Mark was invited to speak along with a panel of experts as part of a series of design seminars organised by FX magazine last year. Below is an excerpt from the talk entitled ‘The New Showcases of Experience’.

Internet shopping offers convenience and cost-saving and its ability to expand is seemingly limitless. Its potential to destroy retail shopping on the high street is very real, unless brands find new ways of selling products. Most of our clients are figuring out how they can move forward as the impact becomes more significant on their retail outlets.

We believe people are looking for an experience – a point of difference between what they can do online, and the physical reality of something like touching a piece of fabric or trying on an item of jewellery. They have to be dazzled, to be entertained, to be made to feel part of the family. There is a whole series of experiential devices that brands are trying to use. We spend a lot of time talking about how to achieve this sense of theatre with clients, even down to details such as how the product is wrapped at the end of the selling process; anything that engages the customer so that they feel it’s been worthwhile going there rather than sitting on the computer at home.

As well as creating a memorable store experience, retailers should be able to offer knowledgeable staff. Apple stores are a prime example - their stores offer a place where people can learn everything there is to know about the products they are buying. But more than that: they are also a gathering place, where everybody is made to feel welcome. People go there to sit, to browse and to be informed by the staff.

Emerging technologies too are becoming increasingly important. Facial recognition technology, for example, could potentially help clients treat customers more as individuals by understanding their shopping preferences; to find out what that person has come to buy and what else they might buy if it is presented in the right manner. When you go face-to-face shopping, it needs to feel very special.

New technologies such as Augmented Reality can help brands tell their stories and allow customers to engage more closely with their products. Companies such as Dulux and Ikea are already exploring this.

Virtual reality is an inevitable next step. We already present everything in 3D, as clients have become more savvy, allowing the process to be much more of a collaborative one.

It’s all about finding ways to engage with the customer. People love stories. They want to hear the story behind a product. It draws them in and gets them interested in that particular product and ultimately, in the brand.


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