4 future trends to watch out for and what they mean for retail in 2023

Posted 19-12-22
8 minute read

If you have read any of our previous blogs, you will have seen us comment more than once on the effect the pandemic has had on shopper behaviour and the retail environment.

In the years following the pandemic there have been significant adjustments. The pandemic has changed the way we behave and shop and consequently retail has had to change, it’s now a complex ecosystem of physical spaces and digital consumption. Its purpose extends far beyond displaying and selling products and services. Shopper behaviour has driven the need to merge together social interactions, fun, entertainment, and learning experiences. Physical retail stores are only part of a wider system of shopper experiences that seek to connect seamlessly at all touchpoints.

The following 4 trends are ones we have identified as significant and should be paid attention to industry wide, as they in our view only just beginning to build momentum and will become increasingly more mainstream in the year to come.

Sustainability will become progressively more important in purchase decisions

Responsible approaches to brand, products, packaging and display, with circular principles and use of recycled materials will become more prominent.

We have Sir David Attenborough to thank for raising awareness of plastic in our oceans, and Greta Thunberg who has inspired a youth revolution on climate change and the environment. It’s personalities like these who influence peoples thinking and dramatically change consumer behaviour to be more sustainability conscious.

As expected, this desire for reducing the use of new materials will become increasingly important for Consumers, Brands, Retailers and Suppliers alike. Consumers will start to expect through the line sustainable thinking that is evident from the carrier bag they walk out of the store with to the shop fit out. Durability – Repairability – Recyclability of products are key aspects that respond directly to these changes in behaviour. Indications of through the line thinking in these areas will be what consumers look out for and for many will heavily sway their purchase decisions.

Materials, that are evidently recycled and have clear credentials to be reused again are key to shoppers believing in brands. It’s not enough to say you are sustainable, you have to live it and prove it. By doing so you will actively engage shoppers into the purchase funnel

Great examples are how ocean plastics and waste plastics are being turned into fabrics. Brands like Ecoalf and Adidas are tackling waste plastics and turning them into products made with a conscience.

Recycled fabric products are being used not just in the B2C arena but also the B2B; Camira, a global leader designing, manufacturing and supplying commercial textiles for contract and transport upholstery, create fabrics from ocean plastic waste. It’s heartening to see that it’s not just the face of consumer interaction that has a part to play in fabric choice.

Another good example of sustainability in retail display is the Sports Direct Oxford Street store where the use of recycled plastics and reclaimed cork gives clear cues to shoppers that they are buying into a sustainably minded brand with their purchase.

Sustainable choices within the fine detail of a retail space will of course be awarded extra points in the minds of the consumer, hence we are now seeing displays that show shoppers the waste and raw materials used within products. Adidas flagship store on Oxford Street has large format exhibits that do just this. Plus, we are seeing energy efficient LED lighting solutions that create great environments in store and increasing dwell time, it’s a nice place to spend time.

Retailers are aiming for reusable or sustainable bags and materials that can be easily recycled by shoppers at home. Recycled paper has the biggest share here in reducing the impact of packaging.

Experiences will still reign supreme

Experiences, only available in-store, give shoppers a reason to visit and engage. Providing a ‘destination’ still holds considerable sway. The term experiential means more than simply providing an out of the ordinary experience within stores – it encompasses not just immersive brand events, but also the creation of community and connection, and designing spaces to elicit a mood or emotional reaction, such as calming or exciting consumers.

In town, bricks-and-mortar stores are expected to survive if they’re able to provide something beyond the purely transactional; excellent service that can’t be replicated online, expert knowledge, or a space where people like to get together. Community hubs are frequently mentioned, while brands such as Patagonia, Glossier and Nike are cited as role models for bigger retailers.

Creating an experience can also be as simple as using technology – a magic mirror and touch screen that allows consumers to make their own discovery and educate themselves on product benefits in-store. A noteworthy example of this is Braun’s Beauty Table in Boots. Multiple relevant technologies are used to educate and inform shoppers, all done seamlessly. In this example from us at Displayplan, we connected the lines between online and physical shopping while ensuring Boots gets the sale, whatever the purchase path.

VR and AR will increasingly play an important part in making shopping trips experiential. Allowing consumers to immerse themselves in the store or product.

Samsung KX flagship store in Coal Drops Yard London, is a great example of using AR to engage shoppers through their mobile. Scan the physical birds and they come to life and fly around you, then lead you to areas in store to discover details and how products can work for your needs. For consumers this is a great fun and brilliant discovery moment.

Customise and Personalise

Deloitte research shows that in some categories more than 50% of consumers showed interest in purchasing customised products or services (2). Further to that these consumers would be willing to pay more for customised them. Logically then consumers want to be part of shaping and creating the personalised products they desire, subsequently brands have listened: From the initial greeting when walking into a store, to the introduction to a community and local information with a personalised focus, as well as specific tailor-made personalisation of products through things like 3d printing, one way or another, consumers are getting exactly what they are looking for – a retail experience that feels unique, bespoke to them, and out of the ordinary.

A great example of personalisation to welcome shoppers to the store as they enter using either large format touch screen or QR with mobile, comes from Adidas as they provide engaging play through their store using QR games and locations which effortlessly ensures a positive first experience for shoppers.

One sure fire way to guarantee a ‘destination’ shop is to personalise and customise a product offering. Sports brands have been offering co-creation of their sneakers for some years, leveraging the cult following of sports shoes and allowing customers to engage with experts to create any design they want. A trend that links closely to a need for social status, and the enigma of scarcity or one-offs that seem to elicit a strong desire in consumers.

Personalisation of services like holidays through high end travel agents is nothing new, but we are now starting to see the personalisation/customisation trend spill out into other categories such as Health & nutrition, with brands like Gatorade who are using a Gx sweat-patch that works with their Gx platform to provide personalised sports fuel recommendations. Or the Whole Foods App that helps consumers both online and offline, as it tracks and organises customers previous purchases and recommends new products and recipes or store specific offers when they’re in the store.

Personalisation has many forms from the co-creation, to entirely bespoke made to order products and services. It can also mean the involvement of AI and shared data to offer stronger instore bonds and loyalty. An exciting watch out for the future is personalisation blended with the seamless online-offline trend we discuss in a moment below.

Seamless or frictionless online-offline experience

92% of shopper journeys start online (1), a figure that has been on the steady increase but has seen a spike over the pandemic, and it’s reported that 78% of shoppers use their mobile in-store. A prevalent behaviour is to research online and purchase offline, seamlessly – meaning shoppers prefer to connect their personal device in-store, across multiple digital and physical touchpoints.

We’ve already mentioned the Samsung KX store where an AR app allows shoppers to play with products, this encompasses both the ‘Experiences’ trend this ‘Seamless online-offline’ trend.

Further examples of this include convenience stores, such as Tesco in the UK, who are moving to seamless or frictionless, walk in and walk out stores. Where there are no check outs, and all payments are done through a mobile app which is opened and used to purchase when in the store.

QR codes are also linking mobile and in-store experiences as consumers can interact with store environments by scanning the code, this seamlessly connects the shopper journey between digital and physical, enabling them to discover and educate themselves on the right products and purchase in-store.

Retail in 2023

In the current climate one might be inclined to feel a little doom and gloom when it comes to the future of retail, but here at Displayplan we’re feeling rather optimistic. These consumer trends will not simply disappear as pennies are pinched and consumer confidence declines. Consumers will become more selective about how they spend their time and what they spend their money on. Providing them with more of what interests and excites them will ensure your brand or product remains top of mind.

Arming oneself with knowledge on wider global consumer trends as we go into business planning meetings, brainstorms, or even as we get to the pointy end of design, and watching closely how they are already playing out within the industry, will ensure we are truly tailoring our work to our consumers wants and desires. Which is after all should be at the heart of what we do.

If you would like to know more about how we are working with these and other consumer trends, get in touch with one of the team.


  • Source in-store innovation – CE data collection 2020
  • The Deloitte Consumer Review Made-to-order: The rise of mass personalisation