Retail digitisation is advancing +++ However, in a more pragmatic and less flamboyant way than lately +++ Consistent planning from a single source is fundamental +++ As is simple handling +++ Personalised services and seamless online-offline transactions are gaining further importance +++ There are many attractive applications – from scales to changing cubicles
Retailers seek to further expand their digital services on the sales and presentation areas. This is the conclusion arrived at by the study “Der Store im Omnichannel-Zeitalter” (The Store in the Omnichannel Age) for which the EHI Retail Institute polled the general managers of relevant retail companies in the German-speaking region as well as the heads of construction and interior design departments, shop fitters and architects’ and planners’ offices. In general, the attitude is “pro digital” but by now all the aforementioned actors are also aware of the many challenges. “Over the past few years some product launches proved technical gimmicks that ultimately neither paid off nor were accepted by end users the way we expected,” says Angela Kreutz, Head of Communication at Stuttgart architecture and design office Blocher Blocher Partners, summarising the experience gained by the sector. In view of EuroShop she forecasts: “We expect digital solutions that are maybe not as flamboyant as before, but efficient instead and that seamlessly connect the PoS with the digital world in line with the omni-channel concept.” So now we have left infancy behind things really get going.
Elements as an Integral Part of the Store
It has since become clear that the digital dimension must not be seen as an “add on” but should be regarded as an integral, if not organic part of any retail strategies and store design from the outset. “Digital Touchpoints will increasingly be developed from silo solutions towards immersive experiences for shoppers. Earlier concepts often failed to be successful because they were ‘conceived of separately’ and did not naturally blend in with the customer journey,” says the Swiss company Vitra, whose store design division (previously Vizona and Visplay) has also been operating under the Vitra brand since 2016. Jörg Becker, Creative Director at the communications agency Blocher Blocher View, shares this view: “When you think you can simply include a couple of screens in the finished store design – then your project is doomed to fail from the outset. We therefore support our customers with all elements from the tailor-made communication strategy across all channels to the actual connection of the stores with the online world because consumers have long combined online and offline in their shopping behaviour. With Blocher Blocher Partner - the planning office focused on experience-driven retail projects - we have further in-house experts for this three-dimensional approach.” So the key is to communicate and act in a cross-division and competence way from the beginning – and there is no better point of departure for planning like this than EuroShop, where specialists of all those relevant disciplines meet at the same time in the same place.
The physical installation of digital devices has long ceased to constitute a hurdle for shop fitters. It is true that the furniture must be equipped with power supplies and data cables and be as flexible as possible but this is easily mastered by many market players these days. The decisive point is: the overall concept comprising furniture, hardware, software and content must be right. Vitra also regards its “holistic approach to solutions a big advantage” and refers to the Vitra & Camper Pop-up project. Implemented in Weil am Rhein in 2015, this project, which received the EuroShop Retail Design Award in 2016, fused online and offline shopping. “Without giving too much away, we will take ideas of this project to the next level at EuroShop,” announces Vitra.
The protagonists here are increasingly attuning to the new requirements, in part also through alliances and cooperations. Austrian company Umdasch Shopfitting, which incidentally was also among the exhibitors of the first EuroShop held 50 years ago, took over the technology specialist MMIT Retail some time ago and established its “viBIZ-Digital Shopfitting” division. This move is to push the seamless integration of digital elements and their development. The innovations introduced so far include the electronic price labelling system “ESL.inclusive by umdasch”, the “viPOS-Wall” (a virtual Point-of-Sale), various digital signage solutions such as the head-up display and store traffic analysis, to name but a few.
Wanted: Flexible Solutions for Many Years to Come
“New modern ideas for addressing shoppers at the PoS that surprise customers require background processes. If the latter fail you easily lose control and innovations prove a flop,” says Jürgen Berens von Rautenfeld, Board Chairman at Online Software AG, and goes on to say: “This is why solutions are needed that lure shoppers into the stores, boost sales and can be managed efficiently in terms of staffing at the same time. Which is why the extremely easy handling of our software PRESTIGEenterprise is so important to us. It is designed for managing in-store communication on a wide variety of output media in many outlets. The modules are well thought-out down to the minutest detail and built to grow with the company.” For Vitra and Ansorg, the subsidiaries specialised in lighting solutions, it is also a known fact that “retailers seek flexible and long-lasting solutions that can be adapted to changing requirements and that allow them to get started initially with quick little steps and manageable budgets.”
Digital terminal devices already today open up numerous possibilities for sales support and customer communication. Berens von Rautenfeld sums up the trends as follows: “Personalised offers and location-based services that are perfectly geared to the respective customers are gaining in importance and will definitely feature prominently at EuroShop. And web portals and PoS will also be linked more closely. Retailers do not necessarily need their own webshop. The information, images and videos available on their company website can also be leveraged at the PoS – given the right technology – and contribute to a consistent appearance. Furthermore, the access to detailed product data such as origin, production and composition is massively gaining in importance. This information should be readily accessible any time for both sales staff and shoppers that are eager to know – be it via mobile terminal devices, steles, check-outs and scale monitors or digital shelves.”
Once Neglected now in Focus: Changing Cubicles
There is no scarcity of potential applications for digital elements. Just lately fashion retailers’ changing cubicles proved real “playgrounds”. Maybe also because they have been neglected for a long time and are often times too small, too scruffy and too poorly lit in shoppers’ opinion. Now light and multi-media installations as well as interactive digital tools turn cubicles into novel service rooms. Trying on garments at last becomes an enjoyable experience. Corresponding technical innovations were already presented at the last EuroShop. Be it Arclite, Cedes or Philips – many of the lighting suppliers active in the fashion industry exhibited special cubicle lighting solutions, some which are multi-media enabled. Osram, for instance, combined its dynamic LED illumination with a smart media system made by its subsidiary Traxon Technologies as part of the “Debut” project. At offices, restaurants or at the beach real ambient scenarios were filmed in the run-up to the project to measure the light conditions. These scenarios were then projected in a trial installation in the changing rooms of a fashion store in the USA – complete with matching music and birdsong. Depending on the garment selected – an evening outfit, business suit or bikini – shoppers can select the desired virtual environment and watch themselves in exactly the right light.
The latest EuroCIS in spring 2016 saw this trend continue. Here various digital elements for the changing room area were also among the highlights. By means of a stationary RFID reader or barcode scanner installed inside the cubicle the smart cubicle solutions identify the garments to be tried on. Touch-screen monitors display the other sizes and colours available. Even matching coordinates are proposed including information on availability or whether they can be ordered from another outlet or online. “alexa ePOS” is the name of a product of this kind made by Salt Solutions while Bütema has dubbed it the “Interactive Fitting Room”. Both vendors will also exhibit at EuroShop and visitors can already anticipate the further developments and new themes that lie ahead here.
EuroShop 2017 is open for trade visitors from Sunday, 5 March 2017, to Thursday, 9 March 2017, daily from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. 1-day tickets cost EUR 70.- (EUR 50.- purchased online beforehand (e-Ticket)), 2-day tickets cost EUR 90.- (EUR 70.- purchased online beforehand) and season tickets are EUR 150.- (EUR 130.- purchased online beforehand). Admission tickets include a free return trip to EuroShop on public transport marked VRR (Verkehrsverbund-Rhein-Ruhr).
In 1966 EuroShop was organised for the first time by Messe Düsseldorf and is held every three years. The EHI Retail Institute acts as the event’s conceptual sponsor. The last EuroShop in 2014 registered 2,229 exhibitors from 56 countries on over 116,000 m² of net exhibition space and 109,496 trade visitors, 63% of whom came from abroad.