Woody Allen told us, “We are all interested in the future, because that’s where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.” But … Can we predict the future of retail? And I refer to the ‘future’ that revolves around three different points of view, putting the consumer, the brand and the brand space, often called retail, at the center.
The truth is that I am not clairvoyant. Based on our experience, looking back, we can speculate, intuit, imagine … but little else. Are we predestined? Unlike how Steven Spielberg’s film ‘Minority Report’ (2002), an adaptation with a different ending to Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report” (1956), suggests, the future cannot be foreseen because it is not written.
Futurology is not a science. We can forecast, but forecasting and predicting is not predicting. Only through scientific methods, we can make reasonable predictions. Formulating scientifically based theories allows us to make predictions, so that we can reason what can and cannot happen. Today, the weather forecast is much more reliable than a few years ago, but it is not exact. As we get closer to a few days from the forecast date, we can achieve approximately up to 85% accuracy.
Let’s stop talking about predictions in absolute terms and talk about prospecting. The prospective method is a set of techniques used with the aim of studying different possible future scenarios and their probability, to make rational, economic or political decisions. Let’s talk about observing, investigating, analyzing…
The reality is that even without the time machine, there are many possible futures. We can know these thanks to the prospective method and therefore define and make the future we want come true. Because the probable is not necessarily what ends up happening. Furthermore, we can move forward and ensure that something undesirable does not happen, it is only a matter of collective will. Our present actions have the capacity to lead us to the desired future. Because, although the future is not written, it is in our hands.
Steven Spielberg hits ‘Ready Player One’. And I say hitting and not predicting, because the future is not predicted, it is designed. Designers do not make prophecies, but through research and trend analysis, we now anticipate and define what the consumer will want tomorrow. Spielberg creates an attractive product for the ‘millennial’ public (born between 1980 and 2000), but which, in turn, thanks to a nostalgic feeling about pop culture from the 1980s, interests those of us who are from Generation X (born between 1961 and 1979).
The gym of the future
Something similar is happening to gyms. The gymnasiums of the future are dynamiting mental barriers and entering fully into the retail, since they are object of conceptualization prior to their design and implementation.
The consumer has changed. New business models revolve around him. Millennials are more demanding users who only pay for what they use. Concepts such as leisure, work, health, communication … hybridize. The individualism of our time, the increasingly necessary personalization of products and services mean, instead, that the person needs to feel of a powerful ‘digital tribe’. You seek to belong to a group that allows you to establish more meaningful relationships, both in the online and offline world. Here is another important key to the future that is already present: omnichannel. There is no longer a difference between the two worlds. For the consumer they are the same. And therefore, expect a powerful value proposition, both outside and inside the gym, through all channels.
The rejection of monotony and the search for unique and authentic experiences, leads to the need for expert coaches focused on few but specific activities. The typical phrase of the ‘millennial’: “I get bored”, is not possible in this new model. It is no longer about exercising, but living a memorable experience. Small capsules with a comprehensive objective, working body, mind and emotions should be offered. Offers must be flexible, clear and easy to understand. Cling Cycling ’, HIIT, functional training,‘ fitboxing ’, personal‘ training ’, zumba, meditation or yoga are activities that go hand in hand with this new business model.
And by discounting, the traditional concept of payment of membership fees is left aside. The famous plan flat rates ’have given way to the‘ pay as you work out ’concept. The British and American markets are perhaps the most mature. For example, this concept of ‘gym boutique’ with ‘studio’ already concentrates 40% of the entire ‘fitness’ offer in cities like NY, leaving aside the traditional and outdated large multipurpose gyms.
Everything we do outside the gym is important. Because daily training, even when concentrated in a short period of time, depends on what is done during the day, the hours of sleep, what we eat, the level of glucose or cholesterol … For this, our ‘chief digital trainer’ must to be able to access all this ‘Big Data’ through ‘wearables’ or sensors that we will surely end up wearing under our skin.
The gyms of the future will be more than a social club. Working, having fun, competing … as a team, entails the creation of a community and the need for smaller, smaller spaces. Spaces in which it is possible to meet and relate.
The new gyms, the so-called ‘boutique’, are exclusive. They are focused on a specific market niche. They are based on reduced group workouts, of a maximum of 15 people of about 45 minutes, in a fresh, lively atmosphere, with music and lights, which have a social space and a bar with healthy products, all in keeping with the ‘lifestyle’ of the new consumer. Apart from personalized treatment and the consumer’s quest to gain status, the ‘look & feel’ of the premises, the atmosphere of the interior space defined in the pre-design strategy, is very important.
In addition, technology has come to the gym to stay. Above all, because it allows the line between fantasy and reality to blur. Our ‘avatar’ is already almost as real as ourselves. Immersive reality glasses, pavements and weight or cardio machines that store energy generated by users, virtual money earned thanks to physical exercise, omnidirectional treadmills to move 360º at any speed … or haptic gloves and suits like those of ‘Ready Player One’, are not products of the future, but a reality of the present.
But technology is not an added value, but necessary because that is what the user claims. It appears as one more ‘constructive material’, when defining the space. It must be fully integrated into the space, not as something superimposed on it, but as part of it. It is not about hanging screens, speakers … or that they stand out, but rather that they are part of the user experience. And this is produced both with the tangible, with the textures, colors, smells … and with everything that allows a digital experience. The designer designs from the beginning of the value chain in both worlds, the real and the digital, having to get the border between them to disappear.
Is this the end of the classic gym? Why don’t we understand the boutique boutique gym ’as a small capsule integrated inside a macrospace? Perhaps innovation is not in its extinction, but in its transformation.
What future awaits us? It will be the one that we all decide to be. The future is here and now.
Miquel Àngel Julià
Architect and Director of Strategy and Design at GrupIdea
Vice President of Retail Design Institute Spain.