Designing for the Human Experience: 5 Retail Trends from CES 2023

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is considered by many to be the place to be for cutting edge innovation and new technologies.

At Imagine, we geek out on the tech, too—but we are also laser focused on the experiences that brands create within the trade show floor.


We love to draw inspiration from the big tech booths to translate into standout in-store retail environments.

This year was the first in-person CES since the pandemic hit. The Las Vegas-based event set the tone for the year with a theme centered on what tech can do for the good of the human experience.

CES trends 2023: the human experience

The keynote focused on the Human Security for All campaign, which aims to solve the biggest human problems, using modern technology. It spotlights seven interconnected aspects of human existence, such as food security, access to healthcare, and environmental protection, which can be enhanced through tech.

With that in mind, we identified five outstanding design trends for the retail industry. Forget the tech trends, metaverse, and artificial intelligence—we’re more interested in the experience.

We’re detailing our discoveries along with ideas on how you can incorporate them into your brick-and-mortar stores.

1. Outside in

Giving a significant nod to eco-friendly values, earth-focused design principles made an exuberant appearance.

Natural elements thoughtfully incorporated into a space have many of the same effects that good lighting does:

  • Increased perception of value and quality
  • Greater levels of receptiveness to prices
  • A more uplifting shopping experience overall

Insight: By infusing the physical retail environment with organic materials like wood and greenery, brands can establish an outside-in atmosphere that can translate into a breath of fresh air in shopping spaces.

Sounds lovely but... expensive, right?

The good news: These earthy environments don’t have to be costly.

Work with an expert in value engineering who can show you way to create the same ambiance for a fraction of the cost.

2. Visionary Reflection

Mirror, mirror—everywhere!

Brands such as Mercedes, Abbott, and LG made dramatic use of high-gloss flooring, reflective surfaces, and Lucite framing and enhancements.

Turning focus back onto attendees amplified their experience of the exhibition. It's honing in on basic consumer behavior.

The effect?

Double-take-worthy impact. These stunning spaces definitely up the ante in getting people to stop in their tracks and pay attention.

Insight: Brands have always been great about including mirrors in clothing and cosmetic environments. This is a call to action to consider incorporating more shine in unexpected places.

And it doesn’t always have to be mirrors.

Like we saw at CES, shiny or sparkly surfaces, fixtures, and signage can go along way to creating that high-end, reflective environment without breaking the bank.

3. Immersive Experiential

With “Be in It” as this year’s guiding theme, multiple brands produced what can only be described as the visual equivalent of surround sound.

Transformative signage enveloped attendees in 360-degree experiences—no headset required.

These spaces firmly established the power of our surroundings to transport us from where we actually are to where our imaginations roam free.

Participants entered immersive experiences where every surface—above, around, and below—echoed originality via visuals, videos, dancing lights, and more.

Insight: While something as big and bold as 360-degree immersion can work well for a trade show experience, it’s not always ideal in a physical store, where it can be overwhelming and cause fatigue or irritation for the consumer.

However, brands can take the essence of this concept to create mini-moments that transport the customer.

Take, for example, the transition from one section of the store to another. How can you incorporate unique decor and signage elements to indicate the shift? How can you include some surprise and delight to get the customer to do a double take?

4. Mood Lighting

Move over jarring fluorescents—enter ambiance.

By making potent use of low-level lighting with soothing blue and purple hues, brands seemed to be telling people two things: exhale and enjoy (something everyone could use a reminder of, no?).

Also trending: what’s old is new again in neon, giving us retro vibes for days.

Insight: Light can have a big impact on your customers, but it’s a hard one for some retailers to control completely.

Just like the last trend, think in mini moments.

Softer, more flattering light in dressing rooms creates a better try-on experience. Backlit frames create an interesting glow as customers walk by. Neon signs draw eyeballs to specific areas or products.

When you think small, conquering light is achievable.

5. Dynamic Dimension

Coming at you: all things 3D.

From die-cut visuals used to create optical illusions, to holographic displays that take digital to a new dimension, brands like Nikon, CJ Global, and Dassault Systems went way outside the box with signage—and it left us reeling with wild ideas.

Meanwhile, minimalism took a back seat as larger-than-life signage boldly took up space in ways never seen before.

How? Going vertical.

Maximal use of height captured the attention of attendees, defying gravitational expectations and forging a strikingly powerful experience.

CES retail design insight: make the most every dimension

Insight: Make sure you are maximizing the verticality of your physical space.

Hanging signs, larger that life signs, and three-dimensional signs can truly transform the in-store experience—and they don’t have to be budget busters, either.


It’s all about value engineering.

At Imagine, when we work our clients on these types of in-store elements, we present a good, better, best model. We offer three options that bring the vision to life in different ways, allowing them to select what works best for their brand and budget—without compromising on quality.

Centering on the ways technology can radically improve our human experience, the annual Consumer Technology Association event set the stage for ascendant trends, both in tech and in design.

Some of the world’s biggest, most beloved tech companies came together to collaborate on all things innovation; and if the event showed us anything, it’s that big ideas have the power to yield transformative impact.

The physical store environment is one of the most crucial tools in your arsenal for capturing attention and engaging customers.

Wondering how you can pull this off? Let's chat →

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