Marcus Epple does not think that there are too many phone shops. “Each of our shops makes economic sense. “
Interview with Marcus Epple, Member of the Management Board of E-Plus Group
In April, E-Plus opened its new “BASE_camp” in Central Berlin in den Kaiserhöfen Unter den Linden 26. It is a phone store, café and an event space all at the same time. Politicians are meant to meet here, but also just regular people like you and me. Marcus Epple says it is not a prototype for new shops, but some things will be adopted. E-Plus uses the Belgian brand BASE in Germany; both are part of the KPN Group.
What is special about your ”BASE_camp“?
The BASE_camp is Germany’s perhaps most unusual cell phone store, even though it is so much more than just a phone store. Visitors can look for advice on all questions about mobile communication, try out the latest Smartphones and tablets, eat and drink something at the Café, use a work desk with W-LAN free of charge as well as participate in numerous events or have their own events. Everyone is welcome – entry is open and generally free of charge.
The corporate design is a lot less noticeable than in regular phone stores. Are people not meant to see that they are at E-Plus or Base? Are mobile customers less and less loyal to particular brands?
No, you are supposed to see it. At the BASE_camp, the BASE brand is made emotionally tangible, for instance through colors and the design of the location. The values of the BASE brand are meant to be conveyed. The Nest One Agency from Hamburg, a specialist in brand experience and strategy was the project partner for the special design. Based on the core values and the corporate design of BASE, they developed a new corporate interior language for the brand. Closely following the idea of the simple and flexible BASE standard rates, they developed a creative line that is characterized by scaling down to basic spatial elements and a no frills design.
How do you incorporate the Internet into the store design?
The BASE_camp is a link between the analog and digital worlds that also aims to put those people in touch with the mobile Internet who have not used it yet. The biggest eye-catcher is the world’s largest Twitter setup. Trending topics and keywords of the day that are readout from Twitter and continuously updated, are displayed on a large-scale wall installation. The analog and digital worlds are deliberately being connected by classic flip-dot displays showing the data from the Net.
Another aspect is that every visitor is able to easily and conveniently try out our tablets and Smartphones. Of course, you may also use the free W-LAN with your own equipment you brought with you.
Who is your target audience?
The BASE_camp is the digital center in the heart of Berlin: it attracts political decision-makers the same way as it does representatives from finance, media and culture. In addition, the concept that is geared towards consulting, training and service of course addresses existing and potential customers and is meant to make the BASE brand tangible for them. The fact that this concept delivers a great performance is also evident in the interest shown by our hardware partners in using this extraordinary space for special events.
You had a similar store not too far away from here. Why did you move? What was different at your old location?
The previous BASE_camp – at Unter den Linden 10 – in less than a year had evolved into a melting pot for digital communication. At more than one hundred events, federal ministers, delegates, bloggers, journalists, founders and activists met to network and to discuss the new, digital society. The space quickly became too small, so that a move became inevitable. That is why on April 24, we then opened the new BASE_camp with more than double the space of the previous camp.
BASE_camp: Shop with lots of room for a Café and events. Base Desks Lockers Guests can also bring their own equipment and stow bags in lockers (on the left of the picture).
Which events are there at the BASE_camp?
E-Plus holds its own events at BASE_camp: these are press conferences, CSR events or political venues. During the monthly “UdL Digital Talks”, German politicians like Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Ursula von der Leyen debate with representatives from the German digital community like Christoph Giesa and Ibo Evsan.
In addition, everybody can use the space at no charge for his or her own events centered on the topic of communication. The theme of the event is not restricted from the get-go. It should be about communication and mobility, politics and current discourses. In the past, the scope of the events ranged from political roundtable discussions to readings, networking events and exhibitions, all the way to spectacular sales promotions, such as the shopping at midnight campaign for the Samsung Galaxy S3 for instance, where people were able to purchase the new device at the BASE_camp before anybody else in the world could.
Who runs the Café Bar? Is there subsidized pricing to attract an audience?
Our partner Mokador provides the culinary treasures. Prices are not subsidized. The decision to team up with a partner at BASE_camp was more made against the backdrop of providing a service as well as due to event intensity.
Can you bypass regular shopping hours with a Café?
The sale at BASE_camp takes place during normal opening hours between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays. The opening hours are not being bypassed. Exceptions are events where the BASE_camp is open longer as needed in the evenings. Although we make sure that sales staff is on site to answer any questions, there are no sales taking place.
How do you advertise for the BASE_camp?
Our unique venue and the top quality of our products in terms of mobile service as well as food service, is the best advertising for this unusual construct. Numerous events are being added to this. This takes place especially via announcement of events through the various social media channels. Afterwards, the events are often documented with photos and video transcripts and made publicly available online. Because talk show guests as well as audience members are being “tagged” in photos and contents are being linked, information about the events spreads at a rapid pace. This sets a viral process in motion.
You barely see any merchandise in the store. Are you missing out on sales?
Not at all. Sales are more subtle. The shopping area at BASE_camp represents the change from the traditional way of shopping to the modern brand and product experience. At the BASE_camp there is no less merchandise available than at other shops. However, it is no longer exclusively presented on classic sales counters, but instead is incorporated into the furnishings. Guests of the BASE_camp can try out various Smartphones and tablets while they lounge comfortably and drink coffee. Through events especially created for customers, like Smartphone workshops for instance, BASE_camp provides some added value for interested and potential customers.
How are the mobile phone shops by E-Plus/Base going to change because of the BASE_camp?
At first, we want to gain more experience with the BASE_camp. We consider the BASE_camp as something very special for Berlin and do not have any plans at the moment to roll out the concept nationwide. However, some elements will definitely also be found in other BASE shops: for instance the chance for customers to get a cup of coffee during a consultation. This was something we had at BASE_camp from Day One. At the moment, this concept is carried over to all BASE shops.
Aren’t there generally far too many phone shops in our cities?
Absolutely not. Each of our shops makes economic sense. If it were not given, there would be no reason to hold on to the respective shop. Even though we think that all of the BASE shops are very beautiful, we do not operate them, however, to enhance the neighborhood.
Is marketing through branches still up to date?
It definitely is and will continue to be. Many customers emphasize a personal and individual service on-site and the chance to try out their favorite cell phone at the store.
Interview by René Schellbach, EuroShop.de