Shopping the future

Design innovation in the retail market

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People probably don’t really think about design when they are buying a product, but the truth is, a part of what they’re acquiring, is in fact, design. And that’s a very important thing to consider if a company wants to improve sales and get more visibility.

The whole experience of purchasing a product is more or less valued depending on the experience; packaging, customer service, environment and other elements. The evolution of technology is permitting all companies to get more creative than ever before, and the retail sector is no different.

Entertainment has never been so present in our lives, and there are studies about the fusion between it and retail. It’s called Retailtainment; the act of providing unique experiences to customers, elevating the retail market to another level.

The growing interactivity of design is probably the closest to this concept. Shops are not only a place where you buy things, but also an interactive space, and an amazing experimental opportunity for designers; not only in physical shops, but e-commerce as well.

One touch payments make a huge difference in environments when time is of the essence

Contactless payments

 You probably use it already or see the signs for ApplePay and AndroidPay in stores. Using a card or even a smartphone, we can now make payments with one touch, freeing us from the tyranny of the password.

This small detail makes an enormous difference to systems where every second counts; in London for example you can pay for public transport with your smartphone, or a touch of a credit or debit card.

Delivery Drones (Amazon) 

Called ‘PrimeAir’, Amazon is testing drones to deliver packages. The first full autonomous flight was made in December, 2016, in the UK. Amazon is testing this new technology in specific areas, where there is less air traffic, but in the future, we might see drones flying over cities, delivering goods to people.

Interactive stores

The concept of interactivity applied to the retail market is not new, but so far great examples still rare. One worth mentioning is the new interactive ‘Audi City’, located in London.

Audi City is a high-tech space where potential buyers enjoy a unique experience. Entering the shop, you see massive screens covering almost every wall, where you select the vehicle you desire using multi-touch table top screens.

The product is then displayed as a 3D model on the wall at scale 1:1 with your specific configuration. On top, an avatar appears and explains all you need to know about your dream car, from engine details to the functionality of the LED lights.

It’s a huge step; an attractive showroom where Audi can display their products in a relatively small space, have all colour options available, as well as any other configurations.

As a designer, I think this a very intelligent move, and I believe this is the future for many brands.

An Amazon Go store, where items are prepaid for on a phone app. Alamy stock photo

Self-checkout stores (or no checkout)

As we know, a self-checkout store is a physical shop where you go, grab the items you want and you pay for them yourself. But Amazon (again) has taken the concept a step further. To use AmazonGo, the only thing you need is to have the app installed in your smartphone. You can visit the store, pick up the items you would like and just leave. It sounds a bit weird, but it’s probably the future of physical shopping, especially with big brands.

From my perspective as a designer, this kind of project provides a lot of room for design experiments, not only physically, but also through mobile apps. On the down side, this model doesn’t need humans, we could see less jobs in this sector.

 It’s hard to keep track of the best ideas that are appearing, but I believe the future of the retail market started a while ago. Big brands are focusing not only on their products, but also delivering a great experience to their clients. With the rapid evolution of design and technology, there is no turning back, and probably, no end.

Main Image: In the future, we might see drones flying over cities, delivering goods. Image by Ben Koorengevel @Unsplash

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