I spent an hour observing the Glossier flagship store as an information space.

I’ll be honest, for a long time I thought the millennial-favorite cosmetic brand Glossier’s flagship in NYC was invite-only. I’d seen the NYC showroom’s pale pink, the enticingly instagramable interior on the feeds of Instagram influencers. It was so lavish in comparison to a Sephora or Ulta; I didn’t think they’d let the public pour in. This changed once I saw the now ubiquitous plastic pink bag and bubble-wrapped pouches in the hands of the masses on the 4 train. My manufactured mystique around the showroom’s accessibility made Glossier a perfect information environment subject to observe.

Putting an ecommerce gloss on retail

Glossier’s part of a new class of neoliberal disruptors in the retail space for women. They use a social-conscious capitalist model: A body-positive, female empowerment brand that turns buying cosmetics into an act of resisting the patriarchy. Glossier’s picture-perfect showroom is an information environment similar to other retail brands that started as direct-to-consumer companies with NYC flagships, like Casper or Away. Their idea is to bring their recreate their beloved e-commerce experience in person.

An empty flagship via WWD.com

Once the doorman swings open the door on Lafayette street, you’re confronted with a pink-velvet cavernous staircase (I had to inquire about wheelchair accessibility, as an alternative to the stairs was not easily discoverable) that leads to a large, open-concept space with mirror-lined walls and more shades of pink decor. The crowd was large and surprisingly young. Mobs of girls no older than 14 painting their faces in such a plush setting; like a child trying on lipstick in mom’s bathroom.

Mascara as information

At Glossier, the information, or products, are extremely inviting. Unlike Sephora where the products are in high display cases at an angle, Glossier’s information lays flat on low-lying tables. The many tables have ridges that signify they can be picked up, and where to place them after. Also on the table are testing materials that make the products try-able for the masses. Cups filled with bite-size mascara wands, eyeshadow brushes, and eyeliner sticks are key signifiers that green-light trying the information. The products on the tables themselves are missing their application tools so the users must use a sample-size wand or brush to access the product. In other makeup stores like Sephora, or even the counter at Saks, I’ve never seen a testing product manipulated it such a way. Wouldn’t the users want to see the product in its entirety before using? Isn’t setting out the disposable application tools clear enough? Apparently, it’s not clear and can be a real hygienic concern. Glossier’s limited product testing design method is more user-centric than I thought.

Get in the groove: Try the products at Glossier

In the “wet room”, users can test the products with one of the many sinks that line the walls. When I took a peek, no one was full-on washing their face. A couple of giggling girls were taking a picture of the moisturizer. I asked an employee, Glossier’s information intermediaries, and she said people are a little tentative to lather up in-store. However, once someone takes the plunge, others follow. I’m familiar with this herding mentality from the behavioral economics book Nudge. This was a clear indication that within information environments, social norms can often serve as a barrier to access.

Cosmetic tech

Glossier information intermediary with iPad

Once you find a product you like, purchasing requires face-to-face contact with one of the intermediaries. Glossier is set-up like Apple’s genius bar, except the geniuses holding iPads specialize in makeup and skincare and adorn baby pink jumpsuits. The pink intermediaries are extremely friendly, but don’t overstep; I observed most of them smiling along the outer rim of the floor. Users went to them only when needed, dissimilar to the constant “can I help you find anything” at other retail spaces.

Glossier’s checkout system reminds me of a gas station in New Jersey; You can really do it yourself, but they won’t let you. A Glossier employee will scan your products with the iPad and then have you enter in all your information. On the interface, it has a place to enter a promo code, but I heard an employee tell the users they had to purchase the items online if they wanted to use the promo code. They could still pick up their products today, but downstairs where the other online pick-up orders are sent. I’m sure there’s a technological back-end reason for this promo process, but why include the promo line in the in-person checkout, to begin with?

Conveyor belt via Yelp

An info show

Once you’ve purchased your products with Apple technology in the hands of an intermediary, the pick-up process becomes kind of clunky. You’re told to wait in the waiting room, where there are more jumpsuit-fitted employees behind a counter with a vertical conveyor belt on the wall. A horde of people is anxiously awaiting one of the pink jumpsuits to grab their pink bag from the conveyor belt and call out their name. After witnessing the iPad and conveyor belt, it seemed so odd their process of delivery was to scream a name out, instead of implementing an arrival screen, like at an Airport. The employee had to continual repeat names, and to be completely honest, did not seem thrilled about it. The conveyor belt was a slow process and visually interesting. However, I wasn’t able to capture my own video as one of the intermediaries shouted “no photos.” I had to wonder if employee agency conflicts with the designed space; I just don’t see another reason for the expensive conveyor belt display but for social media fodder.

While there are some design hiccups, I think Glossier did a fair job of turning their seamless ecommence interface into a IRL retail space. I didn’t originally view the information environment as accessible, so upon entry, I was pleasantly surprised by the user-centric design.


Buckland, M. (1991). Information as Thing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science. Jun1991, Vol. 42 Issue 5, p351-360. 10p.

Norman, D. A. (1990). The design of everyday things. New York: Doubleday. 

Thaler, Richard H.,Sunstein, Cass R. (2008) Nudge :improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness New Haven : Yale University Press,

Observation of Future of Physical Retail

When considering the kind of information environment, I wanted to observe, I wanted to observe the evolution of physical retail experience. I chose this because retail environment is experiencing a lot of changes after the emergence of e-commerce. Ground breaking retailers are seeing an incentive in looking priceless and administration to make a vivid shopping knowledge intended to pull at heartstrings and catch client dedication, notwithstanding for a brief timeframe. Developing innovation makes it less demanding to mix the physical and advanced retail understanding to give better knowledge into client conduct and expectation — and make a really special vivid experience for their clients. Retailers can utilize this total picture to make an increasingly customized shopping knowledge, drive transformations, improve client administration, and set themselves apart from their opposition. 

 I decided to go to the Nike Flagship store in Midtown on a weekday afternoon as it provides knowledge in a situation that is as responsive as digital.  This Six-story space is called as the “House of Innovation 0000”, a very first effort of Nike to bring retail to life. 

 While walking on the fifth avenue, the whole black building with frosted patterned glass panels and a huge Nike logo grabs my attention. The architecture itself gives information of from where the entrance is. The red glass door opens up to a sci-fi art installation of computers having heat maps and holographic shoes stating the identity of the brand. The store consisted of young visitors. The first floor is treated as innovative museum of Nike. It consisted of information of design process on screens and showing prototypes of previous shoe designs and the latest designs for sneakers. It also encouraged people to download its app to get the full experience of store. There was a digitally heat mapped sports court installed inside where people could experience their shoes before purchasing it. The tiles on the Arena can be reworked to have new spaces and designs; as the choice develops, the store format can advance as well, making the House of Innovation 000 an adjustable store in each feeling of the word. I think this was a really interesting feature because only in retail you can understand the feel of the shoes and nothing better than playing the game of choice in it to understand the comfort of it.  

I was directed to the second floor where there was Women’s clothing section. Here there were barcodes besides every product. People need to scan that barcode to purchase the product or get the desired size in the changing rooms. This helped people to roam around the store without carrying the weight of the cart. The whole process of shopping was digitized which made retail fun. Similar facilities were provided in the Men’s clothing section on the third floor. 

On the fourth floor was the shoes section. It had a sneaker bar and various designs in shoes. A full customization wing of Sneaker Bar, conveying on Nike’s spearheading DIY soul and offering an abundance of bands, textures, decals and more with which to adorn a wide determination of consistently invigorated footwear. People could customize the shoes themselves. The younger generation and shoe fanatic people were really enjoying it.  Even in this section there was a barcode besides the shoes which should be scanned using the Nike app to get it of size and choice. This barcode scanning is a really a great feature because then I need not search for a representative and wait for the whole process of finding a shoe of choice.  

This leads me to the last floor of the building where there is a Nike Expert Studio. This feature of one-on one joint collaboration with expert stylist can be booked by Nike members in-store and on the Nike App. I think this section was very VIP section where people could interact with stylist and get customized clothes or clothes that suits their body type or style. Very few people were coming to this section. I personally think this section was not getting as much attention as previous ones. They have not given much information about it even while entering the store. 

Observing this whole space was really interesting. It appeared that some visitors were there to only experience the innovative retail space. They were curious about the interactive features and the technology used in the store. Despite the unfamiliarity of technology some people were inherent on using it as someone would think they were stealing from the store. The young generations were very engaged with the technology. But the older generation was sticking to the conventional style of retail. 

As Bates stated in Fundamental Forms of Information, we will simply consider subjective experience, including the experience of remembering, to be the first on a list of kinds of embodied information that result from neural encoded information. I really enjoyed observing people first taking the experience of the product and having hands on customization which then lead them to buy the product. I observed what Marchionni said changes in the human–information interaction entities relate to learning or other mental state changes in the human and usage changes in the information object. I could sense the different between interaction with technology of different generation which depends on both urge of learning and mental state. 

I trusted it is the ideal convergence of individuals, innovation, and style in one space. The space had the capacity to speak with its city through individuals and advanced administrations, welcoming a discussion that is synchronized to the client.  From my perspective the whole technological process is overwhelming if you are trying it for the first time. But if this is the future of physical retail, people will get used to it eventually. Overall it was a great initiative taken by Nike Team. 



Marcia J. Bates Fundamental Forms of Information, Journal of the American Society for the Information Science and Technology, 57(8):1033–1045, 2006. 

G. Marchionini / Library & Information Science Research 30 (2008) 165–174. 

Richa Kulkarni, INFO 601-02