In-store shopping via app – the fashion connect store in downtown Hamburg makes it happen. Daniel Füchtenschnieder, chief executive officer of Bonprix retail, is one of the creative minds behind the new retail concept. An interview about the weaknesses of traditional retail, intuitive experiences and possible solutions.
What are the weaknesses of traditional brick-and-mortar stores?
Despite increasing e-commerce sales, women still like to go downtown to shop - about three-quarters of fashion retail sales still happen in physical stores. Having said that, the retail sector still has some drawbacks, which include confusing merchandise presentation, poor fitting-room environments, and long lines at the fitting rooms or cash registers that can spoil the shopping experience.
Bonprix was founded as a mail-order company but has also made the leap into brick-and-mortar retail. Do you need both channels and can they actually complement each other?
Consumer shopping habits have changed drastically over the last few years, making it impossible to clearly separate between online and offline settings. At the same time, today’s customers demand to shop from the comfort of anywhere, anytime. Shopping is meant to be an experience, but should be intuitive and easy at the same time. Our bonprix pilot store is designed to implement these and many other concepts, providing our customers the opportunity to experience the world of bonprix in a brand new way. This makes retail and fashion connect not another channel, but one of multiple touchpoints that interact with our customer as a way to communicate our brand. Needless to say, this also creates a completely new perspective on customer demands. Tapping the full potential of this is part of our business case. In general, we see a great future for new retail concepts that combine online and offline facets and their resulting benefits.
Could you briefly explain the ”fashion connect“ concept?
Our “fashion connect” concept aims to combine the best of both the online and offline worlds, showcase the latest fashion trends in a new way and put the customer center stage by offering solutions to solve the issues of traditional retail settings. Our consistent use of digital technologies enables us to offer our customers a unique shopping experience that makes them feel comfortable. We rely on a revolutionary store concept that is continuously evolving. This makes our fashion connect store in its prime location in Hamburg’s downtown both a flagship store and an experimental shopping lab at the same time.
What were the key factors in the store’s development?
Our customer is always at the focus of all our considerations. That’s why we took the time to find out what bothers our customers the most about traditional retail settings and what they would like to see in a store. The challenge here is to implement this with the existing technology and enable a seamless shopping experience from start to finish, which centers on the experience and not the technology. Ultimately, the technology must be easy to use and intuitive to ensure that customers have maximum support and don’t feel irritated and annoyed by it.
What’s your advice for retailers who want to attract new customers?
This may sound trivial, but it is important to go beneath the surface and focus on the actual customer. It’s the only way to adopt customer centricity versus simply relying on boisterous merchandising and marketing strategies. Even though they are allegedly more “indifferent”, some online retailers offer great examples of how you can provide a positive customer experience with a customer-centric approach.
What will brick-and-mortar stores look like in the future?
Brick-and-mortar retail will continue to be the place that offers the ultimate shopping experience thanks to its ability to engage shoppers through their five senses as a key way to drive strong customer loyalty. In view of changing customer expectations and new technologies – think digitization - retailers need to be more adaptive and leverage their physical stores to offer their customers orientation and experience. Ultimately, the key is to combine an in-store retail experience with a well-curated selection, thus inspiring customers to immerse in your brand.
What’s next on the bonprix agenda?
We believe in the potential of a fully connected retail business model and the sustainability of our concept. As projected, we are in the midst of an accelerated learning curve. New insights continuously flow into various innovations and compel adjustments to our fashion connect approach. Our primary focus is customer feedback analysis to identify how our customers accept this new way of digitally assisted shopping. As a major online retailer, we are also excited about the multichannel effects as the store is yet another touchpoint in our customer’s journey. That’s why we say goodbye to a separate channel perspective and will continue to explore the omnichannel potential with our fashion connect concept.