The retail sector is a pioneer in innovation, technological transformation and excellence in the shopping experience. The COVID-19 has simply acted as an accelerator of existing trends in space configuration and design. As a society we were prepared for change, simply the future has come ahead of schedule.

In a complex scenario like the current one, constant change is the only benchmark: changes happen faster than our ability to absorb and implement them. Therefore, our actions must focus on the short term: always act with the conviction of where we want to go.

The accelerated entry to digitalization and the success of e-commerce must be taken into account, but in the field of architecture and space design we must look beyond how and where the purchase will take place. We are not just talking about digital transformation, we are talking about a social and cultural transformation that marks the minds of the 21st century.

At this point, observation and analysis of habits is essential to anticipate customer needs. Neither the car nor the smartphone arose from asking the client, but from observing and causing the disruption.

Without neglecting the analysis of the past, let us look to the future. How should we adapt our business and what functions should it adopt to attract the consumer of the 21st century?

FROM DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION TO A 360º PURCHASE EXPERIENCE

The new generations have broken down the wall between the physical and the digital. Technology is not something to incorporate in the physical store like someone hanging a painting, nor is it about replicating what appears on social networks on screens. To advance, it is necessary to go from a digital experience to a 360º experience.

This is precisely what a phygital strategy offers: an omnichannel and unified strategy in customer purchase. With an adequate solution to retail, we seek to offer a user experience as well as maximize sales performance.

In 2009, James Cameron already made us see that we can all have an Avatar. In a versatile environment such as phygital, the user will be accompanied before, during and after the purchase.

In retail, individualized treatment is pursued, as is the case of the new flagship in New York of Nike, a client of Grup Idea for which we carried out the store project on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. The ‘House of Innovation’ in New York is an advanced laboratory of zoning experiences where you can scan product codes and migrate the purchase to the device, personalize items, request specific models and, which also consists of click and collect spaces with lockers and workshop area.

In other words, physical and digital stores should be complementary and inseparable and place the customer experience at the center.

SUSTAINABILITY AS AN INTRINSIC VALUE TO BUSINESS AND DESIGN

As a result of the health emergency, consumers have latent the will to change their buying habits and criteria, bet on quality versus quantity and demand greater transparency from companies. As the consultancy IPG Mediabrands points out in a study collected by Fashion Network, almost 40% of consumers are more committed to the environment after the pandemic.

In a time of confinement, we have been allowed to “slow down” and stop to think. At the moment when we are being asked for the misnamed “social distance”, society is getting closer than ever.

Besides talking about us as people, we must talk about ourselves as part of a much larger ecosystem called Planet Earth. Eudald Carbonell made it very clear to us. “Covid-19 is the last warning and, without critical species awareness, the next, humanity will collapse.” Are we going to be the next dinosaurs?

In retail, it is time to talk about sustainability, Cradle to Cradle or Circular Economy, but not as an added value, but as an intrinsic value to everything we design or do.

The great challenge now is to create experience through emotion, surprise and build customer loyalty. For this, it is necessary that architecture and technology hybridize. In multidisciplinary teams, the architect participates as the expert who makes ideas tangible and concretizes them in a physical space.

We are in a historical moment that, saving the distances, is approaching the Renaissance. We must humanize the Digital Revolution and make it our own. Technology should not be at the center of experience but at the service of consumers, it is really a simple tool to put the human at the center again.

Miquel Àngel Julià,

Architect and Director of Strategy and Design at Grup Idea

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