How might we design the digital-first, flagship retail store of the future?

Future-proof InnovationInspirational Insight


MAC’s Innovation Lab adapts in real-time to local market trends


MAC case study post it

The Challenge

The beauty industry is facing the headwinds of online retailers. In 2017, U.S. e-commerce beauty sales grew by 1.6 billion USD while brick and mortar beauty sales decreased by approximately 168 million USD.

MAC Cosmetics knew that a retail store would have to offer something that e-commerce couldn’t. A kind of exclusivity and personal connection that can only be experienced in-store. Sense Worldwide was recruited to understand what the future of retail looked like. An area we have some experience in having previously worked on Nike’s House of Innovation.


The Outcomes

In October 2020 the MAC Innovation Lab opened its doors in New York City’s Queens Centre. It combines the power of online influencer culture, with cutting edge technology, overlaying it with MAC’s knowledge and expertise.


The Result

The MAC Innovation Lab is a destination store in the heart of one of New York City’s trendiest neighborhood. The retail experience is crafted around the local community and what is trending locally in real-time. This ensures customers get a unique, tailored and relevant experience every time they visit the store, as it adapts to changing fashions. It delivers everything from virtual make-up suggestions, new product and look drops, customized messaging and in-store samples, all based on timely looks created by local MAC makeup artists. Staying in fashion has never been so easy.

MAC Innovation Lab


Our Approach

To deliver robust actionable insight we would need to cast our net wide and drill down deep. We would work closely with people who see things differently and think differently. We needed to talk to trendsetters and those with knowledge of creating brand loyalty in a modern landscape.


How The Sense Network Helped

We collaborated with The Sense Network, to inspire the beauty retail store of the future. From a hip hop festival organiser to an industrial designer, a cultural studies graduate to a classical singer; we gathered unconventional perspectives from every continent (except Antarctica!).

They were our team on the ground; gathering intel on emerging trends and giving us inspirational insight into leading-edge experiences. In beauty, retail, digital and beyond. They showed us the importance of playing an active role in the local community; giving us best-in-class examples of how brands were working with their community to co-create a more tailored experience. Experiences that ultimately attracts, engages and retains loyal customers.


The artist is essential to the neighborhood, and communities are crucial to us – we wish to emphasize that. The store is delivering the ability to adapt to the local community and will present content and looks that speak to the local community.

Philipee Pinatel, Global Brand President of MAC Cosmetics


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