Bringing the Outdoors In: How Biophilic Design is Transforming Retail Spaces

An architectural concept known as Biophilic design seeks to foster a deeper connection between people and nature is revolutionizing the in-store experience.

Bringing The Outdoors In: How Biophilic Design Is Transforming Retail Spaces

An architectural concept known as Biophilic design seeks to foster a deeper connection between people and nature is revolutionizing the in-store experience. This design philosophy integrates natural elements into the built environment, creating spaces that are not only visually appealing but also conducive to health and productivity.

Research indicates that consumers are willing to pay up to 25% more for products or services from businesses that incorporate nature into their premises. This blog will delve into the psychological impact of natural elements like sunlight on customer behavior, including the duration of their stay in stores.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by de Gournay (@degournay)

Modern retail spaces are increasingly adopting biophilic design principles, enhancing the sensory experience for customers and positively influencing their perception of quality and value. Key components of biophilic design include natural light, fresh air, plants, and water features.

Natural light, in particular, has been linked to increased productivity and revenue in retail stores. A study found that sales in stores with skylights were 40% higher than those relying solely on artificial lighting. Other natural elements, such as the sound of water and the colors of nature, contribute to a more enjoyable and relaxing shopping environment.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by The SBID® (@the.sbid)

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the fascinating world of biophilic design and its transformative impact on modern retail spaces. Our expert guest, Jennifer Walsh, Founder and Creative Director at Walk With Walsh, will clarify the concept of biophilic design, an architectural approach that seeks to connect building occupants more closely to nature. Join us as we unravel the intricate relationship between nature, design, and retail, and how it’s shaping the future of shopping experiences.

1. Can you explain the concept of biophilic design and how has the concept of ‘experiential’ retail evolved with the incorporation of biophilic design?

Biophilic design aims to connect people and architecture more closely to nature. It incorporates natural elements, materials, views, and patterns into built environments to benefit human health, performance, and overall wellbeing.Some of the key elements can include:

  • Natural lighting and ventilation
  • Indoor/outdoor green spaces
  • Curved lines, fractals, nature-inspired geometry
  • Natural materials like stone, wood, and living walls
  • Water features
  • Regional natural landscapes and biodiversity

Extensive research shows biophilic design enhances creativity, mood, stress reduction, healing, and cognitive skills. Human brains instinctively respond positively to organic, nature-based environments.

2. How does biophilic design help customers feel more connected to a retail space?

People are looking for connection and to feel the spaces that they are going to. It reduces customer stress and enhances relaxation. Increasing engagement due to innate aesthetic appeal Aligning with consumer values on sustainability and wellness. Improving associate health, satisfaction and performance.

Once a novelty, biophilic retail is now an expectation among experience-driven brands. Spaces integrating nature universally uplift human experiences.

3. You mentioned that people are willing to pay up to 25% more for businesses with access to nature. Can you elaborate on why this might be the case?

There have been a multitude of studies in the US and beyond around dynamic retail spaces and experiences. They all come to some of the same conclusions, biophilic spaces encourage enhanced wellbeing. Humans

 have an innate connection to nature, known as biophilia. Being in natural environments or spaces that mimic nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall wellbeing. When people feel more relaxed and at ease in a retail setting, they

 are likely to spend more time exploring, engaging with products, and making purchases.

Biophilic design encourages exploration. Shoppers are more likely to browse, discover new products, and spend additional time in a store with a natural

 and inviting ambiance. This extended dwell time often leads to more significant purchases.

4. How does natural sunlight and other elements of nature affect customers’ time in stores?

There are a few key attributes to sunlight. Natural sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a hormone associated with improved mood and overall well-being.

 When customers enter a store bathed in natural light, they often feel more positive and relaxed, making them more likely to enjoy their shopping experience and spend more time in the store. Natural light can create a sense of freshness and vibrancy in a store,

 making it more appealing to customers. This can be particularly effective in industries such as fashion and cosmetics, where aesthetics and freshness are essential.

5. Can you discuss the importance of creating healthy holistic shopping experiences, particularly for neurodivergent individuals?

One of the most overlooked groups of shoppers are the neurodivergent. 15-20% of the US population is neurodiverse. Harsh lighting, sounds, and scents can negatively effect some to an extent that they will not and can not shop in certain stores due to the environment. When we create holistic inclusive shopping experiences for all, everyone wins. These holistic spaces and places utilize the keys to incorporating biophilic design for human flourishing.

6. What are some successful examples of retail stores implementing biophilic design principles effectively?

Apple stores, Credo Beauty, North Face, Hamilton and Adams, Tin Building NYC

7. Can you tell us about your experience founding Beauty Bar in 1998 as the first retail store to fully incorporate biophilic concepts? How has this influenced your work helping other retailers?

For the longest time, I was told that I was doing it all wrong. So called experts would visit my store locations and report back to me to say that I was putting too much emphasis on the space itself and that I should be more concerned with the costs per square foot. I didn’t have a name for what I was creating, it was a feeling, a deep rooted feeling. I wanted people to feel good, comfortable and linger and they did.

Creating these stores as well as living in a tent every summer for 35 years has deeply influenced how I help others create spaces for flourishing – that is how I also perceived them.

Sure, they are stores and activations but once people feel a space, often times they don’t want to leave. As I have always said, our direct environments, whether that be our homes, offices, or retail spaces have the ability to make us well or unwell. It is all about how we sense a place – what are we hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting.

8. What are some challenges retailers might face when implementing biophilic design and how can they overcome them?

Some challenges are the spaces themselves. Some might not be able to access natural light or to grow plants. These can be overcome by lighting that resembles natural light. Create fractal patterns on the floors, walls, and ceiling to mimic that of trees and plants.

There are so many things that can be done such as creating specific sounds that interweave natural sounds with song – we did this at Beauty Bar 25+ years ago.

9. Looking towards the future, how do you see biophilic design evolving in the retail industry?

As more and more people learn about the health benefits of nature exposure both outdoors and in, biophilic design will be the way forward.  More retailers will employ holistic thinking to create spaces for real emotion especially the more tech heavy our world becomes. Customers will seek those spaces that care about their wellbeing.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.