EuroShop 2017 has shown: the retail sector has officially become unimaginable without emotionalization and storytelling. More than ever before, the customer journey is like an adventure that appeals to all the different senses. Philipp Nottekämper from ppm planung + projekt management knows how to implement this perfectly. His team was in charge of the new design and concept of the Weber Original Stores.
Mr. Nottekämper, I get the feeling that oftentimes the focus is no longer on selling products but the desire to offer customers a unique physical and emotional experience. What is your take on that?
Philipp Nottekämper: At this point, customers consider shopping a leisure activity. They want to feel good and experience things, which is why aspects like storytelling and emotionalization obviously play a key role in retail store concept development. To what extent visual merchandising takes a back seat is subsequently a (bold) decision made by the brand or retailer. Despite the growing desire for adventure, the sales floor obviously still needs to be economically viable. This is a balancing act that can actually also be a lot of fun.
You refer to the “4th Dimension“ at ppm. What does this term mean exactly?
The term sounds a bit cryptic at first and to a certain extent is meant to make you curious. In our case, the “4th Dimension“ covers all topics associated with digitization, whether that applies to the links between brick-and-mortar and online retail such as click and collect, for example, interactive solutions for customers or – and this is where we circle back to our subject – digital customer experiences. The main objective here is to offer end customers a real added benefit with these elements. This is the only way to ensure that this investment is not just a gimmick but actually helps consumers to have a better experience and enjoy better service, which makes them feel good and relaxed on the sales floor, thus extending dwell time and, in the best case scenario, increasing sales.
At the Weber Original Stores in Berlin and Amersfoort (in the Netherlands), you combine digitization with multisensory aspects…
That’s right. These two elements go hand in hand as it were when it comes to the category bowls installed on the sales floor, aimed at offering customers a holistic experience. These bowls reflect the three categories of the Weber product portfolio – charcoal, gas, and electricity. One basic requirement of the concept was to make the variety of products more understandable for the customer. That is to say, you always have a combination of pedestal and hood on top. On top of the pedestal is the product along with additional accessories. The product already embraces a haptic experience, meaning customers can touch the grill or accessories.
The hood above the pedestal plays the corresponding videos using a projector. Digitization takes place within the hood projection. It is part of this multisensory experience and obviously covers aspects of infotainment. In the case of the charcoal grill, charcoal is projected onto the hood via video. In addition, a soft rustling sound of burning charcoal is played in the background. To complete the multisensory experience, we add a gentle grilling aroma to the area. In the case of the gas grill display, customers see blue gas flames and hear the flickering sound of the flame in the background. The presentation of the electric grill proved to be the most difficult facet since these types of grills generally don’t make a sound and glowing heating elements are not suitable as an association. The best association with electrical components was achieved by projecting “electric flashes” as we know them from Tesla coils. It is the effect that intends to captivate the customer. Overall, there are only minimal differences when it comes to the different grill aromas. We coordinated the corresponding nuances with our client.
The point of the multisensory elements and digital presentation is to push the “I want it“ factor for the respective product even further. And indeed, there are studies that show decreasing customer price sensitivity when customers feel catered to and are comfortable in a setting. At that point, they are willing to spend more on a product.
There are other aspects that are important for a consistent customer experience…
That’s right because these types of concepts are only effective as a whole. The reorganization of the Weber Original Store in Berlin also involved a new design of materials, lighting and visual merchandising effects. We chose materials that reflect the brand and primarily appeal to its male clientele. The result is an urban and industrial style that is complemented by natural elements such as wood. We selected point and focus lighting solutions to showcase the product. The idea is to skillfully use lighting without stealing the show from other highlights like the category bowls. In terms of visuals, we obviously use imagery that Weber already also portrays on other channels. We staged them so the customer is able to recognize himself in these situations, surrounded by family or friends, in the backyard or on a patio for example.
Is there a high demand for holistic emotional store concepts?
I think you cannot make generalizations in this instance because customer demands differ greatly to some extent. That brings us back to the question: what is a store concept able to offer in this context? The goal is to not just integrate some type of screen but to offer and create meaningful contents instead. I am convinced something that will never go out of style and that can be used to complement a store concept is great service.
All unique selling points that set brick-and-mortar retail apart – and this also applies to creating an experience – from online retail and offer customers an added value, also attract customers to the sales floor. If I offer great service on the sales floor, it is something online retailers are barely able to provide, especially when it comes to products that require more intensive consultation. This is the strong suit and livelihood of brick-and-mortar retail and I believe it’s a topic that retailers have to be made aware of time again and again.