In the ever-evolving realm of retail, customer expectations continue to soar, demanding not just products but unforgettable experiences. That’s why stores and shopping centers are aiming to transform into consumer experience destinations.And one branch of industry is proving to be an innovative player that is developing and testing new retail concepts: electric car brands. Discover how these brand stores redefine the shopping encounter, wowing customers with immersive experiences.
Opened in 2021 in Shanghai's Hongkou district, the "Hall of the Sun" Mall is a state-of-the-art shopping destination with various social spaces, a captivating multi-floor dining hub set within a contemporary botanical garden, offering visitors an immersive experience.
New retail concepts: temporary, mobile, compact
Noteworthy is the automotive presence inside the mall. With brands like Polestar, NIO, Hi-Phi or Li-Xiang, China's emerging electric vehicle landscape showcases their cars in both permanent and pop-up stores, right alongside Japanese streetwear, bubble tea and high-end cosmetics brands.
At the store of the sports car brand Lotus, now owned by the Chinese Geely group, we meet Joyce Gu and Florian Zeim of the agency mediaman that plays a key role in conceptualizing and implementing digital retail experiences for premium car brands in China, among them Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, Porsche or Lotus.
“Traditional car sales are transforming into new forms of digital, personalized and emotionalized car buying experiences,” Joyce Gu explains. While traditional brands view these brand stores as an additional channel alongside their classic dealerships, the newer electric vehicle brands rely exclusively on smaller, fancier, and mobile retail formats.
How do brands present their product world in flagship stores? We took a look at retailers' exceptional shopping experiences on Düsseldorf's luxury boulevard Königsallee to see how they inspire customers. Join us on the store tour to the C. Bechstein flagship store, the Douglas House of Beauty, the Miele Experience Center and the Breuninger Haus.
Gu adds: “You have to be where your customers go, hence the move to premium shopping locations.” She opens an automatic door, unveiling a circular lounge where customers can tailor their individual Lotus. This involves hands-on interaction with tangible car parts and samples, as well as a digital interface on an iPad, all seamlessly connected to a cinematic screen where the customized car is presented in real-time 3D. “As a customer, you can do everything in the store: touch, feel and smell the materials. You can try out what it feels like to sit in the car. And finally, you can design your future vehicle according to your personal preferences.”
The fact that test drives are not possible in such a brand store is not a problem for her. “In an increasingly electrified, semi-autonomous vehicle, the passenger experience is equally important,” she mentions, “plus, most luxury car owners hire a driver, so the comfort, connectivity and infotainment aspects on the backseat are more important than mere horsepower.”
But according to her experience, there is more to that than an individualized product: “Today’s customers in China don’t just buy a car, they buy into a service ecosystem built around the owner’s community.” In this concept, brand stores are far more than a point of sales. “From maintenance service to battery charging, to a mobile office or a place to drop your kids before you head to the gym, brand stores emerge to mobility lifestyle venues under a car brand’s umbrella. This makes them an important cornerstone in the tough market competition and a tool to build loyalty. It is therefore important that customers learn about this ecosystem and its advantages when they visit the store, which is why emphasis is placed on this, too.”
Retailers and manufacturers have to go to great lengths to attract the attention of customers and build brand loyalty. Innovative retail concepts and exceptional experiences are among the tools used to achieve this. The various retail sectors will have to find their own means to achieve this; learning from the competition, but also from other retail sectors, is not only permitted, but recommended!