Retail of the future, is retail that that goes beyond the surface. It’s the acknowledgment of a changing industry, and the ambition to relentlessly pursue any factor that impacts it.


One area that always receives ample attention, is how the individual shopper interacts with the retail experience.

In psychology, there is a great debate: nature vs. nurture. This controversy attempts to solve whether human beings become the way they are because of their genealogy and DNA, or the environments and stimuli they were exposed to as they grew up.

Though there may not be a clear answer, one thing is certain: no two people are exactly alike.

We have biological variations, different ways of thinking and processing information, unique familial structures, cultures, and belief systems. All of these factors help shape our personalities. They form our likes and dislikes, influence how we make decisions, and affect how we contribute to the world.

This is important to retail marketers because it forces us to view the customer beyond their generational age bracket. In our world, emphasis is often based on assessing customers in terms of when they were born: Generation X tends to act this way; millennials care about this; Gen Z thinks this is important.

While having an awareness and understanding of macro and micro trends within each of these groups is important, it cannot and should not be the be the all, end-all. It is simply unrealistic to suggest that Shopper A, B, and C - who were all born between 1980 -2000 - will engage with a retail experience in the same way.



Duh, you say? Well, yes. But the goal here is not to convince you that generational analyses are limited; you already know that. The intent is to provide you with yet another reason as to why engaging the shopper as a true individual is so important.



To illustrate this, let’s look at a pretty standard psychological personality assessment: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This test is derived from the work of Carl Jung and his theory of psychological types.

According to the foundation’s website, “The essence of this theory is that…seemingly random variation in [human] behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgement.”

Basically, even though people act differently day-to-day, at our cores, most of us have developed some sort of a constant in how we perceive and judge things that happen to and around us. This “constant” affects all areas of our life: the way we go about handling conflict, relationships, work styles, our ability to process emotions, parenting, etc.

The assessment identifies 16 distinctive personality types that are comprised of letters. The letters are determined by responses to questions in each of the below categories:

  • Category One: Do you focus more on your inner world, or your outer?
  • Category Two: Do you process information very matter of factly, or do you interpret, reflect, and assign your own meaning to it?
  • Category Three: Do you look at logic and rationalism first, or people, emotions, and circumstantial incidents?
  • Category Four: Do you prefer structure and clear directions, or do your prefer to remain open to new information and options?

You can take a free-version of this assessment at 16 Personalities.

So, why does this all matter? Over the past decade, the way in which retail is done has changed tremendously. Shoppers want retail that is experiential, interactive, and personal.

Recently, VMSD surveyed their readers and spoke with key industry thought leaders on what they believe some notable 2017 retail trends are (read the full article HERE). A specific quote that stood out, was that of David Kepron, vp, global design strategies, Marriott Intl.



“If we can get people to a more full-bodied, immersive encounter with a brand, we’re more likely to build strong memories and deeper connections,” he says. “Those are the things that count, the things you carry home in your brain and heart, not the things you carry home in your bag.”



The challenge then becomes deciding what counts as an immersive encounter with a brand. What pulls on shopper A’s heartstrings may not do a damn thing for Shopper B’s. How do you create a collective experience that still speaks to the individual shopper’s wants and needs? How do you account for human variation?

The first step is awareness. Take the time to learn how your shoppers interact with the world, but don’t forget to consider what impact their individual personalities have on their purchasing decisions.

Design environments, displays, fixtures, and other retail elements that have balanced messaging. Give you shoppers multiple ways to digest the experience.

Just like differences in learning preferences, provide your shoppers with multiple ways to use their senses. If someone is more of a diy-er and not interested in engaging in a conversation with a salesperson, make sure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision without the need for the associate. Appeal to their preferences.

Great retail is retail that keeps people top of mind, from the very start to the very end; from when they were born to what they do for fun; from their genetic differences, to the cultures they were raised in. Great retail is retail that accepts collective identities, while appealing to individual wants and needs.

It refuses to view its customers at surface level, and remains committed to constantly learning and growing with the people who engage with it.

Great retail doesn’t put people in boxes.