Designers predict shop of the future: hi-tech, no logo

A trip to the shops next year could see retailers locating passing consumers with GPS, before luring them into their debranded hi-tech stores using limited-period discount offers texted to the shopper’s phone.

This is the vision of Britain’s high street envisaged in retail designers’ predictions for 2010. Consultancy Judge Gill has authored a trends report which picks out five key directions for next year: debranding; the growth of experiential design; dual branding (such as the collaboration between Nike and Apple); gang retail, in which consumers are encouraged to become ‘part of the tribe’; and a proliferation of digital touchpoints in retail environments.

Steve James-Royle, creative director of retail specialist The Yard Creative, says, ‘Use of digital elements and social media will be massive – I don’t think stores have really embraced digital in an integrated way so far.’ James-Royle predicts that key areas will be permission marketing – where the consumer gives permission for the retailer to contact them, which could lead to the text-message discount offer outlined above – and text ordering, which could, for example, see a consumer texting a coffee shop from a station to order a cappuccino, which would be ready for them as they went past.

Judge Gill co-founder David Judge adds that the growth of social networking has made consumers more savvy, as responses or criticisms of stores can now spill out across the Twittersphere much faster. ‘It’s like if I go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, and then tell all my friends about it – but this will be magnified,’ he says.

Along with this growth in innovation will come a decrease in prominent branding, predicts Judge Gill. Its report predicts that stores must become ‘a “brand home” – delivering against their values and beliefs for their customers and location, primarily as an experience’. Judge says, ‘I always use an analogy of taking a walk in a forest – you have to be able to see and feel a place without having a logo in your face.’

He cites clothing brands Abercrombie & Fitch and All Saints as proponents of this, while the Ferrari store on London’s Oxford Street (which he describes as ‘like walking into a massive logo’) is its antithesis. Judge’s prediction ties in with Starbucks’ recent, well-publicised attempt to debrand: last month the chain opened a store in central London which toned down references to the brand.

James-Royle predicts more localised design from bigger chains. He says, ‘I think we will see a number of bigger brands trying to create multiple platforms to help high streets feel different from each other. You can’t create a design in Seattle and expect it to work in Southampton.’

Meanwhile, a growth in dual-branded areas will be driven by the practical consideration of sharing risks and cost, and also by brands becoming ‘less precious’ about maintaining their singularity, and realising the benefits to be had from teaming up, says Judge.

The Yard Creative is currently working on a retail concept for a future bookstore, which draws on a number of the trends featured in Judge Gill’s report. The New Chapter concept features social media touchpoints where customers can get reviews and recommendations, along with radio-frequency identification tags to help them find books, and quick-response barcodes to help unlock information in a small space.

James-Royle says, ‘It’s about breaking down barriers. A lot of bookshops at the moment are like old-fashioned libraries – you feel like you can’t really talk. And you can’t just stick a coffee shop in there and expect it to have an effect.’

Judge Gill’s five retail design trend predictions for 2010

  • Stores must become ‘brand homes’, not walk-in advertisements
  • Experiential design will become a necessity
  • There will be an explosion in dual-branded stores
  • Retailers will aim to develop ongoing relationships with customers
  • There will be a growth in digital elements

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