Come across anything “curated” recently?

I’d be surprised if you haven’t. This particular c-word is increasingly used for all manner of things (visit Verde restaurant in New York if you’re after a “curated” salad).

So language changes and evolves. Does it matter? And what’s it got to do with shopping?

The phrase “curated retail space” is bandied about, often indiscriminately, so it’s worth thinking about what it means – especially to your customers.

Ultimately it’s about trust. Shoppers are more attuned to being “marketed to” so anything that smacks of hype is likely to be rumbled fairly quickly and viewed with cynicism – precisely the attitude you want to avoid fostering.

In its truest sense curation suggests thoughtfulness, discrimination and a careful selection process. In a retail sense the customer needs to feel that you’ve gone beyond simply lumping similar products together for a better cross-sell opportunity.

If they can feel your sense of discovery in what you’ve found and put together, then you’re more likely to create a heightened experience and stronger engagement.

For a great example head to Oxford and take a look at Objects of Use. Here, the informal product display belies a real consideration about making the customer feel they’ve unearthed a real find for themselves. Watch customers and you’ll see them take the time to read the stories behind the products printed on brown card labels. There’s a lot of picking up and stroking too.

This is always going to be easier to achieve in a one-off store (although they have another opening in Nottingham soon) but there are things that multiples can learn from. Looking at items as collections is a good start, but collections that relate to the way customers live. Another key element is the back-story: show and tell customers the reason why these things are here in the first place.

Space and pace matter too. Providing an environment that encourages dwell and a change of speed from everything else can be really involving.

But for curation to be meaningful it has to be genuine. Tacking a few quirky messages on stuff you’re already selling won’t cut it.

So next time you hear or use the c-word make sure it rings true. Your customers will certainly know.

Tim Bevin-Nicholls