Have you ever met someone who seems to know you better than you know yourself, who is able to charm you, connect with you and interact on your terms? I had that kind of experience this morning at The Sweet Shoppe – a collaboration between The Future Laboratory and Campaign – and I came away with a bespoke bag of sherbert and an idea about where the whole consumer shopping experience might be heading over the coming years.
As part of the London Design Festival The Future Laboratory, a trend forecasting, research and brand innovation consultancy, have set up shop (or more accurately shoppe) in Elder Street, east London, to create “a curated personal journey to source the perfect sweet.”
It’s all thoroughly atmospheric stuff, from the purple-draped reception room, to the lovely garden and the high-tech tasting session. During your trip you make a series of choices – a welcome drink, a seemingly random box of objects, a pill from one of three glasses – and you chat with the staff about all sorts of things both confectionary and non-confectionary related.
But here comes the clever bit – the staff already know you. From searching my online profile they asked me about my useless-but-much-loved football team, a marathon I am running at the weekend and even my cat. At the end you are presented with your tailor-made sweet, one of 27 possible combinations. But more intriguingly you are also given three cards outlining your consumer personality based on your online profile, selections and interactions in the space.
Of course it’s all rollicking good fun but there’s a serious side behind the sugary stuff, as Future Laboratory co-founder Chris Sanderson explained. “The real focus has been trying to help our guests understand just how different the new decade is going to be,” he said.
He scoffs at the clumsy “brix vs clix” distinction which separates the online and real-world spheres and is fascinated by the ways in which the two can coexist and complement each other to provide a far more tailored shopping experience.
And while he understands the potential privacy issue, he explains that in his experience the web-savvy generations who are the consumers of tomorrow are comfortable with their web presence and the information they present to the world.
Interestingly it didn’t feel in any way invasive or creepy when I was in there, although several people I explained to thought it sounded a bit weird, so clearly it all comes down to presentation.
It’s certainly a fascinating glimpse into how shopping might be about to become a whole different experience, and one which companies should sit up and take note of.
The Sweet Shoppe is open until the end of the month by appointment only – contact email@example.com for a slot.