Never underestimate the power of touch…

Is online shopping killing retail shops? For me personally, this is the same question as – is the Internet killing print media? No, it’s not and it never will.

Some may disagree, but I believe that we should never underestimate the power of touch. No matter how tech-savvy we get in the future, as human beings we will always be hungry for tactile experiences that go beyond digital world.

Dr. Martens new store in London; Juice pop-up shop in LA; Wheelys 247, and Nike Soho.

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“Treat media as the store and the store as media.”

The above quote by Doug Stephens, an author of the popular book “The Retail Revival”, may be a few years old, but it has never been more accurate than today, perfectly reflecting what has been happening in the world of retail design.

Recent store openings have showed us that the physical world doesn’t necessarily exclude but rather embraces the digital one.

Take a look at the newest Apple Store in the Dubai Mall, which Stefan Behling, senior executive partner at Foster + Partners, describes as a “true people’s place”.

Apple Store Dubai Mall. Photo by Fritz John Asuro/ITP Images

Apple Store Dubai Mall. Photo by Fritz John Asuro/ITP Images

In the past, Amazon was accused of “killing the publishing industry”, yet we’ve just witnessed the opening of its seventh brick-and-mortar store in the US – the Amazon Books store in Manhattan, NYC.

Jennifer Cast, the vice president of Amazon Books, calls it “a physical extension of Amazon.com”.

Looking at its design, it is evident that the company applied its 20-years of online bookselling experience to build a space that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping. Even the way books are displayed, facing-out, is influenced by customer’s behaviours in a digital world.

Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Embracing today’s customer, who has the power to review, to like or dislike, to follow or to poke… under each book is an actual review card with the Amazon.com customer rating and review. With the exception of a few new releases, most books that are sold in the store have been rated four stars or above.

Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Deloitte’s latest research on Retail Trends states that the retail store is now “being re-imagined for the digital consumer”. The report suggests that a new balance needs to be struck between “transaction and fulfilment”, explaining that in the future the store experience will increasingly focus on “one of two things: inspiration or convenience”.

Merging the two within an actual physical spaces is something that designers must ponder if they wish to stay relevant.

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