Five facets of successful retail design that further social connection
What’s driving experiential retail in 2017 and beyond?
By Larry Weeks, Boulder, CO
At our core, we’re creatures of the edge. We live among the trees. We look out over the savannah for opportunity. We have a desire for the unexpected, for discovery. It’s deep within us. The more interaction we have with the predictable elements of our society, such as digital screens, the more desire we have to flirt with the edge.
Humans live longer today than ever before. In part, that’s because the modern world with its building codes, ADA-compliant spaces and safety regulations controls our behavior and keeps us safe. As a result, our experiences are more accessible, less dangerous but more prescribed. On the flipside we have less opportunity to explore the edge. Yet, we still seek it. Casino gambling, high-octane movies, video games, they’re all various expressions of seeking the thrill of the unexpected in contemporary life. Sports fandom and participation provide the exhilaration we seek via camaraderie and the emotion of defeat or victory—experiences are not common in everyday life.
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Some argue that our increased screen time supplants our desire to make human connections, but I don’t think that’s true. As our species has evolved, we’ve been successful because we’re social animals. We enjoy advantages as part of the collective and that can’t be undone by our current infatuation with screens and smartphones. I propose the more screen time in our lives, the more pent-up desire exists to make actual connections with people. Humankind’s innate desire for connection is powerful. These days, it drives us to spend more time in lifestyle situations, restaurants, or downtown.
If we can create experiences that respond to our desire for social connections or give us an opportunity to feel that rare thrill of life, that gives retail a greater chance at success. As designers, that’s interesting to us.
Recently, we took a deeper look at what makes experiential retailers successful today. When you think of experiential retailers, they tend to fall into three domains:
Overlap is key
It wasn’t that long ago that the experiential retailers landed squarely in one of these domains. Now, we are seeing that the retailers that rise to the top tend to overlap with two or three of these categories. Think of a spa where you can have a healthy meal or hear a lecture, a movie theater where you can get a craft beer, a food hall that hosts poetry readings or a grocery store with an indoor garden where the community participates in produce cultivation.
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What aspects of these experiential retailers are likely to result in success? Our experience design team has outlined five facets that poise today’s retailers for a long term resonance:
The more interaction we have with the predictable elements of our society, such as digital screens, the more desire we have to flirt with the edge.