I had a recent discussion with colleagues from Japan and Germany. The discussion was about exhibit design trends. Both felt strongly about the concept of creating a visitor experience within a trade show environment. At that moment it dawned on me how this “experiential” craze has gone global. The power of a positive experience to encourage sales has also been a focus of attention within retail stores. The shift to buying on Amazon (or others) has pushed retailers to look at new ways to retain buyer interest and loyalty and keep them willing to visit the stores. It is said that 80% of retail purchases will continue to occur in the stores thru 2020. As in retail, new experiential concepts will unfold in trade show design and the Amazons will continue to try and change our habits regarding the buying experience. In 2004, myself and a group from EDPA were looking at universities interested in implementing a degree program in exhibit design. We spoke with Auburn in Georgia, UNLV in Las Vegas, and Drexell in Philadelphia. While at Drexell in Philadelphia we walked across the street and wandered into Wannemakers (now Macy’s). Wannemakers was one of the first department stores in the US. This department store with entertainment concept was a ground breaking shift in the shopping experience. Now the owner, John Wannemaker, wanted to create an attraction to bring visitors to the store. He felt strongly that buyers enjoyed the musical experience to put them in a positive mood and shop with a smile. After the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, he purchased a 2,500 pound sculpture of an ‘eagle’, and a huge pipe organ with 10,000 pipes. He purchased an abandoned railroad depot and retro fit it to incorporate the eagle and the organ, and created a department store with a unique attraction- the Grand Depot – the Wannemaker Building. The Grand Court quickly became a Philadelphia favorite, highlighted by the Wanamaker Eagle and the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ. People visited in droves from throughout the nation! Among other things of note, the Grand Court has been featured in many major motion pictures. The tag line “Meet me by the Eagle” became huge in Philadelphia. John Wanamaker changed the entire nature of the shopping experience. Many retail stores across the nation then picked up on the “Wannemaker” idea, (playing music in the store) but no one came close to the grand investment of building in a famous pipe organ into their store to attract shoppers and create a shopping ‘experience’. Subliminally music soothed the soul and changes your feelings. People buy from people they like within an environment they feel good about. The environments we create to do this matters. This environmental experience holds true to a point if we are just shopping, but internet shoppers really don’t care about the emotional experience when buying a known commodity like paper clips, underwear, tooth paste, or an airline ticket. I believe that human interaction and a pleasant environment does matter when buying personal items like clothing, specialty food, and cosmetics. High ticket items like a new house, machine tools, and automobiles also need a human touch to influence a final buying decision. So as trade shows and retail environments continue to compete against the ‘Amazon concept’ of buying, new and clever ways need to unfold to stimulate the in store (or trade show) buying experience, without being overbearing. The focus on ‘experiential’ has our attention. I caution that environments that push people to do something they don’t want to do can be a distraction, instead of an attraction. People are not robots. We must be sensitive when developing what we consider to be an attraction when it comes to human behavior and a visitor’s willingness to participate. I anxiously stand by to see how creative minds will continue to change environments and create experiences that really serve to influence a decision to buy.