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Celebrating Progress: Evaluating 2023's Shifts and the Road to 2024


As we prepare for 2024, let's take a reflective journey through ThinkLab's Tectonic Shifts, an annual presentation designed to distill key insights for navigating the nuanced landscape of the interiors industry and the broader built environment. This annual tradition by ThinkLab isn’t some far out future that may or may not happen, it’s designed to help you sort through the immense amount of information coming at you. But how did we do? And how have these predictions evolved? Last year this included 5 foundational shifts you should make to avoid falling behind (Shifts 1-5) as well as 5 shifts to get ahead. (Shifts 6-10)

So, let’s look at how it started and how it’s going:

5 points of communication and connection

1. Shift from communication to connection:

How it’s going: Connecting takes a lot more intentionality if it’s done digitally. We, as humans, need to be careful
not to naturally choose convenience over connection. (And also guard our world from disconnection.) As an
industry, and as a world, we are still working through this shift. The future will be not just about shifting from
communication to connection, but more about taking that one step further to really focus on culture and NEW
ways to build it.

Explore how to Redefine Your Office Culture in this podcast episode


2. Shift from talent acquisition to talent transformation

How it’s going: Hybrid work, the explosion of AI, and our new boundaryless world will require shifts in what we
expect from our employees, and what employees expect from employers. Some even suggest that in the future job
titles will be skill-based rather than prestige titles that can mean different things at different organizations. One of
the keys to employee loyalty will be up-skilling and re-skilling for an emerging future.

Check out this podcast episode to understand how Gen. Z learns differently AND how to inspire lifelong learning for
all generations.


3. Shift from “just sustainability” to social consciousness

How it’s going: Today, your brand is either authentically practicing what it preaches, or it’s seen as detracting from
the cause. There’s no longer a neutral option. At ThinkLab, we’ve had SO MANY BRANDS reach out to us saying, “I
think sustainability is it! This will be our brand’s true differentiator moving forward.” While we do agree that
brands will need to “do what you say, and also say what you do” if not executed authentically, this will cause more
harm than good for your brand.

Looking for ways to guide your brand, and your clients, to make better decisions when it comes to the
environment? We recommend tuning into this podcast.


4. Shift from chaos to controlled

How it’s going: While 2023 started with lingering supply chain issues, this feeling of lack of control has expanded
in the face of lingering “decision indecision.” 52% of B2B buyers say the buying cycle for new purchases has
gotten longer. And ThinkLab data suggests it’s even higher for our industry. Add to that, the largest sector in our
industry- corporate- is down 19% since the onset of the pandemic, and due to uncertainty is projected to be very
slow to recover. This means much of our industry is going to be looking to diversify in 2024 and beyond.

If you’re feeling the pain of client decision-indecision, you’re not alone. Find out more about ThinkLab’s 2024
Hackathon, which is diving into the Future of Customer Decision Making; with not only A&D, but CRE, distributors,
and even our end users IN THE ROOM.


5. Shift from “selling to” to “buying with”

How it’s going: If you haven’t mastered the basics in this increasingly phygital (physical + digital) world, you’re
already playing from behind. New research from Gartner suggests that while we have often looked at “phygital
selling” as leveraging digital tools to make our human capital more efficient, the new reality is flipped; the ideal
journey looks more like digital-first with human assistance. In fact, Gartner suggests that rep-assisted digital
journeys cut buyer regret in half.


Hear from the researchers behind broad B2B McKinsey research in this podcast, and translate it to what this means
for our beloved industry. This podcast, where we interview one of the researchers behind broad B2B McKinsey
research and translate it to what this means for our beloved industry.

image of 5 ways to connect digitally and physically


6. Shift from physical–digital to digital–physical

How it’s going: Leading brands will leverage the reach of the digital-first world to entice interest with key
messaging, then optimize experiences in physical space to make brand messages (and experiences) come to life.
ThinkLab data suggests that branding is becoming increasingly important to all industry decision makers with our
brand-first persona showing the largest increase from 2022-2023. The biggest driver of that shift was older
generations moving from the “rep-first” preference to the “brand-first” preference. This means aligning your brand
across the phygital (physical + digital) realms, while making sure that experience is aligned will be more important
than ever in 2024 and beyond.

Explore what phygital means with this podcast.


7. Shift from region-defined to function-aligned

How it’s going: Today more than ever, project teams are formed based on where the best talent for the job is
located. A new breed of decision-maker with an expectation of digital and geographic fluidity will force traditional
geographic-based compensation plans and distribution models to evolve in response. This remains a HUGE
opportunity knocking for those that want to get ahead. Where is the origin of spec if the design teams are not all
sitting in the same location? Leaders in 2024 will begin to tackle this issue.

Explore how Gen Z will evolve, how trust and relationships are built today and in the future.


8. Shift from standardized to personalized

How it’s going: Today’s buyers exist along a spectrum of “digital eagerness” that require unique and personalized
journeys that integrate the online–offline–online experience. Those desires are shifting, quickly. ThinkLab’s persona
study update from 2022-2023 showed a notable decline in the rep-first preference, much from seasoned
generations shifting to a brand-first preference. We saw our small-but-mighty sustainability specifier DOUBLE in just
one year, while data first stayed steady. Shockingly digital-first showed a slight decline


Explore the industry’s first-ever persona study. Or have a listen to our podcast episode about why personas matter.


9. Shift from generational stereotypes to Gen Z as prototypes

How it’s going: “One of the best ways to get unstuck and spot blind spots that every industry and every
organization has is to lean into the emerging generations because they have a fresh perspective that is the key to
what that next approach should be.” –Ryan Jenkins, ThinkLab 2023 Hackathon keynote

ThinkLab has unveiled how not only our industry, but our world can leverage insights from Gen Z to benefit ALL
generations. Read more about it in this Forbes article.


10. Shift from Web2 to Web

How it’s going: “If you're not starting to get curious here, you're going to start playing from behind really
soon.” —Bobby Bonett, executive vice president of digital, SANDOW Design Group. With the explosion of AI, it
seems conversations about the Metaverse have faded. Many fear AI will take their jobs. However, it’s not AI that
will take your job, its employees using AI that will. So, a continued curiosity is recommended. The future is moving
faster than we think.

Stay ahead of the AI conversation with podcast, Barriers to Entry.

Want more? Stay ahead with our 5 Bold Predictions for 2024, this year specifically looking ahead for our product
manufacturer and distributor partners.


Amanda Schneider is a member of the Research & Content Development team for ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW DESIGN GROUP. At ThinkLab, we combine SANDOW Media’s incredible reach to the architecture and design community through brands like Interior Design Media, Metropolis, Luxe, and Material Bank with proven market research techniques to uncover relevant trends and opportunities for the design industry. Join in to explore what’s next at


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