PARIS † While traditional retailers struggle to hold consumer attention in an increasingly digital world, the role of stores is shifting from products to experiences – and the more immersive, the better.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has accelerated the shift to online shopping, and with the looming metavers, retailers are enticing visitors with formats that use sight, sound and smell to transport them into dimensions previously associated with games or movies.
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“Stores no longer compete only with cafes and restaurants in terms of experiences, but now compete with a Fortnite, or Roblox, or Netflix or TikTok,” said Bas Van De Poel, co-founder and director of innovation at think tank and design studio. Modem.
“There is a whole new generation of young people, customers who have extremely high expectations and a really established aesthetic sensibility and taste as a result of spending more time online, in these really immersive environments,” he added.
Modem collaborated with Nike on the FitAdv Weather Dome, which was unveiled earlier this year at the flagship sports giant Maison de l’Innovation on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. It used state-of-the-art technology, including a 23-foot wide, high-resolution LED screen, wind turbines and an HDR lighting system to create a larger-than-life try-on experience for its FitAdv clothing line.
“The actual experience combines physical elements like wind and light with a digitally rendered environment that you walk into, filmed by a very sophisticated robotic arm with a pretty expensive camera, so you get, like, a Hollywood production when you walk into a store,” Van the Pool explained.
After registration is complete, visitors scan a QR code to receive a personalized video montage, ready to be shared on social media.
Modem from Amsterdam, launched in March 2021, is dedicated to studying the impact of digitization on our lives, be it research papers with institutions like MIT, or work with clients like Snap Inc. and Ikea, where Van De Poel previously worked. as creative director of Space10, the experimental innovation lab of the Swedish furniture company.
He is convinced that the productivity of stores in the future will not be measured by the amount of goods moved, but by the experiences they provide.
“The role and proposition of the store is evolving in that direction as digital becomes more important,” he said. “In fact, stores are changing more in these brand worlds, where you can create a full expression of a brand’s DNA that may not be possible in an online environment, at least today.”
Evolution hasn’t been lost on department stores, which compete to provide visitors with transformative experiences.
La Samaritainela LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton – a Parisian institution that reopened last year after 16 years of renovation of its Art Nouveau building, has teamed up with French audio technology company Devialet and aerospace company ArianeGroup for what he called a ‘sound journey through space’” .
Ivan Mathie/Courtesy of La Samaritaine
Visitors entered a soundproofed white cube where eight Phantom I Devialet speakers transmitted the sound of an Ariane 5 launch from Arianespace’s Guiana Space Center.
“It’s the loudest sound produced by humans on Earth,” said Nathalie Chopra, international marketing and communications manager at Devialet, who personally witnessed the recording. “It’s amazing, and it’s not just the intensity of the sound, but the complexity of the frequencies, the way the sound is constructed.”
She reported growing demand from retailers and luxury brands for custom soundscapes, such as the “phantom orchestra” she designed for the Paris Opera. The discovery room in the historic Palais Garnier building uses 16 specially designed Phantom speakers to deliver the sound of various instruments.
“Experience is our essence,” Chopra said. “At Devialet we want to get sound back in the right place, because we believe that people are bombarded with images. Hearing is a sense that has been neglected. We want to surprise people and show that when you listen carefully, sound can tell many stories and evoke unique emotions.
Last year, Devialet joined the French luxury association Comité Colbert, and one of his projects is capturing the sounds of a goldsmith’s workshop.
“We are the first technology brand to join Comité Colbert, so we were really excited and it put us in touch with some great brands that really understand what we do,” she said. “I think there’s a very high-end clientele that’s a bit saturated with traditional services and gifts, so people often come to us to create experiences that haven’t been done before.
With its recent Superself wellness event, Selfridges in London touted “a new kind of retail therapy” with experiences such as confidence coaching, breathwork, sex therapy and sensory modules promising “a safe journey”.
Thanks to Jason Alden
Developed by Dutch health technology company Sensiks, the pods contain voice-activated systems that stimulate the senses through temperature, airflow, sound, light and smell, combined with virtual reality, to create a hyper-realistic simulated reality designed to enhance the mood. improve and reduce stress.
Fred Galstaun, founder and CEO of Sensiks, originally developed the technology for medical use. After launching the pods at the SXSW festival in 2017, he tested them with mentally handicapped and elderly people in a nursing home in the Netherlands, with further clinical trials aimed at treating trauma, anxiety and addictions.
Although the experience was available in the KLM business lounge at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, it was his first time working with a retailer. “We’ve been getting more and more questions about stores lately as everything is reopening. Setting up wellness centers is getting more and more popular,” he noted.
Although Galstaun was somewhat surprised that Selfridges would be interested in the mental health benefits of psychedelic experiences, he made sure that the 10-minute sequence, which features fractal patterns and scents such as frankincense and peppermint, was accessible to a general audience.
“I think Selfridges is doing a great job. They really create a lifestyle, a place to hang out, and that was an eye opener for me,” he said. “It was the best shopping experience ever for me, because normally I want to miss all the shops. I never go shopping. But it’s a really positive atmosphere and a lot is happening.
Today, Sensiks continues in the field of personal care and entertainment. In addition to building software development toolkits for major game engines like Unity and Unreal, he is gearing up to launch homepods.
“We have the software and content platform for games and content, virtual reality or maybe just music, to program in a multi-sensory experience to increase immersion in digital worlds,” he says.
“Experience also happens in your brain, and if you look at all this metaverse that’s going on, I think it’s going to be a really important part of our lives because if you use your brain’s ability to also experience experiences from your home for example, or wherever, many things become possible in a very sustainable way, and I think that’s exactly what the world needs right now,” Galstaun added.
This increases the pressure on retailers to provide compelling reasons to venture into the real world.
“We live in an unprecedented time when the pandemic has accelerated many things and you need a resilient strategy more than ever to reach your audience. And the way you are going to reach your audience will become more and more fragmented and you will need multiple strategies to achieve your goals,” said Van De Poel.
He believes that while the development of the Metaverse is still in its infancy, retailers cannot afford to ignore its potential impact. “Where computing gets spatial, I think that’s going to be a big shift and you already have to study and invest in that space. But I think it’s pretty early to say what it will look like and what it will mean for retail,” he said.
“The experience is still limited and that also raises questions about the reason to go to a store in the first place, because you can also activate that AR experience elsewhere. So it’s really about trying to define the role of the store in the digital age and how to differentiate it from a competing digital game or experience,” concludes Van De Poel.
Accenture notices consumer desire for ‘virtual life’ gaining momentum
Metaverse study offers hope for shopping centers
Facebook’s Meta opens its first store
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