Brand Beyond Retail – The Future of Retail

August 18, 2022
August 18, 2022 TOBF

Retail has changed since covid-19 hit in 2020. We’re seeing an upward trend of consumers shopping online compared to visiting a physical store, and it’s becoming more challenging to get consumers into physical stores. Given how much the consumers’ shopping behaviours have changed, it’s a no-brainer that brands spend huge amounts of money designing unique and memorable retail experiences. The shopping experience is as important to humanity as what we buy. Consumers now expect more than products on the shelf, and immersive experiences are essential, rather than an option.

Now that people are buying more online, what do brands need to do to up their game in offline shopping?

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

Your Space is Your Brand

For years, brands have been elevating their retail spaces from simple 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 consumers in the sights and sounds of Italy – and the world of Gucci.

Gucci Cafe

Gucci Café and Store in Milan. Photo courtesy of

Given the growing trend of consumers buying online, a brand’s retail space must be more than where it sells its products. Retail spaces need to communicate the brand story so that consumers will react in a positive way. This way, brands can stand out among competition and be one step closer to being top of mind. Which brand doesn’t want this? By connecting consumers to your retail space on an emotional level is in essence is connecting them to your brand. And there are so many ways to be creative beyond physical aesthetics. Brands are embracing new and exciting uses of technology to engage consumers in-store, from the point-of-purchase hardware to interactive games or videos.

The Future of Retail Is not Found In-Store – It’s in the Mind of Consumers

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

Top Three Strategies Redefining the Future of Retail

1. Engage Six Senses

That’s right – we said six senses. The future of retail certainly means engaging consumers’ 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 telling our friends about a great store or taking pictures for social media. 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 audiences. 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 of the city, wandering through mist, shadows and leaves casted by the sun. By maximizing its use of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, sound and social), we ensured that Arc’teryx consumers would also want to use their sense of the social by sharing photos of the installation online.

Future Retail

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

Future Retail

Inside the Arc’teryx pop-up art installation and store

2. Cocreate to Engage

The good news is your retail space doesn’t have to do all the work to create a memorable experience. You can ask your consumers to take part as well, by providing them with opportunities to engage with your brand and create a memory with you. Budweiser saw an opportunity to gamify memories by inviting consumers to play a fully branded video game in night clubs across China. Players were able to play the game, while still being present in the club because the game was sound reactive. Yes, it “moved” to the music. How memorable was that?!

Future Retail

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

Future Retail

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

3. No Tech is The Best Tech

Brands 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. 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 touch pad 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.

Future Retail

The refurbished YUESAI retail counter in Shanghai by The Orangeblowfish.

Future Retail

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.

In summary, think beyond the walls of a space.

Each of these strategies requires brands 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. 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 specialise 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. Follow us on InstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

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. 

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