Technology and innovation have forever changed how we shop. In a world where you can shop anywhere, anytime, with just a few clicks, retailers are reimagining their brick and mortar stores to offer customers more than just a place to buy goods.

A recent study by Forrester and McKinsey predicted that 85% of sales in 2025 will still occur in physical stores. Why? Because, despite being able to shop at the click of a button, we still want the tangible and social experiences. This trend is forecast to continue, with 78% of millennials preferring to spend money on experiences over products.

Over the next few years, stores will become an increasingly physical portal into brands and product experiences – places where consumers can be inspired, learn, co-work, socialise, and experiment with new products.

Shop spaces are increasingly becoming Insta-friendly. Missguided’s flagship clothing store in London has become a gen-Z photo-op sanctuary, filled with gigantic stuffed animals, pink Hummers and tire doughnuts.

Brands are also transforming their spaces into non-stores, as an expression of their brand’s personality. Sports and clothing brands are leading the charge: athletic apparel retailer Lululemon encourages customers to put their yoga pants to the test in on-site yoga studios, and the TOMS flagship store in Venice Beach reinvented the shoe shop by allowing people to hang out all day with free Wifi and coffee. Closer to home, Barkers is one retailer that is enthusiastically leaning into this trend; its High Street Flagship store is no ordinary shop, offering made-to-measure suiting, an espresso bar (Burrs & Grind) with iPads to Instashop, and the Barkers Groom Room, a barber shop run from the mezzanine level of the space.

These retailers have each found that by creating a space people want to visit, visitors are more likely to form a strong connection with your brand, which in turn converts to purchase.

Technology also plays a central role in transforming the store space into something more. To inspire their shoppers, American DIY retailer Lowes introduced the ‘Holoroom How To’, an in-store training clinic that offers customers a new way of learning DIY skills. The program allows people learn how to execute specific DIY projects in virtual reality, reducing waste and mess, and giving customers the skills and confidence they need to complete their projects in real life. It’s part of a move by Lowes to become more useful and build deeper relationships with their customers, and it’s an exciting look into how VR might change the future of retail.

By Christine Abbott, Shopper Marketing Director