet. We’ve designed studios within 28 states and Canada, although we have clients in 35+ states.

Our design studios serve single homebuilders, multiple homebuilders, remodelers, and retailers.

Even beyond those 100 unique layouts, we have some clients who have built one of those 100 layouts multiple times in different divisions around the country.

Looking back, here are five observations regarding what makes a design studio environment that actually WORKS in reality, delivering a world-class customer experience while increasing per-home revenue, driving home sales, and creating a more efficient selections process.  the One Thing I Know For Sure (as Oprah says) is this:  IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO LOOK TRENDY AND PRETTY.  CREATING A WORLD-CLASS DESIGN STUDIO IS A STRATEGIC PROJECT.

  • Take a sales-driven, not a space-driven, approach to space planning. In my opinion, most builders, and likely all architects, tend to look at the available building envelope, and create a space plan that works for the SPACE. The corridors look great and the plan on paper looks really terrific. Then the required elements get dropped into the space which has been laid out, and that’s exactly what the builder ends up with: a studio whose layout looks great on paper but the displays and vignettes, and work areas fit the building better than they fit the design studio requirements, and are almost always compromised… what’s the point of creating a store like that? So, begin with the end in mind.
  • Sweat the details. Every single one of them. When a builder asks me the difference between having us design the studio vs. their architect or interior designer, we explain that we are not just creating a layout, we focus on dozens of critical minor details such as how to stock products into displays, how to label products,  and other strategic elements that will ensure their design studio investment has the best chance of major success. Think beyond the layout.
  • DO NOT create a store around the wrong products. Sounds obvious, but many builders just start designing the new studio based on the products they are currently offering. Do not start studio creation without at least some product review, even if you don’t do a deep product analysis. This is no longer an optional part of our program. Now our Create the Ultimate Design Studio projects include mandatory product review to at least make some general improvements regarding the quantity of skus in each category, and recommendations regarding levels and trends, relevant to that builder’s position in the marketplace.
  • Think like the customer. Don’t think about how you want to sell something. Get into your customer’s heads and think about how they want to buy something. How do they need to approach each decision, each sample, and each product category. Make it easy for them to say YES over and over. If you skip this and rush to open you risk having designed a studio around the wrong products.
  • Go shopping. Study what smart retailers are doing. What tools are they providing for their customers to make decisions? How are they creating value in the products they sell? How are they pulling you toward their products and increasing desire for them? How can you adapt those techniques to make sense for your design studio store?

What we’ve learned over and over is that a truly phenomenal design studio environment is always the result of superb collaboration between us and the client and their other partners.  It is a team effort. And we are so humbled and proud to have been part of those teams more than 100 times since we started offering studio creation services.

Be a retailer who builds homes, not a construction company trying to sell homes.The next group of studios which are about to open have some very interesting new looks and strategies. We can’t wait until the lucky customers get to see and experience them every day.