Virgin Media’s experience-led store design proves there’s no place like home

Ask someone to list the essential components of a shop, and cash registers will be one of the first answers. But in telecommunication provider Virgin Media’s flagship store, located in London’s Westfield White City shopping centre, there isn’t a cash register in sight.

Nicknamed ‘Our House’, the new store is designed to mimic the comforts of a family home, and is full of innovative ideas. For a start, payments are processed on tablets, which has freed staff to walk the floor and engage with customers rather than being stuck behind a counter.

Selling broadband, TV or phone packages can be a tricky proposition: the myriad of tariffs and price plans available can take a while to comprehend. Virgin’s solution is to recreate the comforts of home in their store and encourage customers to relax, take their time and ‘play’ with their products. Virgin Media’s Retail Director Paul Williams explained:

“We wanted to inject fun into the shopping experience”

Bouncepad Flex iPad stands can be found next to sofas in the store’s ‘living room’, allowing shoppers to try out Virgin Media’s TiVo service in comfort. The tablet enclosure lets users twist and turn the screen any way they choose, so they can find the optimum viewing position to check out Virgin’s film and sports packages.

Meanwhile, in the ‘playroom’, custom-coloured tablet entertainment stations are provided for kids, ready to stream the latest cartoons. These Bouncepads are designed to appeal to children through their bright colours, but they’re also tough enough to protect the tablet inside from damage inflicted by enthusiastic play.

As well as showcasing Virgin Media’s TV packages, tablets are used to help customers pick the right service bundle. Bouncepad Desks can be found next to Virgin’s mobile phone range, with each tablet running a tariff selector app that guides users to their ideal package by asking them to specify their individual needs.

Such innovative use of tablets in a playful setting fits in with the trend towards experience-led design in retail environments. Christopher Studach, Creative Director at design company King Retail Solutions, believes that shops will:

“Become more theatrical, more immersive, and more of a life experience rather than simply a place to get something"

Virgin Media’s ‘house’ was built by design and build specialists Resolution Interiors to a plan provided by retail consultancy Allen International, and it includes everything from a drink-dispensing shed to a garden full of Richard Branson gnomes. But most importantly, it’s a showcase for the versatility of tablets, which provide everything from payment processing to buying advice, as well as giving shoppers a reason to spend more time in the store.

The groundbreaking concept received industry plaudits and was commended as a finalist Retail Week Interior Awards 2013 for Best Small Store. And Virgin Media seem more than happy with the final result. “It’s been a fantastic project to work on,” says Williams, “and we want to take elements from here across all stores in the future.” So be on the lookout for the rise of the tablet-led experience in a shopping centre near you.