Retail Design Through the Trade Show Lens
Key trends in retail design revealed through three unique experiences.
The U.S. retail sector continues to evolve radically, with over 8,600 stores across multiple brands set to close in 2017, the fastest annual rate of closure ever seen. However, retail behemoths like Ulta and Target are opening stores at a rapid clip, and Wall Street can’t get enough of digital natives turned bricks-and-mortar purveyors Bonobos and Warby Parker. Even Amazon is getting into the storefront arena with select physical store sites opening across the country to sell curated-by-customer assortments of category favorites.
IA has a strong retail design studio; our teams create new stores for some of the most innovative and coveted brands. In line with our practice, I had the opportunity to walk three of the world’s most influential trade shows earlier this year and see first-hand how the industry is addressing these seismic shifts. EuroShop, SHOPTALK, and GlobalShop were held in three different venues, and yet, across all three the same trends were evident:
- Retail experiences of the future seem rational when seen through the lens of evolving consumer behaviors. The term omnichannel refers to a cross-channel business model of interaction with customers—mobile, online, or in person. Consumers now slide between all three (sometimes in the same transaction) so success depends on how these engagements are incorporated into the total shopping experience.
- Emotionalization is the key to the future of the retail experience. Customer influencers, whether through social media, community, or individuals are an essential consideration. Being aware of your customers’ influencers should contribute greatly to determining the experience path and elements provided within retail space.
- Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are now part of the store experience, not just ‘wow’ factors. Whether a handy robot or an adaptable mirror AI, AR, and VR have become part of the sales transaction. Integrated into the fabric of the store, successful devices and elements enhance the experience but are no longer destination drivers.
This triennial fair is billed as the “world’s largest show dedicated to shopfitting” and generates a massive presence both physically and through attendance. More than 100,000 people descend upon Germany’s fashion capital and perused more than 2,400 exhibits from grocery, fashion retail, architecture, trade show exhibit, and lighting design suppliers. The almost endless aisles of the Dusseldorf fairgrounds merged seeming disparate categories with common trend direction.
The elder statesman, GlobalShop’s annual draw includes the industry majors and smaller outfitters looking for new solutions and trend direction. Recently, the show had a significant industrial edge, with mostly smaller exhibits and a developing speaker program to add additional insight and value. An estimated 8,000 industry visitors walked through the halls and saw first-hand how the shifts in retail affect the teams that create retail experiences. Moreover, GlobalShop has an outstanding student program and celebrates the next generation of designers.
The newcomer, SHOPTALK’s second year brought a slate of fresh and evolving ideas to the fore, from brands both digital native and analogue. Brand evolution, expansion, and direction married with technology, propose dynamic directions for addressing consumer demands. SHOPTALK focused on an impressive slate of 325 speakers across 100 sessions, including a mini Wharton B-school track for retail. We were told not to fear the demise of retail, but rather to celebrate its re-emergence through the lens of technology.