Promotion: brands should focus less on selling products and more on customer experience in their retail stores according to experts at a panel hosted by Dezeen and brand retail experience agency Liganova.
Hosted and curated by brand experience experts Liganova, the panel discussion took place during Milan design week between UK managing director of eyewear brand Gentle Monster, Gary Bott, and director at experiential art centre Superblue Miami, Carlota Dochao Naveira.
Chaired by Dezeen Co-CEO Benedict Hobson, the event titled Redefining Spaces: The Rise of Hyperphysical Experiences, saw the panellists discuss the role of spaces in creating relevant and meaningful experiences.
Korean brand Gentle Monster is known for creating immersive concept stores that resemble art galleries with obscure themes such as its kung fu-influenced boutique in London and its harvest-themed outpost in Downtown Los Angeles.
Transcending the boundaries of conventional retail design, the stores aim to attract customers inside with experimental art installations at the entrance.
The brand's UK managing director Bott explained how in order to "truly engage with a much wider audience" brands need to embrace the "alien concept" of shifting the focus from selling. Instead, stores should focus on the audience and creating an outstanding experience for them.
"Hyperphysicality means creating something that is 'hyper real' in an unexpected context, something almost fantastical that speaks to all senses," explained Bott.
"It's the antidote to mass consumerism because [Gentle Monster is] not focused on trying to sell products. I think no one wants to feel like they're being sold to and our spaces don't feel like they're selling – there's no transaction."
"A lot of the things that we do have way more short-term creative value than they do short-term commercial value," he added, explaining that Gentle Monster's approach focuses on building brand equity – the value of a brand, determined by the consumer's perception of its quality and desirability.
"Commercial value is much longer term. We see that and we experience that Halo effect."
Carlota Dochao Naveira agreed, "People are moving away from wanting to own something to wanting to experience something, and experience something with other people and have collective experiences," she said.
"Younger generations are valuing experiences over the idea of owning something physical - we're lucky to be able to respond to that."
Grown out of Pace Gallery, Superblue was opened to provide a space to showcase immersive art that previously existed outside of the confines of the commercial art world and bring it to a wider audience. Its community space showcases work created in collaboration with leading artists, such as James Turrell, Es Devlin or Teamlab.
In addition, Naveira explained how Superblue is working with real estate developers and architects to create what it calls "integrated experiences". Conceived and designed by artists, these include luxury spa, hotel, restaurant, dining and theatre experiences.
"We really push for giving artists full integrity," said Naveira. "And that's what we support them in – in the creation of their work."
But there's always a common language between brands and the artists that we work with," she continued. "We always find that it's way more successful collaboration when a brand allows artists to have full rein of what they're trying to do, obviously, within parameters within budget constraints."
When asked by Hobson about what the future of retail experiences looks like, Bott responded, "I think when it comes to retail, we'll perhaps be moving to more of a speakeasy model where you're hiding the products within the space. It's like another level or layer that you need to peel back – a behind-the-curtain approach, which I think is interesting."
To learn more about Liganova, visit its website.
Milan design week 2023
This article was written by Dezeen for Liganova as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.