Digital Predictions for Retail and Workplaces

Digital Predictions for Retail and Workplaces
July 4, 2016 angela

Digital Predictions for Retail and Workplaces

Digital technology is well embedded into our daily lives and is only set to rise in spaces where we work and play.

Smartphones, for example, were initially designed for mobile connectivity and can now be used as a payment method, a remote for appliances or door entries with consumers holding incredible digital power just in their hand.

According to Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2015, almost 80% of Australians surveyed have a smartphone, an increase of nearly 10% from the previous year. “There are roughly 15 million smartphones in use in Australia, and that doesn’t include the millions of used devices stashed in drawers, or the ones passed on to our families,” the findings reported.

Now workplaces and retailers are tapping into the digital realm, seeking to connect with consumers in a bid to improve task efficiency, shopping experiences and wayfinding.

Consumers are already quite comfortable with smartphone or tablet check-in at hotels, sometimes with no human guest agent in sight or are at ease using a smartphone instead of a traditional key entry to a hotel room.

This movement is regularly referred to as the “Internet of things” approach which is nicely defined by David Dorf, senior director of technology strategy for Oracle Retail as “characterised by the automated transmission of information over a network, without need for human interaction.”

In fact, last year, a study conducted by General Electric concluded that the Internet of Things (IoT) over the next 20 years could add as much as $15 trillion to the global gross domestic product (GDP), roughly “the size of today’s U.S. economy.”

So how will the design industry respond to the IoT?

I discussed this and rising digital design trends with Jane Caught, a Melbourne-based architect and co-founder of multi-disciplinary collective, SIBLING. At the upcoming Décor + Design show, Caught will be exploring the increasing role of digital technologies in our everyday spaces and the way these affect the way we interact.

So here’s what we can expect:


In recent years, retailers have been at the forefront of automating point of sale processes and finding ways to connect and market to customers in store. Going forward, however, Caught sees retailers taking a more customised approach.

“We see a move towards seamless and unobtrusive technologies in these spaces,” she said.

“The technologies offer an extra experiential dimension, allowing the user to engage in ways that are personally relevant, and the retailer to provide an additional layer of discovery and customer service.”

The rise of Bluetooth Beacons that notify consumers once in-store of sales, offers or wayfinding guidance has been both useful and obtrusive to consumers. While this is predicted to continue, Caught does warn that retailers need to communicate any strategies to their consumers.

“Retailers need to be very transparent and responsible when implementing technologies that collect data,” she said. “This is where the role of the designer becomes crucial, in allowing this interface to move beyond the banal,” she adds.


Connectivity, collaboration and office mobility remains the core of the modern workplace. Caught also confirms that we are seeing “the office dissipating – people no longer travelling to a singular workplace.”

This was also relevant to recent research from Gartner on their prediction of 12 Emerging Digital Workplace Technologies.

One of the points that resonated with digital spaces was “Bürolandschaft,” the German term for office landscape which we’ve seen in a design sense from the open-plan office.

However from a digital view, Gartner forecasts that “as more employees work remotely, organisations can develop complex scheduling software to manage office hoteling and develop a physical environment that is optimised for employee engagement, such as serendipitous collaboration spaces.”

Paul Miller, CEO of Digital Workplaces Group also believes workplaces that don’t adopt modern digital technology could affect staffing.

“To attract, retain and – perhaps most crucially – fully engage a new hire, the power of your digital workplace will increasingly be a “deal breaker”. Yes, a new hire will take the job and start, but if the technology pains them, they will leave sooner and contribute less. For HR, the criticality of the digital workplace will rise in importance and its quality (or lack of it) will become a leadership issue,” he said.

Furthermore, CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz told BuzzFeed early last year that this the digital movement is just the beginning. “I would say on the macro level, you can’t be in any industry today, let alone a consumer business, and not integrate the business through the lens of seamless technology.”

To conclude Caught offers her final forecast putting her weight behind the IoT:

“The internet of things will certainly increasingly integrate into our lives,” she explained. “Beyond being networked, objects will likely become more and more animated and inclined to interact with consumers.”

You can book a seat to see Jane Caught speak on Friday the 22nd of July at Décor+Design: Harnessing the senses for interior design. 


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