Over the last few years, a new generation of stores and showrooms, designed to appeal to digital consumers and cater to their changing habits, has burst onto the scene. These stores combine digital technologies in innovative and sometimes experimental ways: interactive displays, ecommerce, sensors, mobile and digital content immersed in store environments that are designed around a multi-channel experience.

The buying journey and shopping habits of the phygital generation have been shaped by the convenience of ecommerce and the always-on nature of the mobile lifestyle. In response, and because of the recent advances in the productization of many retail technologies, retailers have started to digitize their stores and rethink entirely the shopping experience and even the very essence of what a “store” is. Phygital retail concepts often leverage technology not only to increase consumer convenience but also to introduce an element of entertainment and increase the emotional resonance of the in-store shopping experience.

Here are three recent concepts from major retail brands that we found particularly interesting.

Sephora: Teach, inspire, play in San Francisco

In its San Francisco flagship store, Sephora, the global cosmetics retailer, has introduced specific spaces that leverage digital content as the centerpiece of the retail experience. The new TIP Workshop concept (where TIP stands for Teach, Inspire and Play) includes Beauty Workshop stations equipped with interactive touchscreens that allow customers to participate in guided makeup classes and watch how-to videos. There are also Beauty Boards, screens featuring user-generated customer videos, as well as interactive stations offering advice to potential customers. The Fragrance IQ station allows customers to experiment with and trial scents thanks to InstaScent technology. The Skincare IQ diagnostic station helps customers choose the best product for their skin type, condition or specific issues.


Calvin McDonald, President & CEO of Sephora Americas told On Makeup Magazine:

To create Sephora’s Beauty TIP Workshop on Powell Street, we completely redesigned our store experience to reimagine it for our client today and into the future.”

In Paris, Sephora launched last year another concept that essentially blends a convenience store with a perfume shop. The Sephora Flash store is smaller that traditional Sephora stores, which restricts SKU availability on the shelves. Customers, however, have access to the entire catalog via digital interfaces, can place orders for home delivery and pay once for both in-store and online purchases. Tester products feature NFC chips that allow the customer to look up product and marketing information just by moving the specific product on and off the shelves. Customers can choose to interact with real sales associates or with Nao robots! Sephora is clearly at the forefront of experimentation when it comes to phygital retail.

3D skiing, infinity golfing and treadmills at Sport Check

Sport Chek is the largest Canadian retailer of sporting clothing and sports equipment, with stores throughout the country. But it is in its 75,000-square-foot Toronto flagship store that the retailer has pulled all the phygital stops: in-store touchscreen kiosks, 3D holographic displays, RFID sensors, golfing infinity screen, digital stride and gait analysis equipment. The concept seamlessly blends digital shopping with product information, individualized advice and entertainment content.


3D hologram displays mounted on pedestals all over the store play sport footage that changes based on the weather (e.g. ski videos when it snows). Products have RFID tags that customers can use to summon product information and availability from interactive displays. Golfers and runners can play with infinity screen simulators and gait analysis cameras that immerse them in their favorite sport experience right in the store.  Duncan Fulton, CMO at Sport Chek said to the Globe and Mail:

Eighty per cent of our customers are under 40, only 37 per cent read flyers, and the large majority interact regularly with a digital screen. For us to stay relevant to our customers, we need to also connect with them in the digital space.”

Net result: the company increased store sales by 50%.

Nespresso Cube: The luxury coffee ATM

Zoomsystems, the vending machine and retail automation company that counts Best Buy, the Honest Company and Macy’s as its customers, took a step forward when it worked with Nestlé to create Nespresso Cube, a completely autonomous, robotic store-in-store concept that delivers a personalized experience to Nespresso club members.


Built to make an impression, with a striking cubic design, Nespresso Cube allows customers to place their orders on a touchscreen and watch as robotic arms quickly prepare their orders. Nespresso, who has 300 boutiques worldwide and one of the most valuable brands in the in-home coffee market, faces stiff competition and must work hard to innovate in the retail channel. Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nestlé Nespresso said:

Thanks to our direct dialogue with consumers, we know that they value new innovative and exclusive services that fit their lifestyles. The Nespresso Cube allows us to expand our retail network in new premium locations, while continuing to offer a sophisticated brand experience.”

Nespresso Cube is an extreme example of what proponents of social, mobile and local technology envision could be the future of retail commerce. More generally, to serve and entice a new generation of shoppers, retailers are experimenting with smaller-footprint stores, trading limited physical shelf space for the digital “infinite shelf”. With the proliferation of smaller concepts, aggressive technology rollouts and transformation of their operations, retailers must become faster and nimbler in their deployment and implementation projects. Our 2015 survey of retailers showed that, with the complexity of digital concept rollouts, failure rates have increased and so have delays. In response, 81% of retailers see real-time project monitoring tools as a way to improve their operational effectiveness. The tool that more and more retailers are choosing is One2Team for Retail. Learn more about it here.

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