Laboratories of experience

We will see hybrid stores with more than one purpose, which serve to encourage consumers to visit the physical stores again.

The pandemic is forging new, hybrid shop models with more than one purpose: to offer attractive products and services which help create customer engagement and bring them back to the physical shop once the restrictions have been lifted. For example, in the cosmetics sector, it is the consumers who have become spokespeople for the brands through their homemade content, such as reviews and recommendations. Professionalism has reached the point where some are choosing to turn their stores into audio-visual platforms designed to broadcast the content made by their customers. Much more than just a place for shopping, shops are also a place to connect with brands and experience products through new communicative languages.

Drivers of change

Shops’ role is being redefined by the impact that Covid-19 has had on them. In the U.S. alone, over 15,000 commercial spaces ran the risk of closure in 2020, far exceeding the previous record of 9,548 closures in 2019 (Source: Coresight Research). 

Faced with this omnichannel backdrop, the shop is becoming point of (physical) contact which strengthens the sale of products through technological platforms. It is taking on the role of showroom, while the purchasing process is completed online using e-commerce, which means that we need to reconsider the purpose of brick-and-mortar stores. The big challenge now is not just generating e-commerce, but achieving a physical-online experience wherein both elements are connected and coherent. Showrooms must invigorate shoppers’ desire – not need – to be there, since customers are more frequently using online methods to complete their purchases. 

“One we have overcome the health and hygiene concerns brought about due to Covid-19, physical stores will once again become vital, but not so much for the distribution of products and more as a communication channel for the brand”.
Doug Stephens, Founder of

The result

Shops will continue be places for shopping, but they are gaining more importance as places for connecting with brands and their values. This way, they take on new purposes, as is the case with cosmetics stores, which are creating recording studios where they show off the collaboration of influencers in their sector. Aside from providing customer service, staff can use these spaces to influence potential customers through digital channels, reinventing the figure of the traditional salesperson as a brand ambassador. Shops as spaces for repair, refurbishment and providing services and prescriptions instead of places that solely focus on selling products will be commonplace models in this new omnichannel reality.

Design keys

Communicable spaces

Photogenic interiors that are designed to provoke will help turn the customers themselves into the brand’s spokespeople.


The shop must become a transformable space which is able to change its function depending on the time of day. Light constructive solutions are the way towards versatility.

Connecting with the client

Shops are for much more than just displaying products – they must connect with the client through activities and shared passions. Stores transformed into catwalks, workspaces, hair salons or even recording studios are just a few of the options being developed by flagship stores all over the world.

Interior connected with the business

When devising an interior design for a store, it is increasingly more vital to understand the business in order to come up with strategic solutions that construct a new transaction experience alongside clients.

Case studies

The second Freshly Cosmetics store, designed by CuldeSac, has found a way to translate the brand’s DNA into a real, physical space. The area’s curves reflect the company’s youthful and fluid personality. The 150-square-metre store features stations for charging your phone and watching projections on the wall, all of which are elements that help encourage interaction.

United Cycling’s headquarters in Lynge, Denmark, described by its designers as a “modern monastery for the science of cycling” rather than a store that offers a retail experience, and it is home to a bookshop, an event hall, a training hub and an innovation laboratory, while also being able to buy bikes there. Photography: Alastair Philip Wiper.
Villa de Mûrir, the cosmetics store designed for The Cell Company by Collective B, is comprised of four zones split across two floors, including a multi-brand store called Beauty Select, a make-up station, a cafeteria and a content production studio for YouTube beauty bloggers. Team: Dongwook Kim, Yoonjin Lee, Seokmi Hong, Taesoo Kim, Minjeong Choi. Photography: Young Kim_Indiphos.
Male grooming brand Old Spice has inaugurated its very first barber shop, offering customers an immersive experience based on the content they generate themselves, integrating new business models such as digital content studios and testing laboratories for new and traditional barber products.

Discover more

Virgil Abloh and the OMA architecture firm designed the flagship for luxury fashion label Off-White, the Off-White Flagship Store Miami in the city’s Design District, a space that adjusts and transforms over time. Distributed across two floors, the shop has mobile walls on the ground floor, which can be folded up, while all the furniture is either placed on wheels or is foldable. These modifiable design elements allow the whole space to mutate to host a wide array of activities or events. Team: Samir Bantal (Director of AMO), Valentin Bansac, Fabrizio Esposito. Photography: Kris Tamburello, courtesy of Off-White.