Retailers Converge to Examine Digital and Physical Store Trends

In May, retail TouchPoints hosted the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo in Chicago. They combined three separate conferences – IRCE, design: retail Conference & Expo, and the Retail Innovation Summit – into one cohesive event. The theme of this event ‘Where Digital and Physical Retail Connect’ offered numerous perspectives and thoughts from across the retail industry. As an architect, the conference illuminated upcoming trends and strategic conversations that relate to the built environment. Three themes emerged during the sessions:

Customer Experience

This was the core theme throughout the conference. Whether attending a session on store design or technology, all roads eventually led to the customer’s experience. One session discussed the idea of ‘Pixel by Frame’. In the past, retailers have provided one or two Instagramable moments within their space. The concept of ‘Pixel by Frame’ turns the entire space into a social media moment. If the customer is compelled by the space, they will keep discovering moments and continue to share their experience.

As a result, retailers should think of their store as a canvas. The point of sale, fitting rooms, and sales area all provide an opportunity to showcase the product and provide social-media ready micro-moments to their shoppers. One example cited at the show was Chanel’s concept called Atelier Beauté Chanel in Austin where clients can learn and test products in their scent discovery lab before purchasing.


To stay competitive, retailers must leverage community-centric tactics to increase the consumers’ desire to visit their brick-and-mortar space. We’ve experienced this with numerous retail clients; stores such as Athleta or Lalo offer yoga or fitness classes to their patrons to add value to the shopping experience. These classes also allow the retailer to be more than their product and offer a service that is valuable to the surrounding community.

Retailers should also consider meeting their customers within the community. Ideas go beyond the traditional pop-up experiences; retailers can host art installments centered around popular products. Instead of having the physical product on site, shoppers leverage QR codes to purchase the items. One recent example of this strategy: Recently Coach unveiled a Cyril Lancelin sculpture in Soho Square inspired by Coach’s Pillow Tabby bag.


Retailers are doing business inside a BYOD (bring your own device) world. Retailers who create consistent brand moments that bridge all of these mediums will be able to consistently present their brand. In turn, they can also create moments where being in the physical environment is preferred. Those environments should then leverage technology, whether social media or virtual reality, to allow for deeper exploration of the brand. Amazon Style recently opened showcasing many of the technology pieces – QR codes on hangers so clothing arrives directly in a fitting room for you. This same QR code also links past shopping habits, so the store associates can pull additional items for the fitting room allowing for further discovery of their product. 

Customer experience, community centric and the evolution of the omnichannel remain hot topics in the industry. As the future of retail is evolving, retailers will need to understand how these three factors are integrated into and communicated through their brands. There remains a unique opportunity to take advantage of the changing climate to implement new strategies or leverage additional resources which go beyond just selling the product.

About the author:

Jennifer Lehmkuhl Corkrean, AIA, LEED Green Assoc., is an Associate and Program Manager in our Kansas City office. Jennifer’s experience covers projects in the retail, commercial, grocery and mixed-use markets. She currently leads one of our retail client account teams, and is actively involved in all project phases, including design development and review, entitlement, construction documentation and administration, and coordination between engineering consultants and the client. Email her.