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IRDC: Looking forward with Interbrand Retail

Now that the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) is over, it’s time to start putting pencils to paper and activating what we’ve learned.

Every year IRDC inspires and reenergizes, taking us to a new city with old friends to share in a passionate conversation about the retail world (perhaps over a drink or two!) Now that we’ve all returned to our day-to-days, how do we go about continuing the progress made at IRDC? Below, we’ve highlighted three themes that echoed throughout the event. Our hope is by keeping these ideas top-of-mind and providing accompanying thought-starters, we will be able to shift from discussing to doing.


“As if we can boil down the magic of a store into sales per square feet.”

The opening keynote, delivered by Futurist Mike Walsh, challenged us to reconcile customer obsession with digital data. How can we marry the science of shopping with the art of human experience? The retail leaders of the 21stcentury will be those who are agile and responsive, keeping pace with the rate at which technology evolves, while never losing sight of the value of person-to-person engagement. Even simply talking about collecting and leveraging data or integrating digital and physical can feel daunting. Rather than trying to tackle everything at once, we suggest creating smaller projects to address questions such as:

  • How might we connect customers’ inspirational research with their moment of shopping in-store?
  • How might we make BOPIS (buy online pick-up in-store) a moment of efficiency, but also experience?
  • How might we learn from loyalty data to develop new, relevant engagements for brand advocates?


Online to in-store (or vice versa) should NOT require a translator.

More and more, we see online-first brands making their way from screens to stores while traditional brick and mortar brands are going the opposite direction. Regardless of your native medium, your original experience was carefully considered and thoughtfully planned, and it should play an important guiding role in developing a multi-dimensional experience. Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds, shared how his team built their physical presence based on the one they had created online. Their shoes are organized by material just as the user experience dictates online, and their store entry telling the brand story just as their website homepage. This was all done with the purpose of ensuring that the two worlds speak the same, consistent language. Considering the strengths of each experience:

  • What principles from online engagements can be applied in-store? (Hint: we aren’t suggesting adding screens in store. Even digitally-native Allbirds went without digital/tech in-store because they “didn’t find any good reason for it.”)
  • What principles from the brick-and-mortar experience can be applied to digital engagements?


Just as the world does, brands must continually evolve.

While knowing what competitors are doing is certainly important, it should not dictate your next move. Leaders do not follow category clichés. Rather, they lead with purpose. They make decisions guided by their purpose serving as the north star. Heidi Guerard, design consultant for &pizza, shared the company’s values, which are known as their ‘code to culture, behaviors, and decisions.’ She shared that, while their foundational tenants remain constant, the &pizza team meets every 90 days to realign to and update the brand’s strategy (as needed), ensuring that everything the brand creates delivers a consistent message. Ask yourself:

  • Can you easily articulate your purpose? Would others in your organization say the same thing? What about your customers?
  • Is every decision made, every experience created, fed through a filter of your purpose?


These are considerations that we are constantly thinking about as we help our clients keep up with the rapid transformations occurring in retail. Want to keep the conversation going or chat about how we can help you apply the learnings from IRDC? Drop us a note at here.