Interview: How A Virtual Design Platform Helps Retailers Create Human-Focused Store Experiences
In an interview with design platform The Wild, PSFK learned about how the company is enabling real-time virtual collaboration among designers, helping them craft customized, immersive store experiences informed by retailers' data
As retailers increasingly value physical spaces for their engagement and immersion factors, data-informed design tailored to a particular brand's audience and purpose becomes key. The Wild is a recently launched cloud-based platform that helps retailers achieve this end, providing designers with a virtual space to come together on their creation of customized, immersive experiences in augmented and virtual reality.
In an interview with PSFK, The Wild's founder and CEO, Gabe Paez, explained how its service not only allows for real-time collaboration, centralized decision-making across teams and connecting of traditionally isolated parts of the workflow, but also thereby allows for the creation of more human-centric design that better captivates audiences. Here's how The Wild is helping retailers like Adidas receive better returns on their retail space investment:
PSFK: What’s the typical planning process like for developing retail spaces? How does The Wild enable a more immersive, engaging and strategic planning experience?
The Wild is a cloud-based design and collaboration platform that can be accessed from any location, at any time, by any team member through a virtual or augmented reality device. Anyone inside a space at the same time can hear and see each other. Our goal is to reorient the design of a space into experiential terms by leveraging virtual and augmented reality as a means to immerse a design team into their designs.
The retail development process generally involves many stakeholders, often remotely located, each of whom brings different expertise and objectives to the project. The Wild aims to be an accessible medium for all these people to join together literally inside the proposed concept. We believe that by eliminating the barriers to a designer experiencing an idea with the team, we can create a more efficient, robust design process that will transform the retail design industry.
What are some ways the end customer benefits from retail spaces planned using this platform?
The Wild is fundamentally encouraging a human-scale design focus at every stage of the process. When designing an environment, it is typical to evaluate the work in plan view at city-scale, building-scale, or room-scale. However, the end customer will only ever experience the space at human-scale. The Wild is bridging that gap by providing a means for the design team to effortlessly manipulate their scale from overview to immersion.
The end customer ultimately benefits when the design process is focused on their experience inside of the space rather then exclusively on the space itself. The Wild is a medium for experience prototyping, ideation and validation.
Does The Wild make it easier for decision-makers to incorporate data, KPIs or other behavioral data from customers?
Yes, this is one of the areas I am most excited about with The Wild. There are so many creative ways to combine data with physical objects to understand a space at a whole different level. The visualization of data layers to establish a spatial and intellectual understanding about how space utilization plays out quantitatively is an incredibly powerful tool for decision making.
Can you describe how Adidas successfully leveraged the platform? How did the company use The Wild’s technology? What were some of the outcomes, and what challenges did The Wild help address?
In the beginning, Adidas was interested in The Wild primarily as a means for visual merchandising. We worked with them to provide a streamlined workflow for enabling the merchandising team to work efficiently together inside The Wild. This began with the team uploading their content to The Wild—our 2d interface creates a centralized repository of assets including stores, fixtures, product, and comms.
From there, merchandising became a simple process of creating a space and bringing their models in. There are many parallels to physically merchandising a store—just with improved speed and efficiency—so the team caught on quickly. Revisions that would have previously taken multiple meetings and weeks of turnaround with an outside agency could be executed in minutes.
After successfully piloting that workflow, we started to explore how The Wild could be used to centralize decision-making across teams, connecting traditionally isolated parts of the workflow. We are exploring this in the context of internal teams and also with outside design agencies.
What are some of your near-term goals for The Wild? What about 10 years out? How do you foresee the evolution of technology beyond VR?
We are working right now to expand the tools available for designers in The Wild. Similar to what you would expect in a physical space, tools are a designer’s means to create and modify the environment and objects within. We aim to empower designers to manifest their ideas as efficiently and thoroughly as possible with The Wild.
In the long term, we aim to build a robust community around The Wild. We will only ever be as strong as the creatives that occupy our company and we aim to support and lift up those who embrace experience design here.
We believe that the future will not narrowly focus on any one technology like VR or AR. The broader vision of extended reality (XR) inspires us because it empowers the user to choose his or her level of virtualization. We see the headsets of the future allowing the user to augment digital content into a physical space or to virtualize everything depending on where they are and what they are doing.
This is a game changer for retail design because the current process is so fragmented into a conceptual “virtual” design phase and then a physical buildout. Extended reality connects virtual to physical content and, with The Wild, you will see a dramatic improvement in efficiency, quality and creativity in the design process.
The Wild is helping retailers craft original and sales-driving experiences using data-informed and collaborative design processes. For more ways that brands are optimizing their retail spaces, see PSFK's reports and newsletters.