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Tomorrow’s Store Will Sell Feelings, Not Things

Tomorrow's Store Will Sell Feelings, Not Things

YourStudio's co-founder and creative director Howard Sullivan explains why the next gen of retail stores will fulfill consumers with service and spirit instead of stuff

One of the founders of award-winning experiential design agency YourStudio shares his vision based on emerging trends, describing a retailscape defined by real-life fulfillment, wellbeing for the mind and soul, and human spaces to fuel the imagination.

What are the weak signals you see emerging in retail right now?

Human behavior is driving all of the best new retail experiences. We are seeing retail and digital integration to help remove friction, new fulfillment models to give time back, and experiences that nourish and elevate the human spirit. 

Shoppers have been using the store partly as a showroom to order online, so new smart offers create this showcase with no need for direct sales. Samsung’s space at Coal Drops Yard is a good example of this: leave without a product, but with a huge baptism into what Samsung means to your life and how it can make it better. We’re moving into an era of selling emotions and feelings, not ’things.’

Retail spaces will continue to shift away from focus around ‘stuff,’ moving towards real-life fulfillment, wellbeing for the mind and soul, and human spaces to fuel the imagination. Generation selfie is declining; people are looking to retail spaces to connect, find a sense of purpose, and enrich their knowledge and point of view.

How do you see innovative retailers delivering on these new demands?

Stores are experimenting with different formats. The legacy department stores are creating smaller capsule spaces. Galleries Lafayette Champs-Elysées is a perfect example. Big brands are slicing up what they do so, instead of large multi-format stores, they are creating more specialized, local branches. To stay competitive and keep up, we need to build architecture that’s agile, from our digital to our physical brand moments. Storytelling and keeping up the connections with our audiences is key to survival. All of this depends on great creative minds to understand and empathize with what people need as well as creating material people feel drawn to.

Can you guess what the store experience five years from now will be like?

The film Her creates a vision of the future that’s not all space rockets and levitating furniture, but has a soul through its touch of the familiar augmented with some new and clever tech. This is how I see the store in five years' time. We will still appreciate the human qualities of touch and visual language that soothes or stimulates us, but we will see more services and dwell spaces customized to us, our moods and anticipating our every desire.

What do you plan to share at the Future Of Retail 2020 Conference?

Driven by PSFK’s insight, I will be presenting three future retail concepts that pioneer thinking around loyalty, brand connection and the next generation of experience design. I will be showing what the future of fresh food might look like at a supermarket scale, how luxury loyalty can be unpacked at home and how whole-life fulfillment might be experienced at a place-making scale for a mall of the future. Can’t wait!