The real,- Future Store at Tönisvorst: playground for innovations.
Retail companies are facing big challenges at the moment. Customer demands are changing and technological advancements open up ever-new possibilities for information and interaction for the customer as well as the retailer. To actively participate in this necessary process of modernization is the aspiration of the METRO GROUP Future Store Initiative. At the real,- FUTURE STORE in Tönisvorst, customers are able to already experience today what shopping in the future will look like.
The METRO GROUP Future Store Initiative is a cooperation of more than 75 companies from industry and trade as well as the IT and service industry. Depending on the industry sector and key aspect, the companies contribute to the project’s success in different ways. They make innovative technologies available for instance and try out their interaction in practical use. In addition, they bring their expertise to design processes more efficiently and to improve service features in retail. The METRO GROUP Future Store Initiative gets involved in many different ways to promote retail innovations. The real,- Future Store is an important building block. The self-service department store offers the co-operation partners the chance to try out newly developed applications for inventory management and sales floor under real conditions.
Smartphone Apps and services support the customer during the shopping process.
The mobility megatrend
For many, Smartphones by now have become an indispensible companion in everyday life. Retailers respond to the increasing spread of these devices and make shopping easier for their customers with their own, innovative applications. That is why mobile shopping is also a big topic at the real,- FUTURE STORE. A multitude of applications and services support the customer during the entire shopping process, from planning to market analysis all the way to paying.
The Smartphone also assists the customer at home or on the go with the corresponding software. Products can be directly added as a shopping list on the cellular phone, either via the keypad or with the help of an integrated camera. The customer can for instance scan the bar code of an empty milk carton before he/she disposes it at home. Likewise, shopping lists created on the PC can be transferred to the Smartphone via a safe connection.
Multiple possible applications for radio communication technology
The topic of merchandise freshness for perishable foods is also important for future shopping. Customer demands are also increasing in this instance and mistakes in this area shed a particularly negative light on a store’s image. Innovative solutions for quality assurance are also used in the FUTURE STORE for this area. The integrated butcher shop uses radio frequency identification (RFID). Every product in the “intelligent freezer” is clearly labeled with a smart chip and electronic product code (EPC). The goal is to precisely schedule production of fresh meat in the market and thus further improve quality assurance.
With the help of the EPC and the product information stored in the RFID database, you can determine for instance whether the expiration date of a specific product in the intelligent freezer is approaching. This way, the market employees can remove the merchandise from the freezer just in time and dispose of it. In addition, inventory can be controlled down to every single item.
Optical product recognition
Another innovation tested by real,- in the Future Store is the intelligent scale. Via an integrated camera, it identifies which fruit or vegetable the customer places on the scale. He/she does not have to remember any numbers for weighing nor does he/she have to look for the corresponding type on the display. In its fresh food departments of its other self-service department stores, real,- already uses so-called situational scales that show additional information about the product to the employees behind the counter. This way, they are able to give customers service that is even more comprehensive.
No waiting times at the checkout
One factor that notably determines customer satisfaction is the checkout process. Customers at the real,- Future Store can shop with their Smartphone by turning it into a mobile shopping assistant (MSA). To do this, they need to download the software from the app store to be able to scan items and access product information on their own. This eliminates potential waiting times at the checkout, since the purchase can be directly paid for at a pay station.
The customer can pay for his/her purchase at different checkout counters at the real,- Future Store and determines the level of convenience and speed on his/her own. Even though there are several traditional checkouts with staff available, the customer can also scan the bar codes of the items at several self-service checkouts and then pay directly at the machine. Another alternative are self-service express checkouts. After scanning, the customer receives a receipt he/she takes to the pay station. At this station, he/she chooses between paying with cash or by credit card. Since there are more pay stations available that are self-service express checkouts for scanning articles, the customer determines the speed of payment without feeling pressured by the next customer waiting in line.
Once the customer has used his/her mobile shopping assistant to scan the items, he/she can go directly to the pay station in the self-service express checkout area. Regardless of the selected checkout type, PAYBACK rewards program members have the chance to get credit points for their purchases at any time.
With an NFC-enabled PayPass card, the customer can pay at any checkout counter.
Payment via radio communication
If the customer has a NFC-enabled PayPass card by MasterCard, he/she can also pay the entire purchase amount at any checkout counter in the real,- Future Store via radio communication. To do this, you simply place the card in front of a corresponding reader. Paying with radio communication is convenient, because you don’t have to slide your card through the reader. In addition, the card remains in the customer’s hand during the entire process. For the first time ever, a new standard is being used here, which is meant to make a cross-industry and internationally standard payment procedure possible.
Innovations are being put into practice
Applications that have proven successful within the context of the METRO GROUP Future Store Initiative are also successively available to customers at Metro Cash & Carry , real,- , Media Markt and Saturn as well as Galeria Kaufhof. The METRO GROUP also relies on innovative solutions in its own company to optimize its own internal business processes for example. As the first German retail company, real,- for instance offers self-service checkouts as an alternative to traditional POS systems.