Razorfish Opens San Francisco Lab for Emerging Retail Experiences

Follows successful space in Atlanta

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There’s no shortage of specialists out there to help make the digital dreams of retailers a reality. As the concept of the fully digitized store spreads, agencies including AKQA, iCrossing and SapientNitro are all aiding brands in the reinvention of their spaces.

At Razorfish, the thinking is: Where better to demonstrate in-store expertise than in-store? The Publicis Groupe interactive shop has opened its second Emerging Experiences Lab, a 1,000-square-foot outpost ported on San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront that serves as both a showroom and R&D center. Last fall, the New York-based agency unveiled its first lab in Atlanta, though the West Coast space sports “quite a few more bells and whistles,” according to Jonathan Hull, managing director of Razorfish’s Emerging Experiences Practice.

Among those features are 3-D video walls, interactive kiosks and synchronized mood-setting features sporting audio, video, lighting, shading and projection elements. The 3-D elements procure “takeover moments” that fill the four walls of the main room, as Hull explains, “so you can get the look and feel of being in an airport or a car dealership.”

More than 100 prospects have visited the Atlanta outpost to date, as well as reps from key accounts like Audi and Delta. “C-level executives will get on a plane and fly across the country to be with us in the lab, and they will come back,” Hull says. “It can be really hard to get the attention of those CMOs, CIOs and CTOs.”

The agency plans to open labs in the coming year in New York, London and Shanghai.

With all these digital makeovers, retailers hope to replicate the tech-centric shopping experience of Apple while taking back market share from e-tailers like Amazon. But can everyone be a cool kid?

Calling the trend “a bit of a land grab,” Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research, notes, "Everyone wants the Apple Store experience.”

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.