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Retail design experts, Shikatani Lacroix Design (Toronto, Shanghai), worked cross-culturally to create a rich, award-winning corporate flagship experience for Nu Skin in mainland China.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, founder and president of Shikatani Lacroix Design, readily admits doing business in China is very different than in North America. “Everything happens at lightning speed; instead of the typical project taking a year, it’s completed in four months,” Lacroix notes. Seven-day workweeks and around the clock construction shifts help, but he says the cultural differences run deeper than that: Ideas are bigger and bolder, and timelines remain locked-in even when there are shifts in direction. It works, because there’s a willingness to spend what it takes to get there—even when it means tearing something out and starting over. It might seem extreme, but the results are worth the timeline: “The design never gets watered down—whatever is shown in the rendering is what is built—to a T.”
SLD has been doing work in China for five years, with the Shanghai office officially open for the last year and a half. It’s something they’d been working toward for the last ten years, knowing that the market there is future-focused and has an appetite for innovation and change, and at a fast pace: Retailers now generally renovate every 18 months there.
In 2017, Nu Skin, a company that produces and sells beauty and wellness products through tiers of business partner-customers, began to seek out a firm to design a future-proofed retail experience to be implemented across their growing China market. The first step would be to create a flagship experience center that could help to educate and attract a younger demographic emphasizing Nu Skin’s tagline, “Discover the Best You,” through both conventional and digital experiences in addition to selling direct to consumers. The new location would be much more than a recruitment center or place to purchase retail or wholesale; the aim was to blur the lines between gallery, science center, community hub and event space.
With four months to work on the design, the SLD team stayed agile and collaborative, homing in on the inherent challenges: timeline, breadth of products, an ongoing rebranding effort and integrating several existing digital tools and applications. “Nu Skin was going through a major global repositioning and needed a better platform to communicate and connect with their partners,” explains Sharon Eugene, Creative Director for Branded Environments at SLD. “Journey mapping, storytelling and editing were vital to this project.”
To that end, the team conducted interviews at every level of the business, taking into account every step in the sales and recruitment processes through an inclusive lens. “We needed to make sure that we captured all geographical and cultural nuances so that as Nu Skin expands this program across China—irrespective of specific region—each location maintains relevance,” offers Lacroix.
Because of the brand’s wide range of offerings and unique features, factors like storytelling and journey mapping played a significant role in creating a cohesive and choreographed experience that flowed from start to finish and felt high-tech. Visitors needed to get a sense of the history of the brand, their commitment to research and development, and the product features and benefits in a digestible way. The experience would be paired with a backend office, distribution center and modular auditorium space for partners to gather.
Collaboratively, the team envisioned a space with self and partner-guided experiences, designed to educate and build a sense of enthusiasm and urgency, all around the “Fountain of You,” a primary design element that serves as an interaction piece as well as a visual metaphor. Paying homage to Nu Skin’s logo, the “fountain” which exemplifies youth, wellness and energy, also conveys the idea that each person entering is like a drop of water, and as they journey through the experience, a ripple effect is delivered through the integrated brand experiences.
The theme of ripples of knowledge serves as the foundation for the entire store design, digital signage, mobile and interactive experiences—as seen in the rounded zones from body testing pods to product display areas. Bright colors and crisp images are employed throughout, with some tonal and content variation in the sub-brand products. The approach diverges from what Westerner audiences have come to expect from skincare brands, but this approach has been purposefully tailored to a youthful Chinese aesthetic.
The over 10,000-square-foot center integrates digital technology and screens throughout, with 12 installations in eight areas boasting numerous interactives, from company history timelines to a social selfie experience. Visitors come off the street into a reception area with corporate messaging and interactive history wall, and a home-like product display area with space to mingle and socialize.
Tours begin with individual interactive, digital body testing and analysis. This leads into the ageLOC and Nu Skin product areas—two of the company’s skincare lines—equipped with 11 interactive wall screens and three tablets extolling the benefits of each product in manageable depth. In the Pharmanex zone, the SLD team has expertly created a light, bright and inviting space using wall fixtures stacked with light box fixtures, raw botanical ingredients and digital interactives. On the table, microscopes have been outfitted with video as means to tell a deeper story about the science behind the products.
The center opened in November 2018, and two new stores are planned for 2019 as the SLD team are creating a field guide book for the company to continue to roll out the new experience concept across China. The aim is to recreate the “state-of-the-art digital sensory experience” that sparks immediate emotional connection with both customers and business partners.
“The team delivered beyond expectations in elevating the brand to new heights, through user-driven insights, meticulous strategy and digital immersive experience design,” reports Queenie Sheng, VP of marketing for Nu Skin. And for the SLD team, the most satisfying aspect was perhaps the attention paid to the design details: “One of the most amazing things about the whole project was the way things were executed quickly and beautifully,” adds Eugene.
Project Name: NuSkin Flagship Location
Client: Nu Skin
Location: Shenzhen, China
Open Date: November, 2018
Total Budget: $1,860,000
Project Area: 10,420 sq ft
Experiential Graphic Design: Shikatani Lacroix Design
Design Team: Sharon Eugene, Kim Yokota, Sheryl Keller-Ziesmann, Murtuza Kitabi (graphic and environmental experiences); Marcos Terenzio, David Magnus, Daniel Terenzio (digital experiences); Hilda Lam (project management); Jean-Pierre Lacroix (strategy)
Collaborators: Metathink | Xuehan Ten, Wen Zhou, Dan Huang, Ma Bing (strategy); Roxanne Tsui (project management)
Fabricators: Shanghai Aictech Trading Company Ltd (digital supplier)
Photography: Ronald Leung (photography), Marcos Terenzio (videography)