Aurex Group’s Oliver Li recently sat down with Oliver Corrin, Regional Director of CADA Design to gain a first-hand perspective into the retail and service design industry and understand what firms are expecting for 2021.
In Conversation with CADA Design - What to Expect in 2021
Regional Director @ CADA Design
Great to see you again Oliver. I hope you and CADA Design had a great 2020, although I suspect it didn’t quite pan out like we expected.
It was quite the roller coaster as it seems it was for the majority of friends and clients I have spoken with. It feels like the world has pressed the reset button in some instances and we are now evolving and adapting. I have found that clients’ needs and expectations have changed dramatically, as have consumer behaviours, which changes the way we approach design. Customers are more willing to try new brands and experiences, and are relying more on online due to the current climate and restrictions. Consumers are still willing to spend money to feel good. It’s a year of evolution in the world of retail.
On the flip side, our clients are shifting their focus to domestic markets and how to increase their appeal with local consumers. With the reduction in international travel and in flux of tourists, companies are pivoting.
You make a very good point there. I am noticing that change as a consumer. From a professional point of view, CADA designs the environments in which I spend my money on a day-to-day basis. What have your client’s been actively working on?
Our clients have taken this opportunity to focus their investment into their digital presence. It is always in their plans but this past year has accelerated the shift. I believe by the middle of 2021 the balance will gravitate back towards the consumer experience in a physical environment with enhanced, contactless experiences.
On that note, what do you think would be your expectations in visiting a retail store this year? What will make you feel comfortable and safe in a store environment?
I would expect to see more self-service kiosks, resulting in fewer queues and a more efficient experience. I moved to Hong Kong nine years ago, and even back then I felt it was geared towards an experience where you could shop with no human interaction if you chose.
You have worked around the world. Are there other design styles that Hong Kong could adopt in future?
The key is to make an experience not dependant on the technology but enhanced by it. If the tech can make an experience more streamlined and enjoyable for those both willing and able to use it, then you can create harmony between the physical and digital worlds. One thing that must never happen with this strategy is to isolate or make a customer feel excluded.
Instinctively I also feel there are some experiences that technology can never replace. I was recently dining with my wife and the waiter noticed she was left-handed. They changed the table setting to be left, which has never happened before, anywhere in the world!
That is quite amazing and shows some elements will be difficult for AI to replace. With that in mind, what scenarios or environments do you predict the up skilling of human interaction will be more beneficial than new technology?
In restaurants, having that one-on-one human connection is vital. I believe this is also true in hospitality. The first point of contact should always be a human; a machine cannot personalise your experience or read a situation. If you’ve just come of a long-haul flight and arrive at a hotel to check-in to your room in the middle of the night, a machine cannot read this situation and react.
Absolutely. I guess this could also cross-over in some ways to brick-and-mortar retail, which has taken a hit this year. Will we still want to retain human customer service interaction and physical environments?
I’m certainly optimistic that the increase in technological integration in our lives won’t mean a full replacement of physical experiences in the retail sector. The boom in e-commerce will keep accelerating but it will mean the retail sector will innovate to accommodate. I see the retail experience becoming more sensory, less about touching and more about seeing, hearing and smelling.
There are certain experiences that cannot be replicated online. We are confident that the future of communal, physical retail is strong and if anything, will be more than we had imagined as consumers before.
If you are working within the Architecture & Design industry in Greater China and would like to understand hiring trends or future opportunities, please connect with Aurex Group’s specialist team.