If the Bikini Berlin mall was a website, the bounce rate would be high and sales conversion low. It’s maze-like structure and lack of intuitive signage results in a frustrating shopping experience. When discussing eCommerce, it’s not uncommon to draw parallels between website functions and those of a shopping mall: how does a customer find what they are looking for in a traditional shopping environment, and how can we replicate that experience online?
The Bikini Berlin mall is in need of some user-centric optimization…
The signage outside the building clearly explains what customers can expect to find inside: fashion, food, and design. This positioning promises a good user experience.
Signage outside of the Bikini Berin.
On street level there is one main door and six smaller doors. When you use one of the six smaller doors, it feels as if you have used a back door (and not in a VIP kind of way!).
This map is part Bikini’s marketing materials but altered to better fit the dimensions of this website.
Why does it feel like a backdoor? Well, you often need to navigate past pillars to get inside, only to be greeted by another pillar inside the door. These visual obstructions don’t do much to welcome customers inside.
More importantly, once inside there are no signs to tell you which end of the street you are exiting onto, which landmarks are nearby, or which door to take to access public transport. This is important because many visitors to Kurfürstendamm are tourists and would appreciate some orientation clues.
Many doorways are visually obstructed by large posts inside and outside of the building.
There is no hello or goodbye signage to greet customers. It’s important to build a visual customer rapport because to guide people through the building. You don’t want signage that only tells people what NOT to do as this is a negative one-way conversation.
On that note, the House Rules are listed by every door if you want to have a quick read on your way through. To me this is a bit like putting your Terms and Conditions on your homepage.
White text on a dark background does not help the reader to get through large amounts of text.
Bikini does not speak the language of its customers, and when it does it is sporadic. Some signage is in English, but most of it is in German, with no consistency or reason as to why this happens. This is what the eCommerce world refers to as internationalization issues.
After walking around the mall for an hour, my feeling was that there were more English speakers than non-English speakers, and that many people were tourists. I would love to see some statistics on how many Bikini visitors speak German.
Bikini must realise this on some level because the signage outside claimed to offer Fashion, Food, Design, and not Mode, Essen, Design.
Yes, the mall is in Berlin and businesses should be able to operate in whatever language they choose. However, the mall is situated in one of Berlin’s key tourist districts, so it’s odd that Bikini chooses to not aid its customers by speaking the same language as them.
Emergency exit with German signage
Architecturally, there are many spaces in the complex that are not inviting to customers and give the impression that they you are walking the wrong way. These areas could be lined with plants which would conceal the dark shadows while guiding visitors to other parts of the mall.
Angular architecture results in non-useable and uninviting spaces.
Humans are naturally drawn to light and green areas. How fantastic is this window facing out to the
Zoologischer Garten? Again, there is no signage so it’s not clear what enclosure you are looking at, but the natural light and cushions are inviting. There were many visitors making use of this space, and a nearby cafe made it all the more attractive.
Casual seating areas that overlook the Zoo were used heavily.
There are many of these adjustable seats throughout the mall but they don’t appear to be used often. While functional, they are possibly just too bulky for people to bother adjusting: once a curious person has adjusted the seat to an awkward angle it remains in a non-inviting state.
Looks good, but were often unused.
In a city as creative as Berlin, and in a mall that claims to be the host of creativity (citing Bikini’s own brochure), how are empty areas like this not populated? Granted it is a narrow space, but it is also a highly visual one. Showcasing local design talent or curating a photography exhibition would fill the space with meaningful content while guiding foot traffic to neighbouring stores.
Empty spaces could be put to use instead of creating dead-zones.
If a store has no name, how can it be found on the floor plan? Even if stores are temporary (which I am certain these aren’t), there still needs to be signage above the door to communicate to the customer where it is that they are shopping.
Stores without shop names cannot be found on a floor plan.
Large floor plans are displayed by all entrances at Bikini, but they lack the information that customers want: where can I find fashion? Where can I find food? Where can I find design?
Some stores have names that explain their business: Bagatt Shoe Shop, Einstein Kaffee, Kusmi Tea. But many of the stores have names that don’t explain what they do: Manila Grace, Gant, L’Osteria.
The floor plans need to a key that categorises (or colour codes) stores by fashion, food, and design. It also wouldn’t hurt to highlight exits and public transport options.
This isn’t simply a hunch of mine: while I was taking these photos, two separate groups were discussing how confusing the floor plan was and how it wasn’t helpful.
The floor plans don’t help customers find fashion, food, or design.
Lists of store logos also don’t aid customers in finding fashion, food, and design, because they rely on a customers existing knowledge of a store’s brand. Logos against a light gray background have a poor visual contrast, and the high-up positioning of these signs makes them hard to read. These signs don’t explain what level you are on currently or which direction you should walk in.
The brochure you are encouraged to pick up on arrival is a mix of German and English. On the cover Bikini describe themselves as The Concept Shopping Mall but fails to explain what the concept actually is. The fashion, food, design claim has disappeared completely.
Included is an alphabetical list of all stores, under the categories:
- Art, Design & Lifestyle
- Gastronomy & Food
- Technik & Electronics
In terms of marketing messages, this is a missed opportunity to highlight that the Bikini mall is the destination for fashion, food, and design.
The Bikini Berlin houses some great stores and the rooftop is the ideal place for some afterwork drinks. With some user-centric additions, the foot traffic could be better distributed, reducing the customer confusion, and of course, increasing customer satisfaction.
The rooftop: a great spot for a drink, if you can find it.