Improving the retail experience with people: our research on the travel agencies of the future

Share on

Some of the experiences lived by people are increasingly directed towards digital. This is the case with retail.


For us in TSW the main focus of interest is the experiences lived by people, and there are some that by nature, trends and events of recent years are increasingly moving towards their digital version. This is the case with the purchase size. Let’s see together how retail is evolving and changing.

The causes of the new purchasing methods

According to McKinsey, by 2040, 95% of purchases will be made online. This sudden acceleration seems to be attributable to the pandemic and the development of e-commerce, which managed in 3 months to reach projections expected in 10 years. Being forced or induced by the pandemic state to face new ways of purchasing has inevitably impacted people’s experiences, creating new standards and new ways of solving old needs.

US e-commerce penetration, %

Source: Bank of America; Forrester Analytics; ShawSpring Research;

The two sides of the coin: online and retail purchases

The transformation of the digital market has inevitably highlighted the other side of the coin: retail. The need to adapt and review the physical world has led to an inevitable attempt at change. In this context to be filled, new technologies have come to support showing inspirational scenarios of future retail experiences.

This new market direction has taken names such as retail 4.0, emotional retail or in the more conservative versions they have been associated with omni-channel or cross-channel concepts, as well as virtual reality and Metaverse. In this context, the one clear thing is that the revolution generates new opportunities. What it is, however, remains to be determined.

The different possible approaches to market transformation

In an expanding market the approaches are clearly different. Like TSW the risk we see is always the same. If we sit down with the developers of all the new technologies to understand how to decorate our retail in a different way with the latest technologies, we will end up committing the usual original sin.

We will find a beautiful solution, even engaging in the best hypothesis, but we will risk not solving any need of our end user, and therefore we will find ourselves asking ourselves “How can we make our future user use our service?”

TSW and the new reality of travel

To avoid making this mistake that many are making, we have decided to conduct research activities in a context that is particularly close to our hearts: the world of travel. We therefore started conducting research aimed at redesigning the physical experience in the travel agency of the future (Spoiler: people don’t like travel agencies. Or at least they don’t like it anymore, depending on the new experience they expect).

To do this, we started from an analysis of the needs of one of our customers’ types of consumers. In this context there were three main clusters of travellers, organized by type of purchasing behaviour, according to the chosen destination. With each of these groups we conducted a workshop and co-design activity of this experience of the future. This allowed us to identify generic, transversal for all, or cluster-specific possibilities.

Once the information was collected and organized, we validated (or rather falsified) our concept, with participants representing the different characteristics of the travelers in groups. The final output was a development prototype of this new concept.

At this moment we can anticipate a little, for obvious reasons. But we can tell you something. We know that there are needs that can be addressed in physical presence, and others in digital presence or remotely. Below we report a detail about what serial travelers ask to address just some of the issues investigated, regarding the use of virtual reality.

It seems quite evident where people see an interesting application of virtual reality, as a function of the solution of a theme and where instead a particular value is not seen.

Virtual reality histogram

It is clear that this is only a detail of what emerged from the research activity. Just as it is equally clear that in our opinion this is the only way to deal with the opening of this new market.

TSW’s approach to the retail of the future

If we let ourselves be guided by technology, we will come to have beautiful new retail outlets, but without the people inside them. If we let ourselves be guided by people’s needs, and put technologies at our service, we will have retail outlets that have been able to adapt to change and that will continue to shine. Sometimes the simplest solution is also the most effective.

Share on
27 February 2023 Luca Martorano

Related articles:

TAG: experience design retail analysis The Sixth W approach user testing UX and UI