If you think online shopping is killing the entire brick-and-mortar retail category, think again.\nCompanies willing to bet big on providing unique experiences to potential or actual customers will do just fine, says Howard Saunders.\u00a0 Of course, Saunders, a self-proclaimed retail futurist and CEO of retail consultancy 22nd&5th, has a dog in this fight -- who needs a retail futurist if there is no future in retail? But he can point to many examples of physical stores that are not just surviving but reinvigorating the space.\nFor example, if you want to blend your own lipstick color, check out Bite Beauty\u2019s Lip Lab in New York, Toronto, or San Francisco. If Converse sneakers are more your thing, you can build your own custom Chuck Taylors either online or at the Converse store in SoHo and other locations. Other physical stores going for the experience factor: Nike\u2019s New York flagship for one, and a new Samsung \u2018digital\u2019 playground in the city\u2019s meat packing district.\nAnd Tiffany, the iconic jewelry store, last year opened an on-premises caf\u00e9, a mere 59 years after Truman Capote published a novel called Breakfast at Tiffany\u2019s (and 56 years after the eponymous movie debuted).\nAll these venues all have one thing in common, though: they cater to customers\u2019 five senses, not just their pocketbook. And technology plays a big role in catering to those customers.\nIf you build it (beautifully) they will come\nThis notion of \u201ccustomer experience\u201d -- a term that has been done to death by marketers -- is still key to retail success. And, providing actual goods and services that cannot be downloaded\u2014notably food and drink and a comfy spot to chat -- is a big part of the appeal.\nThe quest for experience is why you see more stores offering DIY customization (Converse, Lip Lab) and settings for social interaction. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you build a nice space, they will come. And, if you do a really great job, maybe they\u2019ll even do some business with you.\nSaunders\u2019 pitch, is that retailers have to aim higher than sales: They have to build spaces \u201cthat make us fall in love,\u201d he said at the recent Oracle Industry Connect Conference in New York. Thus, the Nike store in SoHo flaunts a basketball court and treadmills that take visitors on virtual runs through Central Park and other routes.\nStores that are not stores\nSaunders is also besotted by the new Samsung store at 837 Washington Street in Manhattan. Samsung 837, as it\u2019s called, is \u201cthe most important store in Manhattan in 20 years,\u201d he proclaimed.\u00a0\nThere\u2019s a selfie station, where the portrait you snap shows as a gigantic Instagrammable moment projected on a video wall. Fun detail: Your selfie is actually a giant composite of everyone else\u2019s selfies.\nThere\u2019s also a virtual reality (VR) tunnel\u2014an amusement park style ride featuring the latest-and-greatest gadgets. From Samsung, of course.\nIf you think this seems more like entertainment (and narcissism) than retail, you are not mistaken: This is not actually a store at all since you can\u2019t actually buy anything there. Instead, you get a great sample of the cutting-edge technologies the electronics conglomerate is working on. Samsung itself refers to 837 Samsung as a \u201ccultural destination and digital playground.\u201d There go those marketers again.\nThe idea is to showcase cool stuff that customers can then buy online or at Best Buy or another store. This is all about demand generation and leaving fulfillment to the customers\u2019 channel of choice.\nIn the U.K., department store chain Debenhams, led by CEO Sergio Bucher, a former exec with online shopping giant Amazon, is testing a Click, Try & Buy feature that melds online and in-store perks.\u00a0\nSay a customer buys a piece of apparel from Debenhams online but opts to pick it up in a store. At the time of purchase, she can also book a dressing room and a personal shopper for pick-up time. Then, if an item doesn\u2019t fit, she can instantly return it for a refund or exchange it for a different size.\nOf course, most of these companies\u2014Nike, Converse (owned by Nike), and Samsung, are huge, deep-pocketed entities. And Bite Beauty, a Toronto-based startup, was bought in 2014 by Kendo, the incubator for European fashion conglomerate LVMH.\nBut innovation is not just for the giants. Trendy Williamsburg Brooklyn-based Jane Motorcycles offers the latest, sleekest vehicles, along with related clothing and gear (and coffee) at its store.\nReached after his talk, Saunders said there is an \u201cendless list\u201d of young entrepreneurs and \u201cdigital artisans\u201d who are all shaking up the retail space.\n\u00a0\u201cTruth is, the world of retail is turning upside down. The old school brands will not survive unless they adapt radically and swiftly. For every mediocre store or brand, you can name, there is a young innovator waiting in the wings to replace them,\u201d he said.\n\u00a0\u201cRetailers of all sizes are starting to think beyond the transaction to create inviting and innovative spaces,\u201d noted Jeff Warren, vice president of retail strategy and solutions management for Oracle. As examples, he cited so-called \u201cbrand experiences like in-store yoga, local performances, demonstrations from new and upcoming chefs and conversations with local designers.\u201d\nAll of which can help retailers create more intimate, personal connections with their customers.\nIn this effort, retailers can parlay technologies such as machine learning and analytics to better predict not only what consumers want and where they want it, but to devise more experiences to drive even more engagement, Warren added.\nSo, while consumers will keep taking advantage of convenient online retail sites, they will also turn to brick-and-mortar for the personal and social experiences that only exist in the physical world. And retailers that hope to thrive into the 21st century will keep creating those experiences.