Mytopian Retail (Radical Retail part 4/5)

Individuals and communities are increasingly becoming centers of gravity for attention and communication, as well as co-producers of ideas, goods and experiences. Each person becomes the center in their own utopian retail-verses – or Mytopias.

Each Mytopia is self-curated to mirror one or some specific sub-identities of the person, which can be expressed as interests, a set of values, a profile in social media or an avatar in a Metaverse. In a person’s Mytopia, retail’s job is to help improving the specific sub-identity the person is expressing in that specific space. In other words, the marketplace is coming to the consumer and the consumer is becoming a marketplace.

In the work with Radical Retail Report, a report on retail 2030, produced together with Nexer Group (downloaded here), we identified five shifts that are defining the third retail revolution:

1. Regenerative retail – From Cowboy Economy to Spaceship Economy 

2. Phygital experiences – From Transaction Enabler to Experience Provider

3. RADICAL retail – From Manpowered to AI-powered

4. Mytopian retail – From Me in the Marketplace to Me as the Marketplace

5. The Great Data Chaos – From War on Market shares to War on Data shares

This is part 4 of 5 in an article series that outlines the five shifts of the third retail revolution, and presents key take aways for retailers to use in their strategic work towards 2030. References to data can be found in the original report. 

From Broadcast to Networked Co-creation
The Internet has taken us from the paradigm of the printing press and broad cast media where information flowed mainly in one direction, to a world where communication happens in network-like messy structures. 

Consider how social the internet is today: 96% of all internet users globally uses social media, and the typical social media user spends two and a half hours daily on their preferred social platforms. This creates a foundation for trade that is less dependent on central and static nodes such as stores. Users gather in more fluid structures – around peak experiences and in communities that represent their social identities, and retailers better tap in to, or initiate, those to effectively reach their audiences.

“It is about identifying the relevant digital universes where people like spending time and are doing so out of free will, and from there find ways to drive traffic to your commerce space.”


Jens Nordfält, Professor, University of Bath School of Management. 

In the same vein, consumers are giving increasing weight to information from peers. Four out of five American consumers will not shop from a website that does not have user generated reviews. Future retailers need to understand and adapt to the logic where they are not the most important messengers in the system. 

The Promise of Decentralization
In the shift towards web3.0, governance structures will increasingly support decentralized value exchange. Blockchain is the foundation here, creating the infrastructure for digital ownership verification and safe transactions between individuals. Many dream of a digital world where each individual own their data, monetize on it and is rewarded for their contributions to product design and the building of virtual experiences. 

The energy consumption problems with blockchain, NFTs etc were described in the introduction, and there are further unsolved and unexplored challenges with the governance of true decentralization and distribution. This makes the uncertainties around the development great, but nevertheless it seems like a shift towards more decentralized governance structures is inevitable – and indeed comes with opportunities. 

The Creator Economy is Here to Stay 
It is becoming increasingly easy and popular for anyone to develop products that can be produced at scale and to sell and market them – just look at these examples: 

  • Etsy, a platform for makers to sell their crafts, has 1.9 million active sellers.
  • Cobalt is a platform that enables individuals to put together their own webshop by choosing (partly customizable) products from hundreds of American suppliers and creating an ecommerce site. 
  • Clo-3d is a service that simplifies the design process for clothes, by making 3d design of garments super easy. 
  • TikTok has created TikTok Seller University that teaches individuals how to do business on the platform. 

The mentioned network dynamic is playing out its power here, by enabling the attraction force in the social capital of individuals and communities to become a fierce competitor to traditional brands. Moreover, when the logistics around retail operations can be managed by a platform like Etsy, the competitive advantage shifts even further towards being able to create that magnetic field that draws users and consumers in. 

The Network and Retailers – Who Will Serve Whom?
The term “influencer” became established during the 2010’s, and the future for retailers lies in deepening and expanding the practices to make the magnetism of individuals and communities to work for them. Forever21 is letting individuals build Forever21 stores on the Metaverse platform Roblox to sell digital merchandise, and the newly founded Vietnamese social commerce firm On lets individuals curate an assortment for their own ecommerce shop. A central question here is to figure out how to create partnerships where all involved are benefitting.

Six competences are needed to create a complete retail offering, and each competence comes with a certain power source. The image shows what types of actors that today are providing the different competences. 

New Competences and Power Dynamics
The Advisory Board gathering for this report included a vivid discussion about the power shifts in the move towards the future retail. The harvest of the discussion fed into the map above, which illustrates the competences needed for a successful retailer in the future, what power source they entail and who are commonly providing the competences today. Either an actor can provide all the competences themselves, or they need to join forces with partners. Two patterns are emerging: 1) big actors who are trying to close their ecosystems and provide all the competences in a sphere that they can control and 2) actors that gather specialist partners to together create retail systems that cover all the functions. Uncertainties remain with regards to how relationships and power dynamics between different actors will develop. “No company can own the whole tech stack in retail. Rather we will see actors that bundle services and technologies to create an offering to the market. Hence systems need to be open and interoperable.” (Martin Andersson Ekberg, Digital Area Manager at Volvo Trucks) 

New Competence Dynamics with Niche Marketplaces
One interesting phenomenon that represent a new competence dynamic is retailers that open marketplaces, through which brands are allowed to sell their products rather independently. For example, Swedish sports retailer Stadium has launched Staduim Connect, a platform that provides payment solutions and customer service, but on which brands are independently adding products, are responsible for pricing and are shipping products from their own warehouses. Stadium Connect helps brands access the sport-nerdy tribe, by leveraging the Stadium brand, which is well-known among sport interested people. This is an example of how a multi brand platform acts as narrator and offers a brand to tap into their community, and the brand stands for the more logistical competences of pricing and warehousing. 

The Customer is the Hub
Customer journeys are becoming increasingly centered around the consumer, rather than taking place in a place or space where supply is aggregated. And in line with the intensified network dynamic, the store (online and physical) as a place for assortment display is losing potence, as consumers increasingly complete their whole purchase journey on social platforms where they are presented with inspiration and offers based on the feeds they have curated themselves. Instagram and other social spaces have developed features that enables the whole purchasing journey on the social platform: products can be tagged in photos and the items paid for in Instagram’s own checkout. In that way consumers can make a purchase without even entering a “store”. Retail is increasingly created around the customer, who in the future will have access to products and brand experiences wherever and whenever they want thanks to extended reality technology.

Embedded shopping
In accordance with the logic where the customer becomes the hub, an increasing amount of consumption is happening embedded in other activities, or on the way between
places and activities. We are so to speak living our lives in a marketplace, or as a marketplace, and shopping is becoming a less isolated activity. Therefore, retailers must understand how they can fit into the life-flows of consumers, to capture their attention in the context where it feels relevant to them to shop. “The pattern when customers come to the products, visit stores, just to transact is changing. Now products are coming to the customers, all the time, through social media and communities. To be successful in this world retail needs to be where the customers are and I think retail will merge with everything else that we do, both physical and digital.” (Linda Pimmeshofer, Industry Advisor Retail, Microsoft Western Europe). 

Digital is the New Real
An increasing amount of consumption is happening embedded in activities in digital worlds. In particular the younger population is having more of their valued experiences and interactions in virtual, often game-like, spaces. They build lives in those digital contexts in the same way as in the physical world. For example, Roblox, a platform for user created games, has 50 million active daily users that create their own games and experiences and share them with others. In these “Metaverses” digital goods are becoming as “real” as physical ones, representing social identity, creative expression and status. 65% of Gen Z already states that they have purchased virtual items.

“Generation Z in Korea spend more on digital assets than anything else. That makes companies transition from manufacturing physical products to making digital ones. The digital world is also highly scalable, which drives value.”


Moon-Suck Song, CEO, Panagora. 

A central question here is what digital identity and ownership will look like in the future. Will we have digital identities that transfer between virtual contexts? And will these contexts be interoperable enough to allow us to carry value and ownership between them? Furthermore, how will digital and physical value translate between one another? The answer to the latter question will be inevitable to develop a true phygital economy and manifest the full potential of the metaverse-logic. 







Barriers to entry


Low: Turn-key product company


Corporate brand

Community based branding


The shop

The consumer/the community

Role of brand

Create content

Inspire community engagement, curate community content

Context for supply

The shop

The personal feed


Brands and stores

The community

Dominating capital

Monetary, industrial

Social, ideas, time, engagement

Role of consumer



Characterizing sub-shifts for the journey towards Mytopian retail. 

Key Takeaways Towards 2030

  • Consumers are increasingly trusting their peers rather than brands, making it important to leverage individual’s social and cultural capital. How does your brand become a trusted friend?
  • Vibrant communities that co-create products and experiences and share their perspectives on products will be what creates gravitational fields around brands. How can you spark a community that will create a magnetic field around your brand?
  • Web3.0 incentive structures, like NFTs and token-economics will attract young consumers to virtual spaces and brands. Do you have a NFT or token strategy yet?
  • More purchases will happen as part of activities and life in virtual worlds, or Metaverses. What competences are you acquiring now to establish a solid Metaverse presence?

The next article, 5 of 5 in this series, describes the Great Data Chaos – a future of retail characterized by competition about consumer data, security issues and an increasingly fractionalized internet.