The retail landscape is experiencing unprecedented innovation. To remain relevant, retailers have to meet customers’ needs today and create the expectations these customers will have tomorrow.

From multisensory spaces that encourage visitors to touch and feel, to meaningful data that allows us to deeply understand customers, here are four inspired customer experience trends that have captured our attention and imagination.

1. Room to Play

Multisensory spaces encourage customers to touch, feel and experience the products, reinforcing a visceral relationship with the brand and giving them a meaningful reason to leave their virtual shopping environments.

Everlane: Store as Gallery

When online shopping is not satisfying enough to the touch, e-commerce meets people on the streets.

Powered by a compelling online business model, these physical pop-up shops perform as a gallery – a space to experience the brand and its products without the burden of in-store stock or fulfillment.


Common People, Mexico City: Taste-Making

Now that all things are accessible through the web, taste is queen.

Common People’s incredible concept store is home to all kinds of tasteful products. It artfully features dozens of playful blended installations from fashion creators from all over the world in one stunning space.


ModiFace: Virtual Experimentation

Technology is in a mad chase to simulate real-world experiences and is rapidly catching up.

ModiFace is leading the charge for virtual makeovers by offering unique anti-aging, skin-care, cosmetics, and hair color “try-on” technology. The ModiFace mirror features photo-realistic makeup and can match and scan skin tone, eye shadow shades, and other products to make intelligent suggestions.

ModiFace Mirror from modiface on Vimeo.

Dover Street: Playing with Program

Fashion becomes entertainment with a fascinating new format.

Dover Street aims to blend the retail experience into mixed-program spaces, like a bakery meeting an art-installation meeting NikeLab. Strict retail categories are shed in favor of an immersive retail experience that surprises, delights, and inspires.

2. It’s All About Me

Shopping has become pervasive and now has to meet customers on their own terms, celebrating them at every possible moment.

Stitch Fix: Hybrid Personalization

When artificial intelligence and human taste drive style recommendations, customers find products that feel made for them.

Using algorithms and individual scanning of personal Pinterest collections, Stitch Fix blends data science and the human touch for style curation – driving personalization to unprecedented levels, meeting their customers online and in the comfort of their own homes.


Shoes of Prey:  Product Personalization

Now that color choice is commonplace, retailers must look outside the box and offer unprecedented customization.

Australia-based Shoes of Prey allows customers to hyper-personalize and design their ideal product. Using an online 3D Designer tool, users can customize absolutely every aspect of the shoe to find their perfect pair without ever having to leave the house.

Stylebook: Shopping with Me in My Closet

Brands are getting closer to customers than ever – meeting them in their closets.

Stylebook users can upload a custom catalog of their own clothes, create outfits, assemble packing lists, seek stylists’ inspiration, and shop – all in a single app.


Pinterest:  Surfing as Shopping

Casual inspiration gathering is now an opportunity to buy.

With shop-able pins, Pinterest balances user data and pin algorithms with an online shopping experience that allows users to go seamlessly from browsing to purchasing without ever leaving the Pinterest app.

3. The Storytelling Imperative

As the world shifts from transaction to experience, retail is transforming to appeal to the imagination by focusing on rich storytelling —about the customer, the products, the brand, and culture in general.

Samsung Concept Store, NYC: All Story, No Stock

When retail tests its limits, it explores what shopping becomes when there’s nothing tangible to buy. Samsung 837 calls itself a “digital playground and cultural destination”. It’s not a retail store at all: it is a physical manifestation of the brand and the brand’s story, allowing users to experience the brand without transactions.


Hunter Flagship, Tokyo: Creating an Atmosphere

Ironically, the visceral is brought to its greatest by the virtual, as digital tools are employed to evocatively transform the senses.

The iconic, British boot brand has created an entire ecosystem. Hunter’s store in Tokyo is an environment where the products can both find and give meaning by creating a multi-sensorial experience that evokes the need for their products.


STORY: Products Woven around Story

Storytelling is taken to its other extreme when retail is no longer about the products themselves but the stories that they want to tell.

On Manhattan’s 10th Avenue, STORY is a retail concept that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store. Every eight weeks, STORY completely reinvents itself – from the design issue to the merchandise – with the goal of bringing to light a new theme, trend, or issue.


Apartment by The Line. Story Woven around Products

This emerging trend is shifting from stores to theaters that aim to infuse space with stories.

The Line curates fully-furnished pop-up apartments rich in style and storytelling. Each product in the apartment is for sale, but the displays create an immersive, natural experience that allows customers to picture themselves in the space, using the products in their own lives.

4. Meaningful Data

As the boundaries between bits and bytes continue to blur, our ability to capture, analyze, and predict customer behavior is going beyond what we thought possible.

La Roche-Posay (L’Oreal): Smart Products

In a remarkable evolution of IoT, products make invisible data both visible and useful.

L’Oreal is making the invisible visible. With a flexible skin patch that monitors UV exposure, the global beauty brand is harnessing an important data set, making it easily accessible to customers, and giving that data actionable meaning in their lives.


Macy’s + Hointer: Smart Services

As smart services become ubiquitous, retailers are creating intelligent, in-store experiences that match customers’ online expectations.

Nadia Shouraboura invented a new intelligent, automated showroom platform that removes frustration from shopping. Customers tag products of interest and instantly have them delivered to fitting rooms in the right size via a chute, that continues to engage and deliver requests and recommendations, while eliminating wait times and human engagement during intimate moments.


Like to Know It: Smart Social

To meet the needs of the millennial generation that has no time to waste, inspirational browsing is a seamless platform for becoming.

Like to Know It enables both brands and bloggers to monetize customers’ love for Instagram browsing. By linking their personal email to their Instagram account, customers simply double-tap Instagram photos and have the shopping details of an outfit – down to the lipstick shade – sent straight to their inboxes.


RetailNext: Smart Brands

Brands are shifting from sellers of products to owners of data on how we live every aspect of our lives. RetailNext’s Traffic 2.0 integrates physical and digital data sources inside and around brick-and-mortar retail stores to enable brands to gain deeper insights into retail operations and shopper behavior. Retailers can understand how shoppers move about the store, and can optimize layouts and promotions to benefit both the customer and the brand’s bottom-line.


Special thanks to Jess Staley and Darcy Newell for contributing to this blog.


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