Vincent Grégoire from trend agency NellyRodi, who designed the Inspirations Space and the Café-Bookstore, analyses the theme chosen by the M&O Observatory.
The financial crisis and the digital revolution have had a tremendous impact on our behaviours. Consumers who used to have a passive posture, buying products without questioning the brands that sell them, have found empowerment. Through digital technologies, consumers now have access to product information, can compare prices, and even have the possibility to share comments on the products and rate them.
A new generation of hyper-connected and hyperinformed consumers is reclaiming control: they are establishing their status as an inescapable partner for brands. With the advent of Instagram particularly, consumers are becoming trendsetters themselves, full-fledged influencers. They share their finds with their communities, revealing themselves, or flaunting themselves in some cases, making commitments and voicing
This is what we have called the showroomisation trend*: it is no longer the product that makes the consumer, but the consumer that makes the product.
_*Note: should not be confused with the practice of showrooming, whereby
consumers use brick-andmortar retail locations to look for options and get advice prior to buying online._
Whenever they share their hauls and stage their latest purchases, consumers play the parts of art directors, designers, architects, merchandisers, visual communication experts or even sales ambassadors: they share advice, promote products, post content on behalf of brands, all from the comfort of their own homes. They become a source of inspiration, validated by other users. The showroom trend is the expression of the growing inclination to publicize one’s life, one’s intimacy, one’s world, to show both the stages people create, as well as what’s behind the scenes. As a result, the old rules no longer apply – story-telling is rendered obsolete by story-living.
Consumers no longer want to be told stories, they want to experience things. So living rooms and retail stores are turned into stages for the whole world to see. But the showroomisation trend can also have the opposite effect on some individuals, causing them to reject all digital technologies altogether, along with the onslaught of images and uberised services that come with them, and to revel in anonymity and secrecy. A sort of digital detox, so to speak.
Exemplifying how showroomisation is impacting our lives and objects, interiors feature an increasing amount of typical showroom elements – racks, glass partitions, shelving units – as well as walk-in wardrobes. Clothes are carefully displayed, tables are artfully set, kitchen appliances sit ostentatiously on countertops. Assuming the role of collectors and curators, we stage the products, style them, present them as works of art, to make them digitally digestible – an essential process for those wishing to make a name for themselves and to assert their identity. This is truly the advent of an ego-based culture. Beside mirrors, which are popping up everywhere, another good example of this is the fact that many MAISON&OBJET exhibitors are showing a variety of decorative elements featuring representations of human faces, figures and masks, from dining plates to rugs and lamps, bringing the Facebook experience into the home, in a way.
Of course, I wanted the place to have a dramatic feel, with mirrors, glass display cases, spotlights, but I also wanted it to be interactive, to reflect the new dynamic initiated by social networks. To that effect, I have imagined a live experience for visitors, notorious or otherwise. I will tables covered with objects and empty shelves placed around the exhibition and visitors will be asked to make their own selections and to explain their reasons for making such or such choices. It will be a dynamic, interactive, living and, most importantly, casual environment, because there is more to this trend than rigid staging.
The Inspirations Space is an invitation to question the status quo and take a stand, to overcome ennui. It is a chance to set yourself apart, to voice your opinion, to love and hate, just like on social networks. The retail business is in urgent need of re-enchantment. A shop is not merely a place where goods are stored for sale. The advent of digital technologies, for better or worse, is pushing retail businesses to come to life, to make their shops feel more like home. Customers need a place where they can experience products and share their opinions. The point is no longer to please everyone, but to please one’s community.
Because the dynamic has shifted, all notions of good and bad taste have gone out the window. Pieces by iconic design brands are shamelessly associated with cheap trinkets – it is the rule of whim. We tell stories so people can experience these stories. Business needs to reconnect with passion, with emotion, to present customers with unique moments for a chance to surprise and move them. These are wonderful times we are living, where the only constant is change. We just need to realise it.
The Bookshop-Café of the Inspirations Forum is an environment where visitors can relax and reflect on the concept that was chosen and presented by the MAISON&OBJET Observatory; it is truly an extension of the Inspirations Space. It also features a dedicated retail point for the Inspirations Book, as well as a bookshop area offering a selection of books and magazines on topics relating to the concept Showroom: collecting, cultivating appearances, Narcissus, interior staging, mirror art, etc.