future of retail
Event Marketing

Take Your Brand Beyond the Brick and Mortar Store – The Future of Retail

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The retail industry has changed since covid-19 hit in 2020. We’re seeing an upward trend of consumers doing online shopping compared to visiting brick-and-mortar locations, and it’s becoming more challenging to get customers away from online shopping and into physical stores. 

Given how much the consumers’ shopping behaviors have changed, it’s a no-brainer that brands in the retail sector spend huge amounts of money designing unique and memorable retail experiences.

The shopping experience is as important to humanity as what we buy, and retail trends are getting more exciting – and more challenging for brick-and-mortar stores.

Customers now expect more than products on the shelf, and immersive experiences that increase customer engagement are essential, rather than an option. Now that people are buying more online, what do today’s retailers need to do to up their game in offline shopping? 

Creating the Brand Experience Creates Customer Loyalty

In a nutshell, retailers need to get serious and very creative about how to attract and engage customers in-store. The future of retail is an exciting one, but only if retailers create a space that is about more than shopping. Retail locations need to be about the customers resonating and experiencing the brand. 

It’s not just a retail space, it’s a retail experience.

Your Store is Your Brand.

For years, many retailers have been elevating their spaces from simple brick-and-mortar stores where people buy goods to places, they want to spend time.

Take Gucci’s flagship store in Italy, for example. It’s more than a store. It’s a museum, art gallery, and café all in one, immersing customers in the sights and sounds of Italy – and the world of Gucci. 

Given the growing trend of consumers buying online or engaging with digital channels, a brand’s retail space must be more than where it sells its products.

Retail spaces need to communicate the brand story so that customers will react positively. This way, retailers can stand out among the competition and be one step closer to being top of mind. Which brand doesn’t want this? 

To get foot traffic, get into the customer’s feels.

By connecting customers to your retail space on an emotional level, you are connecting them to your brand. And there are so many ways to be creative beyond physical aesthetics.

Retailers are embracing new and exciting uses of technology to engage customers in-store, from point-of-purchase hardware to interactive games or videos.  

The Future of Retail is not Found in Physical Stores – It’s in the In-Person Experiences

Simply put, the future of retail is about creating a full-fledged brand experience, taking customers out of your store and into the world of your brand. Retailers need to create something memorable, that will live on long after consumers have left the physical store. 

Here are three retail trends that elevate physical retail spaces and bring consumers to the store.

Engage Six Senses

That’s right – we said six senses. The future of retail certainly means engaging customers’ sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. The sixth sense is what we call the “social sense”. 

Humans are social creatures. Not only do we want to see, feel, hear, smell, and taste new and exciting things, we want to share these experiences with others.

This means that when people shop, they are also looking for opportunities to tell their friends about a great store or better yet, to take pictures for social media

The feeling of a forest – Arc’teryx

When Arc’teryx asked us to help them make some noise for their new collection in China, we designed a unique experience for Arc’teryx that catered to the sense of the social through its retail pop-up for local customers.

The retail pop-up imitated the serenity of a peaceful forest, enhanced through an experience that stimulated five of the six senses. Upon entering the space, patrons were transported to a forest outside the city, wandering through mist, shadows, and leaves cast by the sun. 

Outside the Arc’teryx pop-up in Grand Gateway Mall, Shanghai.

Picture of Arc’teryx jacket inside Arc’teryx’s pop-up art installation in Shanghai.

The “trees” were created using Arc’teryx products encased in glass displays which were motion-activated and revealed pieces of the collection when visitors passed by, seamlessly integrating consumer goods into the experience.

After shoppers walked through the forest, they emerged into the actual store, where a store associate introduced the product line and was ready to help customers purchase.

By maximizing its use of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, sound, and social), we ensured that Arc’teryx customers would also want to use their sense of the social by sharing photos of the installation online.

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Co-create Memories to Create Brand Loyalty

The good news is a retail space doesn’t have to do all the work to create a memorable experience. Retailers can ask their consumers to take part as well, by providing them with opportunities to engage with the brand and create memories together.

Gameifying Memories to create a personal experience – Budweiser

Budweiser saw an opportunity to co-create memories with its target market by inviting consumers to play a fully branded video game in nightclubs across China.

Usually, if you are playing a video game you aren’t engaged in what’s going on around you. But not this one! Players were able to play the game, while still being present in the club because it reacted to the music being played by the DJ.

Yes, the visuals in the game “moved” to the music. Not only that, the game was fully branded Budweiser, with the “car” shaped like the company’s logo. Plus, you could only play at this event, creating a completely unique event. How memorable is that?! 

Players try out the Budweiser game at Found 158, Shanghai.

Close-up of the Budweiser-branded game at Found 158, Shanghai.

In retail stores, no tech is the best tech

Retailers have been doing cool and innovative things with technology for years, to huge success. But ultimately, the best tech is the tech that brings people together and creates “life” in a way that people feel like the tech isn’t there at all. Technology can boost incredible moments, but the magic comes when people don’t even realize it’s there. 

Creating a seamless sales experience – The Yuesai Retail Store

When YUESAI asked The Orangeblowfish to help them reinvigorate their store in Shanghai, we knew tech would be key, but we also knew our most important priority was the consumer experience.

We designed a space where technology was used to engage the customer and support them as they explored the products. The technology was part of the overall experience and completely unnoticeable.

We integrated a sensor touchpad on YUESAI’s counter spaces whereby with the placement of a product, the sensor would detect and reveal its details, customer reviews, and other information. 

The refurbished YUESAI retail counter in Shanghai by The Orangeblowfish.

Close-up of the interactive counters at YUESAI’s newly modernized retail space.

Ultimately, consumers need to be the focus of the experience. The technology should be seamlessly incorporated into the experience, and seen as a means to an end – not the focal point.

The future of the retail industry means creating an exceptional customer experience.

Each of these strategies requires retailers to push their creativity to the limit, and find unique, incredible ways to create magic for consumers in-store.

The future of retail means thinking beyond the walls of a space, and about how a brand can come to life. Competition for consumer attention is fierce. Design a retail space that inspires, delights, and reminds people what’s special about humanity, and you create something that will transcend the physical, and bring customers out of the digital world and into your retail space.

Shopping will never be the same again – but who would want it to be?

At The Orangeblowfish, we have a solid record of building strong connections with audiences. We specialize in innovating retail design solutions and brand experiences using storytelling, art, space, and technology.

Incredible brands we’ve worked with include LinkedIn, Mindshare, Lindt & Sprungli, Costa Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lululemon, and more. Want your space to stand out? Book a consultation with us now by emailing [email protected].

These strategies were first shared by our Founder and Executive Creative Director Siu Tang during his presentation at the U Design Week conference in August 2022. Learn more about the conference/watch the video here.


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