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What the retail store of the future will look like.

As the world begins to re-emerge in a whole new way, the future of retail stores has changed.

What the retail store of the future will look like.

There has been a long-term impact on how people shop, which has transformed the economy and consumer habits.  We take a look at some trends, and the future of retail stores. The ongoing evolution of convenience, personalisation, and digital connection will play a key role in retail.

Digital & Physical Integration

As bricks and mortar stores were forced to close during the pandemic, many industries shifted their offline strategy to an online strategy with digital platforms. Having an online presence became important for brand survival.  Virtual retail stores, will need to be designed to look like and compliment their physical store. They will share the same ‘brand experience’. Virtual stores will be a place where consumers can walk through, browsing products, learning about new brand products and be exposed to promotions.  While the physical stores will provide the memorable experience that online experiences lack.  In-store products on shelves will have a smaller footprint, as retailers shift more space and resources to online fulfillment, digital engagement, social communities, and even recycling pre-loved items. Meanwhile, real-time customer analytics and automation will become essential to store operations.

Retail will follow the example of Starbucks and Nike to play three roles. These are as a transactional hub for immediate consumption, as an experiential venue, and as a showroom to communicate about the brand and support online sales as ecommerce fulfilment points, according to Kanaiya Parekh, expert retail partner at Bain & Company.

Starbucks Reserve, Hong Kong

Personalising the Customer Experience

During the global pandemic, consumers spent an increased amount of time at home and online shopping. Online stores save personal style preferences and send customised targeted messages with product recommendations. Differentiation is still possible through personalised approaches in which retailers create unique experiences tailored to individual customers. Personalised experiences drive up both customer loyalty and the top line, as it becomes a unique experience for the consumer.  The benefit of this service is that consumers do not need to dedicate their time and efforts to think about what they need or should wear to an occasion. Through online personalisation consumers are targeted with ‘certain’ products, which can then be tailored to their specific requirements.

An example is Selfridges, the Luxury Department Store offers customers a 2-hour appointment with one of their style consultants. Customers can enjoy an exclusive suite with privacy, food options, and relaxation spaces. The brand curated the shopping experience for high-end shoppers with luxury tastes.

Shopping for Personal Experience

Natalie Berg, retail analyst and founder of NBK Retail predicts that “There will be fewer, but far better stores.” Retail stores will need to tap into emotion, human connection, discovery, and community. “Bricks-and-mortar retail will become a high-touch, sensory-driven experience,” she says. “There’s an opportunity for retailers to start innovating with the physical space again.”

Retailers will need to offer contactless payments, reduce physical touchpoints, expanded and simplified click and collect. Consumers want to get in and out with reduced friction in-store.

The conventional retail model of just hanging rows and rows of clothes on hangers and supplying a couple of changing rooms and a mirror is on the way out. A resurgence in shopping malls, offering a richer range of experiences by blending retail, music, dining, and entertainment will take its place.  The shopping experience and the interaction with a certain product in a store will become something more appreciated; a special moment. The quality of personal service will increase and be a valued factor in purchase decisions. Consumers will be offered a blended retail experience with collaboration between clothes retailers, hairdressers, spas, and entertainment.

Retail brands that have realised the importance of authenticity, sustainability, and have made the effort to build a strong brand identity, will be the most successful ones to emerge in 2022.

Multi-Purpose Stores

Multifunctional spaces are those stores that merge concepts and functions, retail and services.

It is one of the great trends in shopping centres, a cornerstone of its structural transformation to adapt to new times. The interaction with the consumer and the integration of e-commerce and physical purchases will reach a new level.  Flagship stores, are starting to display products to be able to see and test them before consumers purchase online.  The adaptation of spaces to the current needs as a result of the pandemic, has seen changes in the design of interior and visual spaces and the predisposition to multifunctional spaces.  Stores will become more conceptual, experiential spaces and include artistic, lifestyle, or food & beverage consumption elements to complement product displays as part of the overall brand representation.

Slowear (Milano) has created a multi-purpose store, in addition to being a concept store dedicated to men’s and women’s fashion, the site is also a cafeteria and, at nightfall, it becomes a unique cocktail bar inspired by the aperitif. Product displays transform into display cabinets and beverage counters.

Slowear (Milano)

What does all of this mean for retail designers?

With the adjusted overall retail strategy of brands and changing role of offline stores, retail design agencies need to develop new store concepts and propose solutions to some of the existing challenges. Flexibility will be one of the key aspects, which in terms of design strategy is often contradictory with creating a strong brand experience, maximisation of products in a space as well as cost control.   Stores will also need to be designed in a way that seamlessly integrates online channels and technologies. In-store technology that explains products by scanning QR codes, screens and AR will become standard.  Brands have been given the opportunity to review their current retail strategy and strengthen it. The creativity and development that are currently happening in the industry are actually pretty exciting. We look forward to a future with smart retail brands that thrive, online and offline store concepts that make sense economically, and consumers who enjoy the brand experience and its products.


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