Most Influential Projects 2022

31 Store of the Future

Store of the Future

Store of the Future | PMI's 2022 Most Influential Projects | #MIP2022

Store of the Future aims to merge the digital and physical shopping experience and bring the future of retail to life. The store’s advanced technology allows retailers and brand owners to recognize customer behavior, build on purchasing patterns, and create a personalized experience. 

For reimagining retail with immersive digital experiences that entice even the most jaded shoppers to the mall

It’s an oft-lamented truth that the rise of online shopping has ushered in the slow death of the shopping mall. With a shared goal of reversing that trend, Emirates mall developer Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) joined forces with U.S. tech giant Cisco to create a new kind of brick-and-mortar retail space. Staking out a prime spot at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, the resulting Store of the Future is an intensely personalized, deeply immersive shopping experience powered by a mashup of cutting-edge technologies. 

Dubai’s young consumers are a tough crowd, largely immune to the usual retail temptations. So MAF’s leaders knew they needed something that was stop-shoppers-in-their-tracks spectacular. Cisco supported that vision through its Country Digital Acceleration program, which develops proofs-of-concept aligned to government digital agendas. 

Team members were encouraged to dream big. In collaborative brainstorming sessions, they hashed out idealized shopping scenarios, then broke down those experiences to figure out how they could be brought to life with digital technology. 

“The key was to understand the business needs of the retail sector then connect the dots between the technology and the use cases we wanted to create,” explains Dima Kandalaft, Middle East and Africa country digitization director at Cisco in Dubai.

The final design uses digital screens, video collaboration tools, virtual mirrors and augmented reality to engage and delight customers at every turn. “Imagine a physical store where you touch a product and immediately get immersed into a virtual dimension,” she says.

Digital display screens welcome each shopper upon arrival. As they move around the store, artificial intelligence and computer visioning tools use data to craft a bespoke experience. “This way every customer has a unique product discovery journey when they walk through the store,” Kandalaft says.

When a shopper lifts something from the shelves, sensors automatically retrieve and display product details on a nearby screen. So-called magic mirrors let users search for variations of products, while serving up just the right add-ons. 

Hosting an evolving cast of tenants, the Store of the Future promises bold, new experiences for consumers—and fresh lessons learned for retailers. The first to take over the space in January was That Concept Store, MAF’s homegrown luxury designer fashion brand, while Swedish electric vehicle maker Polestar set up digs in June. 

And while the store is clearly designed with the customer experience in mind, Cisco and MAF incorporated an array of features to address the needs of forward-looking retailers, too. Intelligent cloud-based ceiling cameras provide anonymized behavioral insights and analytics tracking the number of visitors, demographics, footfall heatmaps, dwell times, sentiment analysis and store capacity. Armed with behind-the-scenes data, retailers can iterate accordingly.

It’s the ability to reinvent and reimagine that just might put a stop to the talk about malls being on life support. With innovations like these, they’ll likely stick around—they’ll just look a whole lot different.

“Majid Al Futtaim has a strong vision for digital malls of the future,” Kandalaft says. “We are proud that with our technology, we are able to contribute to making that vision a reality.”