- The Future of Ecommerce: 8 Trends to Watch Out for in 2021
- 1. Voice Commerce Will Rise
- 2. Omnichannel Shopping Will Become the New Normal
- 3. AI and AR Will Enhance the Ecommerce Experience
- 4. New Payment Options Will Emerge
- 5. Brands Will Continue to Adopt Dynamic Pricing
- 6. Mobile Commerce Will Dominate Ecommerce
- 7. Sustainability Practices Will Influence Sales
- 8. Visual Commerce Will Get Bigger
- Final Thoughts
- Retail in 2021: What will endure and what’s going to change?
- Direct-to-consumer brands flexing partnership muscles and exploring models to differentiate from the pack will see disruptive growth and profitability
- Supply chain’s transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic, leveraged by 5G and underpinned by substantial investments in digital solutions. Good news: There’s no stopping the momentum now
- Livestreaming will take center stage in 2021, with the potential to be one of the fastest-growing categories in the digital one-to-one ecosystem
- Adoption of robotics technology, food delivery robots and autonomous vehicles are no longer considered a novelty, but it’s still shy of primetime status: Experimentation needs to accelerate, and costs need to come down
- “Evolution” is the word for shopping malls. Shoppers will return after the pandemic, but malls need to be reimagined from multi-level boxes anchored by department stores to more enticing, smaller environments in sync with consumers’ needs
- Touch-free technology will become mainstream
- Social commerce has the potential to grow faster than overall ecommerce — proving once again that, while consumers may not be meeting up in person, socially driven commerce is uniquely embedded in their DNA
- On-demand manufacturing is poised to have its day in the sun
- Digital transformation defined 2020, but that was just the jumping off point for what’s to come
- Paying for a purchase in one fell swoop is so 2018 — shoppers want options every step of the way
- And, just in case 10 predictions for 2021 are not quite enough, here one more to consider: The death of third-party cookies will be a good thing for marketers, but no one expects the changing environment to yield positive outcomes quickly
- What Will the Retail Experience of the Future Look ?
- The Store as a Stage
- Digital Experiences as Collective Memory
- Physical Spaces as an Escape
The Future of Ecommerce: 8 Trends to Watch Out for in 2021
Due to an expected increase and the advent of 2020’s effect on commerce, the ecommerce industry is proliferating. Every day, more retailers are making the move to online selling, while entrepreneurs are getting their start through ecommerce ventures.
By 2022, e-retail revenues will grow to $6.54 trillion, up from $3.53 trillion in 2019.
However, ecommerce is an ever-changing industry. Every year, several new trends come up that can help your business grow and outdo your competitors – 2021 is no different.
Let’s look at the top five ecommerce trends to watch out for in 2021.
1. Voice Commerce Will Rise
People are increasingly relying on voice assistant devices the Amazon Echo with Alexa and the Google Home with Google Assistant to do everything, from waking them to buying products online. 75% of U.S. households will have smart speakers by 2025. Voice commerce sales are anticipated to reach $40 billion by 2022.
Another reason why voice commerce is on the rise is the growing accuracy and convenience of the technology. Both Google and Amazon are pushing regional languages in their virtual assistant devices to help consumers shop more conveniently.
Therefore, it is essential to optimize your online store for voice search.
According to Matt Janaway, CEO at MarketingLabs, One simple but very effective way to capture more organic traffic from voice searches to your eCommerce store is to optimize your top-level conversion funnel content to incorporate answers to common consumer questions surrounding your products or market.
By attracting, engaging and offering value to potential customers through targeted content neatly drops them right into your conversion path for when they are looking to buy later down the line.
For example, what starts as a quick voice search from an internet user looking for advice on ‘how to reduce injuries whilst running’, leads to them reading your solution-based blog post, which in turn results in the sale of your running shoe insoles! Voice commerce is now too big to ignore, so if you’re an eCommerce store owner, be sure to take advantage of this new digital trend and get ahead of the curve before others beat you to it.
Here are four ways to prepare your ecommerce site for voice queries.
- Optimize your content to increase your chances of appearing in voice searches.
- Add a new skill on Alexa and Google voice assistant devices.
- Offer voice-based navigation on your website and mobile app.
- Ensure your products can be purchased with a simple flow using voice command.
2. Omnichannel Shopping Will Become the New Normal
Omnichannel retailing refers to providing shoppers a seamless and consistent experience across channels and devices.
In a survey by HBR (Harvard Business Review), 73% of respondents said they use multiple channels during their shopping journey. This data is almost four years old.
With the increase in the adoption of mobile devices and voice assistants, I can only imagine that the number of omnichannel customers will increase even more in 2021.
Use analytics tools Finteza that provide detailed ecommerce analytics to identify customer behaviors and track everything related to the cash flow.
An analytics tool of this type helps you analyze which products are in demand, monitor your profit and loss, and evaluate customer loyalty.
Finteza also allows you to build reports for events that matter the most to your business, such as view items, add to cart, checkout progress, and checkout success.
These insights enable you to offer the exact product that your shoppers are looking for and provide a seamless shopping experience.
Here are some more ways for you to offer a seamless omnichannel experience.
- Optimize your website for mobile devices. If you have the budget, then create a mobile app or a PWA.
- Personalize the customer experience at every step possible.
- Use tools SAP Commerce Cloud to ensure a personalized and comprehensive ecommerce experience with end-to-end online retail processes.
- Offer various purchase options, such as
- Buy online, pick up in-store
- Buy in-store, choose home delivery
- Buy online, get doorstep delivery
3. AI and AR Will Enhance the Ecommerce Experience
Online sellers will spend $7.3 billion on AI by 2022. More than 120,000 stores will be using AR technologies to offer customers a rich buying experience by 2022.
Artificial intelligence (AI) acts as your online in-store associate by offering personalized guidance and recommendations to your customers. AI uses shoppers’ past purchase history and browsing behavior to show them products they are more ly to purchase.
Un in physical stores, online shoppers can’t try on or physically inspect the product that they intend to buy. Augmented reality (AR) helps eliminate this hurdle by letting customers see how a certain product would look on them even before they buy the product.
By implementing AI and AR in your ecommerce store, you will ly see an increase in conversions and a decrease in the return rate.
4. New Payment Options Will Emerge
Payment options are one of the main reasons why customers choose a specific brand. If you don’t offer your customers’ preferred payment method, they won’t purchase from your ecommerce store.
As of now, most ecommerce businesses accept digital wallets ( Google Pay, Samsung or Apple Pay, and PayPal) apart from debit and credit cards. Cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, have many benefits for online shop owners, such as low transaction fees and no reverse transactions.
For example, Overstock partnered with Coinbase, a Bitcoin platform, to allow customers to use Bitcoin as a payment method.
In 2021, we might see more ecommerce businesses will start accepting cryptocurrencies for transactions.
5. Brands Will Continue to Adopt Dynamic Pricing
Dynamic pricing allows ecommerce retailers to stay competitive and attract more customers.
Even if you sell the best product in the world, if you don’t price it correctly, you won’t generate enough sales.
Make sure to choose the right price for your products. By “right,” I mean the amount at which you have the best chance of selling your product while making the maximum possible profits.
Use dynamic pricing software to determine the best price for your products. These tools provide real-time insights into your competitors’ prices, market demand, and perceived value of your products to determine the optimal cost.
6. Mobile Commerce Will Dominate Ecommerce
As consumers' trust in online shopping increases, they feel more comfortable making purchases using their mobile devices.
By the end of 2021, mobile devices are expected to make almost 73% of total ecommerce sales. Besides, 30% of online shoppers are ly to abandon their carts in the middle of shopping if they find out that your website is not mobile-friendly.
As an online seller, you should focus on improving the customer experience for mobile users.
Here are some great ways to prepare your ecommerce site for mobile devices:
- Examine your website for mobile-friendliness using Google Mobile-Friendly Test. Enter your URL in the tool, and it will show if your online store is responsive. It also shows if there are any loading issues on your website.
- Create a progressive web app (PWA) for your online store. PWA’s load faster than a website and allow customers to view pages that they have previously browsed without the internet.
- Implement accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for shoppers who visit your site using smartphones.
- Ensure a smooth checkout process on mobile devices and find ways to simplify it further.
- Test your mobile site manually. Check if it is easy to navigate. Examine if it is easy to view products on your mobile and if there is an option to zoom.
7. Sustainability Practices Will Influence Sales
Green consumerism is rising rapidly. Brands need to act quickly to stay relevant and competitive.
Green consumerism refers to a situation in which customers look for products that have been produced in an eco-friendly way that preserves the environment or involves recycling.
65% of consumers say they want to buy products from purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability. The focus on green consumerism is a clear indicator that ecommerce brands that prioritize environment-friendly practices will dominate the market in the coming years.
Major ecommerce brands have already started planning to implement more sustainable practices in their business. For example, the world’s leading ecommerce company, Amazon, pledged to bring their carbon emissions to zero by 2040.
Here are some great ways to attract green consumers to your ecommerce store:
- Take a clear stance on sustainability, decide how you will contribute to the environment, and set a deadline. Tell the world what practices you are taking to achieve your goal.
- Switch to eco-friendly packaging. Use products that have a low impact on both energy consumption and the environment for packaging, such as recycled wrapping sheets or cloths.
- Send receipts only on emails instead of paper slips.
- Reduce energy consumption as much as possible. This includes switching off equipment when not in use.
- Look for eco-friendly alternatives to existing products. You can also add new products that encourage sustainability.
8. Visual Commerce Will Get Bigger
Visual commerce refers to using imagery not just on product pages, but also on your entire store to entice users to engage and convert.
Major retailers Bose, for example, are already using visual commerce to influence shoppers into purchasing. They have high-quality images on their homepage along with shortcuts to purchase the product directly.
Here are some great ways to leverage visual commerce:
- Change your default products from JPG to JPEG2000 or WebP formats to improve quality and loading speed.
- Create 360-degree images or videos of your top-selling products.
- Invest in a visual search tool to allow customers to search for products using images.
- Repurpose user-generated content on your product pages to generate interests.
- Create visual shopping ads on Pinterest to drive traffic to your website and increase sales.
Ecommerce businesses looking to dominate the market must prepare themselves to adopt the latest trends as soon as possible.
In 2021, voice commerce, omnichannel shopping, AI, and AR will ly be prevalent. More and more online businesses will start accepting crypto payments to entice more customers to choose their brand.
Dynamic pricing will still remain an effective way to attract shoppers.
Retail in 2021: What will endure and what’s going to change?
The United States will have a new president in the White House. “The Matrix 4” will hit the big screen, Tokyo hopes to host the Olympic Games and sales of CBD products will continue to climb. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley are feeling bullish about the stock market in 2021 and conversations about vaccines are more than ly to reach a fevered pitch.
Unfortunately, the U.S. can also expect the long tail impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to be felt in the retail industry for months to come.
Learn more about the innovations and trends of retail for 2021 here.
As the nation collectively learned in 2020, it’s impossible to truly see what lies over the horizon. Nothing can topple predictions a mysterious virus that brings the world to a virtual standstill for months.
A year ago, NRF predicted tumultuous change in retail supply chains, a voracious appetite for resale and recommerce, and “blurred lines” in retail as companies worked to develop innovative ways to servicing and supporting the customer journey.
The biggest takeaway from 2020 is the shift to ecommerce; consumers have embraced online shopping with vigor and retailers have responded with the speedy roll new technologies.
We got those right. Still, every other prognosticator, we had no clue of the looming pandemic or its disruptive effects.
The biggest takeaway from 2020 is the shift to ecommerce; consumers have embraced online shopping with vigor and retailers have responded with the speedy roll new technologies, new apps and new ways of meeting shoppers’ needs. The words “contactless” and “frictionless” have quickly become part of the vernacular and companies that have managed to break the mold and adapt are winning.
What’s ahead for 2021? Here are 10 predictions — plus one for good measure — that are ly to shape the next 12 months.
Direct-to-consumer brands flexing partnership muscles and exploring models to differentiate from the pack will see disruptive growth and profitability
After a brief period of suspicion as to how these darlings would fair in the long term, it appears the DTC landscape presents plenty of possibilities. Nimble by nature, brands have introduced new categories (Allbirds, Casper) and are pouring new energy into perfecting their customer-obsession objectives (Stitch Fix, Glossier, Peloton).
DTC brands have introduced new categories and are pouring new energy into perfecting their customer-obsession objectives.
It appears the future is multichannel as brands such as Everlane and Birdies link up with Nordstrom, Headspace partners with Spotify, and wellness company Alo and beauty brand Tatcha team up in Animal Crossing. And lest you think there’s a dearth of new entrants, don’t forget CUUP, Prose and JUDY.
Supply chain’s transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic, leveraged by 5G and underpinned by substantial investments in digital solutions. Good news: There’s no stopping the momentum now
If the C-suite were not already convinced supply chain disruption could have serious repercussions, they got the message loud and clear courtesy of COVID-19.
The pandemic spawned a series of recalibrations throughout the global supply chain as retailers and manufacturers reexamined every step from procurement to sourcing and from reduced lead times to improved speed, resiliency and responsiveness.
Spending on global reverse logistics technologies will spike in 2021.
And those shifts will be ongoing over the next 12 to 18 months. Along with increased investments in all things related to logistics, expect more experimentation, particularly in dark stores, ghost kitchens, micro-fulfillment centers and malls masquerading as distribution centers.
Spending on global reverse logistics technologies will spike in 2021 — forecast last year to hit $604 billion by 2025 — as retailers seek to alleviate a major pain point in the shopping journey and minimize the costs of returns. The quest to build a more sustainable supply chain lost some steam in 2020, but the vision for a more sustainable future and a reduced carbon footprint remains a key objective.
Livestreaming will take center stage in 2021, with the potential to be one of the fastest-growing categories in the digital one-to-one ecosystem
Nothing beats the experience of shopping in person, yet livestreaming is the closest many retailers and brands have been able to come to physically connecting with their customers during the pandemic.
A growing number of brands are incorporating livestreaming into their strategy.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau recently reported that livestream-generated sales are expected to double to $120 billion worldwide in 2021. Experts say digital savvy shoppers want more than just a product; they want to feel a connection to a brand. Thus, a growing number of brands are incorporating livestreaming into their strategy.
Bon Appetit magazine’s Test Kitchen crew produced “The BA Test Kitchen Variety Show.” Estee Lauder hosted more than 1 million virtual try-on sessions globally in the first quarter and is also connecting with consumers through its Clinique Skin School with on-demand live streaming. And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Adoption of robotics technology, food delivery robots and autonomous vehicles are no longer considered a novelty, but it’s still shy of primetime status: Experimentation needs to accelerate, and costs need to come down
2020 was supposed to be a breakout year for robots in retail, perhaps even more so given the “hands-off” mindset that colored the past year. That wasn’t the case. Experiments and rollouts were sluggish as other projects took priority.
Still, the objectives remain firm: In-store robots must accurately, repeatedly and autonomously collect and process data to solve business problems. Drones still have the potential to make certain trips obsolete, conserve energy and contribute to more sustainable practices.
There are bright spots: Walmart is experimenting with driverless cars and flying drones; Walgreens has partnered with Wing and is testing drone deliveries in Virginia; Nuro’s autonomous vehicles are rolling across a handful of spots around the country; and robots are powering in-store inventory management and speeding fulfillment in distribution centers. Stay tuned.
Drones still have the potential to contribute to more sustainable practices.
“Evolution” is the word for shopping malls. Shoppers will return after the pandemic, but malls need to be reimagined from multi-level boxes anchored by department stores to more enticing, smaller environments in sync with consumers’ needs
Shopping malls became an industry-wide punching bag in 2020. Faced with a decline in foot traffic, operators are being called upon to convert empty commercial space into mini-fulfillment centers for their retail tenants. If only it were that easy.
Distressed malls appear to be an attractive target for companies such as Amazon and FedEx that are eying the empty spaces for micro-fulfillment. But flipping the model will require the properties to be rezoned and, in many instances, the shift from commercial to industrial is ly to be met with pushback from local residents.
Other ideas that have been floated to repurpose mall spaces include senior citizen housing, health care facilities and community colleges, but the same challenges persist. Another bitter pill to swallow: The shift toward experiential tenants that began in earnest just a few years ago is disappearing.
Touch-free technology will become mainstream
A tremendous amount of innovation during the pandemic was born of the need to reduce the frequency of touch. And shoppers have embraced the trend with gusto.
Digital shopping has soared, contactless payments have quickly become the norm, and augmented and virtual reality — technologies that have been dancing on the edge of more widespread acceptance for the last few years — are poised for growth.
Case in point: virtual fitting rooms. Using AR to facilitate virtual try-ons is proving to reduce return rates. Look for retailers to connect mirrors to social media — a move that will provide a more interactive personalized experience.
Using AR to facilitate virtual try-ons is proving to reduce return rates.
Shiseido is using hands-free technology (along with artificial intelligence and algorithms) to remotely analyze skin and offer personalized suggestions.
A Japanese company recently debuted the first-ever foot-operated vending machine allowing hands-free access.
And it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room: Amazon One, the new technology for its Amazon Go stores that lets shoppers pay for their groceries by scanning the palm of their hand. This one has enormous potential.
Social commerce has the potential to grow faster than overall ecommerce — proving once again that, while consumers may not be meeting up in person, socially driven commerce is uniquely embedded in their DNA
If asked to identify the indisputable breakout trend for 2021, no doubt it would be social commerce. The idea of retailers and brands creating shopping experiences via social media has certainly taken off.
Its staying power is undeniable for multiple reasons, including the exclusive feelings these opportunities create, the chance to build purchasing intent and the frictionless payment process that gives new meaning to the word “seamless.”
Technavio recently reported that the social commerce market is poised to grow by $2,051 billion during 2020-2024, progressing at a compound annual growth rate of almost 31 percent.
Who’s leading the charge? , Instagram, Twitch, TikTok, Pinterest and Spotify.
On-demand manufacturing lets brands respond faster to changing customer demand.
On-demand manufacturing is poised to have its day in the sun
For years, concepts mass customization and personalization have peppered predictions about the future of fashion. Now comes on-demand manufacturing. To be fair, it’s not new, but using on-demand strategies to create products lets brands respond faster to changing customer demand, create products as orders are placed and keep minimal amounts of stock on hand.
All of that meshes with the ethos of today’s shoppers. In addition, on-demand manufacturing improves sustainability and moves the needle closer to the goal of zero waste. It could even shift the pendulum a bit toward nearshore sourcing.
The challenge is good data and technology that allows companies to optimize that information. Zara is the poster retailer for on-demand manufacturing, but DTC brands are quickly learning the ropes.
Digital transformation defined 2020, but that was just the jumping off point for what’s to come
The last nine months alone have produced more digital transformation than the last decade.
Retailers, manufacturers and consumers a were forced to change and what appeared to be quick fixes in the early days have quickly become habits.
The surge in online shopping, the race toward frictionless payments, the quick deployment of curbside pickup and the endless flurry of apps created to enable all these changes are just the beginning.
What does this mean for 2021? Looking for ways to monetize customer data is table stakes for retailers; the challenge is doing so in a true omnichannel ecosystem. The companies that get it right will be omnipresent for shoppers — connecting online, in stores and over social commerce and making sure every touchpoint is frictionless.
A key enabler of all things digital is 5G. It may have been over-hyped a year ago, but 5G is vital as we rush headlong into 2021.
If remote work, nonstop video conferencing and stepped-up digital collaboration have taught us anything, it’s that reliable connectivity and greater bandwidth are imperative.
Consumers can’t afford to be disconnected, so it goes without saying that neither can businesses.
Paying for a purchase in one fell swoop is so 2018 — shoppers want options every step of the way
The old-fashioned model of paying for items in full is fading fast as the next generation of shoppers embraces pay-over-time models and subscriptions. What began as a novelty is now available online, in-app and in-store. And it won’t be the only creative method retailers come up with to keep shoppers shopping.
The next generation of shoppers is embracing pay-over-time models and subscriptions.
Look for more subscription payment options such as Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay to gain ground; these types of options are borne of digital media, a la steaming services and gaming, but retailers are looking to get in on the action.
Other potential game changers in the payment space include rental companies such as Feather and Fernish that give consumers the chance to rent a room of furniture and pay for it monthly. Then there’s the rent-buy model, which allows aspirational shoppers to rent designer pieces for a fraction of the full price and buy at a reduced cost.
Trade-ins are becoming a thing, too: Think Levi Strauss & Co. and Patagonia. Just don’t stop thinking of creative ways to extend payment options, because the 2021 shopper demands it.
And, just in case 10 predictions for 2021 are not quite enough, here one more to consider: The death of third-party cookies will be a good thing for marketers, but no one expects the changing environment to yield positive outcomes quickly
The rise of ecommerce, coupled with the elimination of cookies, has made data-rich “walled gardens” a priority, yet brands face new privacy regulations and compliance measures that require investments in customer data platforms. As retailers seek the next holy grail of targeting, look for those who have giant databases and/or partnerships to win.
What Will the Retail Experience of the Future Look ?
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The world’s retailers face a host of challenges. Even before the pandemic, many brick-and-mortar retailers were struggling.
Now, as we emerge from the liminal space of nationwide lockdowns into new psychological and social territory, shoppers will be anxious about whether visiting stores will increase their exposure to the virus.
Adding to the complexity: The United States is now officially in a recession, which will dampen consumer spending for months to come.
In this environment, reading “future of” pieces can feel a trip to the World’s Fair.
There are hundreds of new gadgets and designs being dreamed up to keep us safe from biological threats, mediate our hesitancy to socialize again, and further the integration of our digital and physical lives.
As much as this excitement will help us in the long run, what retailers need most right now are tested solutions they can deploy immediately.
But brands need more than a checklist of sanitization practices. They need actionable vision that will set them apart and entice people people back inside their stores.
The good news is innovative ways of operating were already being prototyped on a smaller scale before Covid-19. Examining these approaches will allow retailers to use this moment of transition to pivot towards a more resilient and meaningful future.
The Store as a Stage
Walking around essential businesses today, you see many makeshift efforts to reduce contact and limit crowds — devices tape on floors, plexiglass shields, and hastily written signs on colored printer paper.
These methods are cheap and easy, but they do little to lessen fear and manage the psychological state of their customers.
Retailers outside of the essential category need to think about space as a service — a performance, where “front of house” is serene, while “back of house” supports the complex maneuvers that occur on stage.
In the fall of 2019, my team designed Tupperware’s Tupp Soho pop up, a shopping experience that necessitated no touching of products, no restocking of displays, and no need for large crowds. Displays were used to showcase products, which could then be purchased by flagging a staff member, who had a tablet equipped with Square.
After the purchase was complete, the staff member would collect and wrap fresh versions of the items “backstage” and bring out the finished shopping bag (a reusable tote). This experience allowed visitors to explore the pop up a museum and to buy large products without having to carry them around.
We already see similar hospitality-influenced services in luxury shopping — with technology, there’s no reason not to scale this out to other areas.
Furthermore, given that contactless shopping will be the new normal, retailers should consider looking to other industries that already offer similar services.
If you can book a dinner reservation for 7:30, why can’t you book a shopping experience for 6:30 nearby? From yoga studios to therapists, a wide array of businesses are already using digital reservation systems.
People will be reluctant to wait in long, socially distanced lines for casual shopping, so make the experience easy.
Digital Experiences as Collective Memory
Fewer in-person touches means digital artifacts need to embody brands in deeper, more memorable ways. Brands have an opportunity to embrace media that can communicate the experience of using their products. New capabilities in motion design allow us to capture sensory details and generate new realities.
In ManvsMachine’s recent campaign for Purple, the differentiating element of the mattress — a flexible gel grid — is twisted and compressed to showcase its elasticity and comfort. More surreal, Rad Mora’s ads for Pat McGrath makeup features digitized liquid cascading down slick surfaces a luxurious syrup.
This is how you cut through the noise of perfectly posed pastel shots — by making people feel something.
These feelings can then be translated into digital shopping formats. Most online shopping experiences were built on generic templates, but with millennials and Gen-Z funneling themselves into ever-narrower aesthetic tribes, online shopping no longer has to cater to the masses.
Maybe stores are only one typology in an array of ways we could interact with products. Could online shopping exist as a surreal world of discovery, the popular 1990’s game Myst? Gucci has a track record of creating imaginative microsites that push the envelope — their SS 2018 virtual museum.
Meanwhile, Aesop’s Taxonomy of Design allows visitors to browse all the materials, colors, and textures of their stores.
Even in small doses, a taste of adventure can be the secret sauce that makes one brand stand out — especially in luxury, where the power of the experience is directly correlated with brand perception.
Technology can also generate connections by making every consumer feel they have a personal shopper who has favorite items (in their size) placed in a dressing room when they arrive or who can suggest similar pieces based prior purchases.
Members at NEW INC (of which I am one), the New Museum’s incubator, are already working on augmented reality and artificial intelligence solutions that could power anything from the virtual closet Cher Horowitz uses to pick her outfits in the movie Clueless to holographic fashion shows.
Machine learning tools Noya Kohavi’s Lineage allow for better recommendations, a challenge giants Amazon have not been able to crack. Yes, data privacy is a top concern, and brands that are highly transparent about how they use data will be more trusted.
The longer retailers wait to integrate these types of features into their design flow, the more opportunities they will miss.
Physical Spaces as an Escape
We are in a moment of tension — people yearn to explore, yet they fear exploration will bring exposure. The biggest room for innovation lies in experiential escapes. For many, these terms bring up associations of VR headsets, dizzying screens, and loud spaces that scream “more is more.
” More restrained and effective expressions can be found in fashion brands Acne, Celine, and Gentle Monster, where the store serves as an artistic escape into their brand ethos.
Imaginative installations, rich materials, and a uniting storyline allow the space to speak for itself — the physical details, which go beyond a one-dimensional Instagram backdrop, embody the same feelings you associate with the brand.
For example, Gentle Monster, a sunglasses brand known for their otherworldly store installations, creates a theme around every store that is expressed through unusual sculptures.
Their Los Angeles store’s “harvest” theme features straw piles and artfully placed rods, creating an atmosphere closer to an art gallery than a sunglass store.
Meanwhile, Acne’s store in Shibuya feels more a cross between a designer’s living room and a museum — full of rich carpets and glass display cases.
As we reevaluate spaces, texture, light, sound, and smell should take center stage. Many of our strongest memories of places are not visual, but embodied: the cool temperature of the walls, the way sound echoed through the space, the smoothness of carpet under your feet.
At Naked Retail’s 11 Howard location, a concept store featuring a rotating roster of brands, my team and I (who worked on the project) were presented with a small, dark box.
By suspending shelves, clothing racks, and netting from the ceiling using utility belts, we created a sense of movement upwards, which helped to make the small space feel more expansive.
A variety of textures — from soft-touch foam to semi-transparent plastic to concrete — added depth.
Experiences can be both touchless and tactile. As architect Juhani Pallasmaa writes: “Vision reveals what touch already knows… Our eyes stroke distant surfaces, contours and edges, and the unconscious tactile sensation determines the agreeableness or unpleasantness of the experience.”
In anxious times, it makes sense that people would desire a calming environments that connect us with our natural surroundings.Throughout this crisis, I’ve been honored to work with Studio Elsewhere, who are building biophilic recharge rooms for frontline healthcare workers at hospitals around New York.
The rooms are entirely voice activated and feature restorative interactive visuals projected on the wall, as well as immersive audio content and relaxing scents. Early studies show that 15 minutes in these recharge rooms can reduce reported stress by 60%.
By incorporating biophilic principles into reopened spaces, we offer opportunities to process and release anxiety.
These ideas may all feel overwhelming as a retailer set to open its doors in the coming weeks, so it’s worth focusing on where you can have the biggest impact. If you are reopening imminently, consider what touch points could be improved to minimize contact and increase personalization.
Over time you may want to consider updating your store design to feel more calming, imaginative, or distinct.
If you have more time or are unsure whether a physical footprint makes sense in the near term, it may be more worthwhile to look at how your digital presence can embody what is lost by physically interacting with your space and your brand.
Either way, there may be digital augmentations that can support your ongoing business and set you apart from competitors. You need not do this alone — designers, artists, and technologists are here to work with you to envision what comes next. Let us build a resilient future together.
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