By Ken Nisch, JGA
EuroShop 2014, coined “the world’s largest retail trade fair,” is a chance to see the industry’s “What’s Next” and to discover the areas that global retail thought leaders have placed as priorities in the creation of state-of-the-art experiences. Held in Dusseldorf, Germany, in February, more than 109,000 visitors from 110 nations attended the event to get an extensive overview of the latest industry developments. With the constant drum of “Internet and Ecommerce” in today’s world, EuroShop reinforced how the shift from brick-and-mortar to online is actually not a threat, but rather a partner for becoming consumer-centric. We thought the best way to approach “What’s Next” is to share a recap of what the more than 2,000 exhibitors revealed.
Not surprising, technology influenced the aesthetics of EuroShop and its futuristic sensibility. Mannequins, who through the use of state-of-the-art robotics, have the ability to be “refaced.” Their identities can be changed through a series of faceplate options that are removed and replaced through a ballet of robotic arms is but one example that is not only technical in nature, but as well, indicative of the influence of technology in experience.
The use of interactive screens for in-store ordering, customization, and to facilitate the brick-and-mortar space as a destination, becomes an environment that is not only about logistics supply, but as well, a portal to expanded offerings and personalized goods.
Clear LCD screens that create a series of layers similar to what one would see within the scenes at the opera provide a 3-D effect. And elements such as 3-D projections, the use of avatars, and various projection devices are all examples of technology at the forefront.
Because of the enhancement of photographic technology, 3-D printing and manufacturing techniques, everyday pragmatic materials such as glass, porcelain, tile, concrete and acrylics now take on a lifelike sensibility, but with operationally-friendly results. One of the best examples is the explosion of porcelain surfacing materials that appear to have realistic features wood, stone, and even precious materials such as lapis or onyx; doing so in a faux-to-real sensibility.
Combining nature and science brings the opposite, but similar marriage between technology and nature. One example, a wood flooring manufacturer whose computer-aided assessment of each log’s “personality” (i.e. not only the best yield of material, but creating one-of-a-kind planks from each individual log) marries those planks in a very organic and elegant set of curves and voids with the next log. This allows each assembly and installation to be unique, consistent, and ready for field installation, guaranteeing uniqueness as well as execution. This particular material had options such as allowing LED lighting to be recessed into the material and exposed through the highly consistent and undulating joints between the “bespoke” flooring material, as an additional marriage between nature and science.
3. Getting Social
Retail environments can take a cue from the exhibits, where the inclusion of social spaces throughout the show within booths and displays was new to the 2014 Expo. These spaces were often created through a series of ceiling drop elements, i.e. large floating fabric and/or lattice drums or squares, and where the creation of stair-step-stages became gathering points or places where informal shows and presentations were held. And through the definition of either elevation or form, these spots became “spaces within spaces.” Also worthy of consideration is how this digital world can create a “third place” to serve as a key marketing tool, not just as an amenity or a complement to a retail space.
4. Contrasting High-Tech and High-Touch
Given the role that technology and lighting plays within today’s store environment, the customer still yearns for warmth, a welcoming environment and the human factor. The integration and seamless integration of these two factors was highlighted at the show. A sense of being in a “rustic Italian market in Tuscany, but with color corrected, state-of-the-art lighting integrated into the found antique furniture” was a theme that was visible time and again. Bringing in nature with green walls, the use of technology in translating and layering evocative human; natural and spiritual images was a common theme.
5. Power Lighting
Given the impact of EuroShop’s lighting exhibits, lighting became the most powerful trend. If the show was any indication, the ceiling of the future will be the last and the least favorable option for the placement of lighting, with illumination seen as an integrated element of all design objects of furniture and fixtures.
Atmosphere allows of lighting to be evocative — mimicking a sunrise and a sunset, a starry night, a thunderstorm, being placed under the ocean or in the clouds — while doing this all through the nuance, without literally capturing the image of any of these experiences, was something that had the ability to turn the sensibility of atmosphere in a moment.
The positioning of lighting made news, not as a mindless, ambient “spill of lumens,” but rather as a strategically focused and placed producer of highlight and focus. Literally integrating lighting into bookshelves, fixtures, under, below, or within fixturing — with devices that were no thicker than a small wire delivered the punch of lumens within a jewelry case, to materials and finishes that in their own right were luminescent, providing contrast to objects displayed on or in front of the units.
Lighting’s role to be empathetic and intuitive was exhibited throughout the Expo. Lighting features that responded to the movement of passersby, the sound in the space, and whether the customer was interested in being viewed in a daylight environment, evening light, candle light; something that could be driven off of things such as NFC (Near Field Communication). This allows the garment to communicate with the lighting as to what would be the best illumination for the customer to view the garment (or eat the meal, or look at the product being displaced), without the store personnel actually being responsible for resetting this light effect, be it in terms of lumens, intensity or focus.
Just imagine the advances that will take place in the coming three years before EuroShop 2017. Stay tuned!
Kenneth Nisch is chairman of JGA, a retail design and brand strategy firm in Southfield, Mich. Nisch applies his knowledge and entrepreneurial insight to create concept and prototype development and brand image positioning. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.