If you are traveling to attend Future Stores in Seattle, make sure to take some time to enjoy the city while you’re here. As someone who has lived in Seattle for over 10 years, welcome to my hometown. I work at our Kirkland office alongside 350 other employees, and am head of our Retail practice. I will be attending the Future Stores event and look forward to hearing from our customers who will be giving several talks, tours and demos.
I find Seattle to be a unique example of when technology, nature, and recreational lifestyles meet. It’s a great combination that’s rare to find anywhere else, which makes visiting a real adventure. So if you’re in Seattle, you should never miss hitting up iconic places like the Space Needle and the world-famous Pike Place Market. And while you are here for the Future Stores event, you should definitely make time for must-see presentations such as the Starbucks Roastery Tour, which is a coffee lover’s dream, and the Westfield Blurring the Boundaries: Connecting Brands and Customers to Drive Engagement presentation, which is given by early implementers of the futuristic customer service robot, Pepper. Below you will find my 5-day informative guide of trending places to see and do in the Seattle area, as well as Future Stores event talks you really don’t want to miss.
A Weekend in the Emerald City
Let’s start with the weekend. You may be flying in early and have some time to spare before the event starts. If so, you’re in luck – there’s so much to do in Seattle. Here is what I recommend for Saturday and Sunday, with event-centric recommendations to follow:
Kayaking on Lake Union | This is a treat for anyone who wants a little outdoor recreation on their trip. There are a number of places where you can rent a kayak, such as the Northwest Outdoor Center, Moss Bay or Agua Verde. Just walk in, ask for a kayak, and rent it by the hour.
Ride the Ducks | These are likely the most “touristy” attractions around. The Ducks travel both by land and by sea, showing visitors key Seattle sights anywhere from the heart of downtown to Lake Union. Each tour (are done daily, rain or shine) is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes long, but they do sell out – it’s recommended to arrive 30 minutes beforehand or even order your tickets in advance.
Space Needle | This is what defines Seattle for most outsiders. The view is beautiful, and if you stop in for a meal at Skycity, heading up to the observation deck is free. Also, while you dine the room rotates slowly, so you can see a great view even from your table. Be sure to go.
Chihuly Garden and Glass | Near the Space Needle is a stunning glass museum and garden designed by master glassmaker Dale Chihuly. The glass sculptures feature bright colors and unique, fantastical forms, making the Chihuly Garden and Glass a destination you do not want to miss.
MoPOP | Also near the Space Needle is the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which is dedicated to music, science fiction and popular culture. Their exhibits are always changing, and feature anything from Star Trek to Jim Henson. Be sure to stop by and explore it for yourself.
Seattle Underground Walking Tour | Seattle’s Pioneer Square is unique – it’s home to the world-famous Seattle Underground, which contains historic underground passageways of old Seattle. Both Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour and Beneath the Streets provide daily tours that will definitely let you walk away feeling a little more knowledgeable.
Pike Place Market | Seattle’s original farmer’s market is a place every traveler should visit. It can get crowded (especially on weekends), but seeing the very first Starbucks is something you should check off your bucket list. Also be sure to stop by the Pike Place Fish Market, where employees playfully throw fish around, and the colorful Market Theater Gum Wall.
Seattle Great Wheel | Down on the water is the iconic Seattle Great Wheel, a popular attraction for all ages. This allows you to see a gorgeous view of the entire city, and is even more spectacular at night.
Pre-Day: Sunday the 25th
3:30 pm| University Village Walking Tour (Microsoft and Sunglass Hut) With all the innovation coming from Microsoft Stores, such as tracking customer activity and personalizing in-store experiences, I’m certain this will be a great tour. Microsoft is deeply committed to unifying customer experience and technology. As a result, it will be highly valuable to hear from Sandra Andrews, our tour guide and one of our long-time customers. She is an innovator in the retail space and I’m sure will deliver a compelling overview of the work coming out of Microsoft’s retail team.
Dinner: Blueacre Seafood You need to have seafood in Seattle, and Blueacre serves a variety of both wild-caught and sustainably-farmed seafood. The atmosphere has a lovely contemporary feeling.
Cocktails: The Nest at Thompson Seattle I really enjoy The Nest for its scenic views and bird-inspired cocktails. It’s a stylish place that’s really popular, so it’s best to come early or make reservations.
Day 1: Monday the 26th
8:25 am | Fireside Chat: This Is How to Reinvent the In-Store Experience (NIKE) It’s exciting to hear firsthand about what NIKE has been doing to move the in-store experience forward. Their Manhattan store made a huge leap forward in merging experience to the retail moment of truth, by providing in-store basketball courts, soccer fields and supporting technology. I’m certain this talk will be valuable.
1:20 pm | Champagne Roundtable: Organizational and Cultural Transformation to Execute Omni-channel Experiences (Best Buy) Best Buy has done a fantastic job moving into the omni-channel world by unifying experiences across devices and bridging digital with physical. It will be interesting to hear more about their thinking behind this.
3:20 pm | The Intersection of Bots and Stores: The Possibilities Are Endless We have been doing a lot of work with bots, and completely agree with the session title. It will be interesting to hear what the business cases are, and I hope to potentially contribute some technical perspective to the session, as well.
Dinner: RN74 For some of the best French cuisine in town, go to RN74. They serve house-aged steaks, organic vegetables, and seafood straight from the Puget Sound. They also have an extensive wine list.
Cocktails: Suite 410 Suite 410 has a polished, mellow atmosphere that’s perfect for get-togethers. They also have couches that are great to relax on after a long day at the event!
Day 2: Tuesday the 27th
9:05 am | Keynote: Retail Experience and Digital Connectivity (Cabela’s) Merging online with physical stores to create seamless customer experiences is the core of a lot of our work. It’s always great to hear other companies talk about their experience on this journey. Reach out if you want to attend the session with us and discuss afterward.
9:30 am | Blurring the Boundaries: Connecting Brands and Customers to Drive Engagement (Westfield) Westfield has a unique retail perspective that crosses brands and customer types. They’ve done some very interesting work, including early implementations with Pepper the Robot. We happen to be big fans of Pepper, and Pepper’s popularity is always growing, so I recommend attending this session.
2:30 pm | Leveraging a Unified Commerce Platform Approach to Unify Commerce (Enspire Commerce) Inevitably, transformation in retail involves the POS. This session looks to be a forward-thinking view of how to plan for POS success in a merging retail world, which is important. 5:30 pm | Networking and Cocktail Reception @ The Seattle Aquarium The Seattle Aquarium’s venue is magical. Unless you go scuba diving, it’s likely the closest you’ll ever get to the ocean floor and its inhabitants. Attend simply to check it off your list. We’ll definitely be there for a bit and would love to meet!
Dinner: Mistral Kitchen If you want fresh, organic produce, dairy, seafood and more, look no further. The Mistral Kitchen is a place that serves exquisite American cuisine in an intimate venue that enhances the experience.
Cocktails: Mistral Kitchen or PennyRoyal Mistral Kitchen is also great for drinks. But the Pennyroyal has an atmosphere unlike any other, evoking the European-style bar and focusing on aged spirits, house-made infusions in vintage glassware.
Day 3: Wednesday the 28th
10:20 am | The Future is Now: Technology-driven CX Innovation (Inkling and Starbucks) Tech-focused customer experiences are key to good in-store experiences, and Starbucks has been fantastic at that for a long time. It’s always great to hear about what they have to say.
11:30 am | Creating the Mobile Optimized Retail Store for Customers and Associates at Scale (Best Buy) Mobile is always important, and hearing about it from both a customer and associate perspective is extremely valuable. It will be exciting to hear about how Best Buy has created a mobile-friendly store, and some the challenges they’ve overcome in the process.
1:20 pm | Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tour This is the Disneyland of coffee – go! The roastery is a great example of tasteful architecture, skilled engineering, logical design, and coffee experience all coming together. It exemplifies everything that Starbucks stands for. Of course, the coffee is exceptional (they serve reserve blends). As a Seattleite who’s picky about coffee, that really means something.
(To end the trip right, pull out Uber or Lyft for the next two destinations, and leave before rush hour.)
Dinner: JuneBaby Dine at JuneBaby for Southern-style cuisine with rich, spicy flavor I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
Cocktails: Percy’s Stop by Percy’s in historic Ballard for unique architecture and a homey atmosphere. They serve apothecary-inspired cocktails that are always fun to order.
I hope you enjoy your trip! And be sure to meet with me at Future Stores!
See you there,
Brandon Schulz Sr. Director of Retail Luxretail@luxoft.com www.Luxoft.com