The Future of Retail Is in Creating Experiences

Think high-tech, creative, and fun

In an op-ed entitled “Stage Experiences Or Go Extinct,” published yesterday on Business of Fashion, retail author and pundit B. Joseph Pine II fired a warning shot for retailers tempted to rest on outmoded industry practices in the face of the exploding e-comm revolution. 

I appreciate his gravity—because it’s important that retailers, particularly small ones, start thinking about how to create memorable experiences for their clients, who are faced with an unprecedented number of options when buying everything from a toothbrushes to engagement rings.

The fact is, retailers need to fight, and fight hard, to stay relevant. 

Pine begins with a fact that’s been widely accepted by retail watchers: “Retailers the world over need to understand that we have entered the Experience Economy. Goods and services are no longer enough; what consumers want are experiences—memorable events that engage each individual in an inherently personal way.”

Because this is actually happening now (and on a global scale): “Consumers will want to buy goods at the cheapest possible price and the greatest possible convenience. Meaning, they will continue to buy more and more merchandise online. Only hypermarkets that pile it high and wide have any hope of competing on price.”


He goes on to predict that stores will become showcases, stating, “The primary reason people will come into physical places in the future is because they seek experiences, so retailers must design and build places that showcase the ‘experience’ of the merchandise they have for sale.”

I get it. We’ll eventually be doing all our buying online. But in my mind, the verdict is still out on the store-as-showcase-only thesis, which is also widely accepted. Why do I doubt it? Because in the gimme-gimme-now culture we’re living and shopping in, I think consumers standing in a physical store won’t want to wait to get their goods. Not even a few hours.

Unless a substantial price discount were in play, I can’t imagine the incentive for going into a bricks-and-mortar store, seeing someting you want to own, then buying it (even through a digital, totally frictionless point-of-sale system) only to wait from four to 24 hours for it to arrive at your house. You would simply buy the item online. 

Unless, of course, the experience of buying that product was so seductive it felt like leisure time.  

Which is where Pine’s ideas for creating cool in-store experiences come in—and are spot-on, in my opinion. 

He writes, “Not only are we shifting to an Experience Economy, but the experiences we have and desire will increasingly embrace digital technology, fusing the real and the virtual. Virtual Reality devices will be used in stores to show off merchandise that is not there physically. Augmented Reality will be used to let people interact with, and learn more about, merchandise that is there physically. And amongst many more possibilities that could be cited, 3-D printing will be used to design virtual merchandise and then make it real physically.”

For jewelers, the dawn of 3-D printers and VR is a gift—allowing retailers to create experiences that cater to consumers’ latent (or not-so-latent) belief that they are, in fact, creative visionaries. Or something close to it. 

“You can sell anything if you validate a consumer’s suspicions that they are a special snowflake,” said speaker and author Frances Jones at this year’s JCK Las Vegas. And how right she is.

A jeweler’s opportunities to tap into this psychological desire are truly endless. Consider your consumer your co-designer, and you’re thinking like a future retailer.

(Top photo courtesy of; illustration above courtesy of

JCK Magazine Editor