Design in 2021 – what will retail design look like?

As part of our series looking at design in 2021, Landor & Fitch executive creative director Alasdair Lennox looks at what will happen in retail design in the next 12 months.

What do you think 2021 will hold for retail design?

Alasdair Lenox, executive creative director, Landor & Fitch

At Fitch, now Landor & Fitch, we have been designing retail through a Physical, Human and Digital lens (or PHD as we call it) for many years. This proprietary design philosophy has allowed us to think holistically about every point a brand meets their customer, so to create a seamless experience.

For 2021 and beyond, I believe that we are starting to see the next chapter of PHD unfold, as brands and retailers look to innovate and grow again.

Physical: Previously we were designing hyper tactile and sensorial experiences, today these interactions need to be more hand’s off, however still highly immersive. With this absence of physical touch, the opportunity is for technology to be the invisible string that brings retail back to life. Hands-off gesture interactions and digital voice commands will start to become our ‘remote control’ of how we interact with the simple things like opening entrance doors, using ATM screens and payment.

Human: The optimum position for staff and customers to interact is shoulder-to-shoulder. Looking forward, staff will need to be even more helpful and friendly, however at a safe distance. Stores will evolve from today’s screens and barriers, by creating new collection points and formats.

Some formats may be completely unmanned, this past year our Singaporean client Singtel launched UNBOXED, a 5G powered, 24 hour unmanned pop-up shop. Innovative service design is central to the concept because while it is “unmanned” it is a highly human experience. Facial recognition ensures that the experience is personalised, secure, and human service staff are available 24/7 via video kiosks or roaming bots.

Digital: For the last decade retailers have had to burden the high cost of providing all the digital hardware instore i.e. large screens, tablets and ‘wow’ experiences. Having a ‘mobile first’ retail strategy leverages the customer’s own smart phone instore instead. For most of us, our mobile phones power our daily lives and is now the only technology we want to interact with instore or at a restaurant. For Walmart in the US we created a new omnichannel format called Swipe Up  Walmart launched Swipe-Up

As we move into a year that holds a lot of hope, retailers can leverage this PHD approach to meet customers both virtually and physically. There is great opportunity for brands to innovate the next chapter of retail design.

What is your favourite retail design project from 2020 and why?

I really liked the pop-up coffee shop in Selfridges that started 2020 with so much positivity and playfulness.

It was fronted by a full height yellow slide, where customers could literally slide into the new decade…

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