It is widely agreed that we are living in an era of ‘great acceleration’. When this era officially began is up for debate, but this fun fact adds some perspective: Tyrannosaurus Rex lived closer in time to an iPhone than it did to a Stegosaurus.
While this may say something about how long dinosaurs ruled the earth (100m years separates the aforementioned dinos), it also puts into perspective just how much the human era has changed. 11,000 years on from the last ice age and we’ve built civilisations, formed written languages, learned to work metals (latterly into mobile devices) and transformed modern society through three industrial revolutions.
The retail ice age
The idea of a ‘retail ice age’ has been swirling around for a couple of years now, and for good reason. Great acceleration has wiped out the retail dinosaurs who failed to evolve.
iPhones and similar mobile devices are partly responsible. According to research carried out by Barclaycard in 2016, 10.18pm was the most common time to make a purchase. Twenty years ago, the peak spending time on cards was Saturday afternoon. It seems we now prefer to get our retail therapy within the confines of our own bricks and mortar – possibly even under a duvet.
So how do we tempt shoppers away from the comfort of their own beds?
Like for like isn’t the answer. The retail of old is destined for the deep freeze. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Other solutions are surfing the icy wave and cashing in on our changing lifestyle habits.
A strong example of this is a fading shopping centre in Milton Keynes, now home to a zombie survival experience. The frozen retail landscape is a perfect backdrop for an uncanny, post-apocalyptic world not too ‘other’ from our own.
Retail is embracing the experience
Designing the experience starts by asking “what do you want to do, see, hear, feel?”.
Answers are demanding incredible diversification in the retail market, not just to survive, but to thrive. Retail is evolving and merging with leisure. Shops are becoming showrooms and the experience now seamlessly embedded in the transaction.
In tandem, architectural solutions are becoming ever smarter to lead, entice and enhance the experiential offer. It’s not about anchor tenants anymore, it’s about showstopper moments and shoppers are demanding those expectations are met.
The post-ice age landscape will reveal the survivors. Where we shop will not be retail of old, but a circus of activity: retail blended with work, live and play. Experiences to enhance our wellbeing. Shareable moments to bring us together and spark envy in our followers.
This is the new era of retail, and it’s crunch time for those inhabiting the icy landscape: embrace it or be confined to the realm of the undead.