The Future of Retail Has Arrived, and it’s Bespoke

The Future of Retail Has Arrived, and it’s Bespoke

The Future of Retail Has Arrived, and it’s Bespoke

As far back as January, media outlets were covering the drastic change in shopper behaviour. At that point, holiday sales dropped off by 50% from three years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal. The decline is the obvious result of a tumultuous economy and a shift in shopper behaviour. The same thing is being noted this holiday season, as those brave enough to venture out on Black Friday spent about a billion dollars less than last year. Perhaps not surprisingly, online sales are up, and are going strong. Is this the death of brick-and-mortar retail or is there hope for pop up shops and permanent venues?


Retail is Being Reinvented

Today’s shoppers are vastly different than previous generations. Lynn Switanowski, retail strategist and founder of Creative Business Consulting Group calls the traditional mall model “old school.” Her client list boasts names like Liz Claiborne, and she nods to the trend of incorporating attractions into mall spaces. Today, people want more than shopping. They come for an experience, which is why many malls are now adding theme parks, movie theatres, and bowling alleys into their line-up.


Technology is Turning Retail into an Experience

The mega retailer Target recently launched Target Open, a whole new concept, in which shopping is an experience in and of itself. Initially tested as a three-day pop up shop, the store was specially-designed to be interactive. Developers comingled various smart devices in one environment, enabling consumers to easily see how products from different manufacturers could work together. For instance, a sensor on a baby jumper can alert parents that their little one is waking, but that’s only the beginning. The same technology can talk to other products in the home- the coffee pot can begin brewing to help a weary mum start her day. Lights in the baby’s room can gradually turn on, or gentle music can begin playing, to soothe the babe until Mum makes her way in (or grabs that wonderful cup of coffee). Target allowed shoppers to see and touch the devices, and read more about them through interactive panels and tablets throughout the shop. They could also view data streams dancing across the walls, to further illustrate how the devices spoke with one another. The display had a secret mission, though. It tracked shoppers throughout the store, and provided the marketing team with valuable information about how they interact with different pieces, and what behaviour patterns they exhibit.


Bespoke is Doing Something Similar, but on a Much Grander Scale

People will always want to touch and hold items before they purchase them, but their expectations and desires are changing in regard to how they experience products. Data shows that stores like the Target Open are incredibly popular among consumers- they resonate with the newest generation of shoppers, creating a unique experience by integrating the latest technology. Global Chief Digital Officer at Westfield, Kevin McKenzie, said in an interview, “There’s gonna be people that do want that human-to-human interaction, I think the difference is they’ll actually be able to order it on demand whenever they want it, their way.” Westfield, a company with around 100 shopping malls across the US and UK, gave their marketing think-tank the task of recreating the shopping experience. Innovators at Westfield Labs came back with “Bespoke,” an entirely new type of experience, situated under the dome at Westfield San Francisco Centre. Designed to link the physical and digital worlds of retail, Bespoke is an amazing engagement for customers and retailers, alike. It gives start-ups an opportunity to enhance and test their products in an unduplicated way. McKenzie believes it’s ideal for traditional retailers who want to innovate, online-only retailers, developers of wearable technology, and other emerging tech.


On the Outside, Bespoke Offers Pop Up Shops

The Westfield San Francisco Centre is the ideal location for Bespoke, as the shopping mall already sees some 20 million visitors annually and has about 200 permanent retailers. Westfield Corporation Co-CEO Steven Lowy adds, “Westfield San Francisco Centre’s location next to Silicon Valley and in the heart of the downtown shopping district perfectly positions Bespoke to serve as a hub and catalyst for innovation in the retail-tech space.” Bespoke, itself, is actually a massive complex that shapeshifts and changes colours like a chameleon. People who venture near will see numerous pop up shops from the outside.  The spaces serve as testbeds for start-ups, enabling entrepreneurs to gather real data about how consumers interact with their products, and to determine how the market warms up to their concepts.


The idea is a boon for people like designer Peter Papas, who has been in the fashion industry for decades.He’s worked for huge companies, like Prada, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, and Kate Spade, but when he launched his own start-up, Blade + Blue, Papas was poured all his nights and weekends into the business, hoping it would take off. As part of a business accelerator program put on by Fashion Incubator San Francisco (FiSF), the designer opened a tech-enabled pop-up shop at Bespoke. Cameras inside the retail space operated much like website trackers do, gathering data such as the age and gender of visitors. This kind of intelligence is incredibly beneficial for start-ups like Papas, who thought his consumer base was older until his online analytics provided insight. The information gathered is retail gold, as it enables retailers to adapt their products, brands, and displays to the people who are active customers.


The pop up shops actually convert into workshops when not in use by retailers, enabling them to work on, and test, their products. Bespoke also features an exterior demonstration area, which was utilized by Rovio Entertainment to unleash a virtual reality Angry Birds experience upon the unsuspecting public. Bespoke designers also included massive LED screens on the façade, fully-equipped with gestural sensors, which the company representatives say is like upgrading Mary-Janes to Louboutins. Any of these spaces is ideal for new product launches, product trials, beta testing, generating awareness, or sales.


On the Inside, Bespoke Offers Much More

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Bespoke isn’t just a series of testbed pop-up shops and interactive, immersive consumer displays. It also provides services that start-ups need, like a coworking space. The area feels very much like a Googleplex, complete with different types of work spaces. There’s a general work area, individual offices, conference rooms, and nooks and crannies to inspire creative thought. Developers went so far as to include a bocce ball court and a bouldering wall. Creatives can grab a hold of their own working space, and utilize the various office amenities, by signing up for a daily or monthly membership.


Bespoke’s 18,000 square feet of event space, which hosts between 30 and 1,200 people, can suit anything from a fashion show to a workshop. Created with a modular design, people can rent out the entire venue for a huge fashion show or conference. It can also be sectioned off into four different spaces, which can be used for workshops, as a classroom, or as a more intimate lecture area. Naturally, it’s loaded with high-tech wizardry, and also offers a green room and catering. Word on the street is that they also serve beer, but that could not be confirmed prior to print. It seems the creators of Bespoke thought of everything.

Retail is changing. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. While there’s a place for high-tech firms like Bespoke, it’s important to note CDO Kevin McKenzie’s words. Human-to-human interactions will always be part of the sales experience. Pop up shops deliver on the consumer need to touch and hold products, and these innovative exhibits are turning retail into an immersive event, not just another shopping trip. As you set out to create your own pop up shop, keep interaction at the forefront of your design, and run your own tests to see what resonates with consumers. Although advanced tech like Bespoke displays is beyond awesome, it’s possible to achieve similar results in a low-tech way, provided an innovative spirit and creativity are brought to the table.


If you’ve got a temporary retail space available, Popertee wants to hear from you! Although we aren’t officially launching until next year, we already have businesses seeking spaces. If you have something suitable, drop me a note at