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Navigation Partners through the Digital POS World

Navigation Partners through the Digital POS World

For retailers, digitalisation means the creation of digital worlds of experience at the POS. That is why Hoffmann Ladenbau expanded its portfolio in the digital retail sector and found a competent partner in the digital specialist Immersive Stories.

Digitalisation – rarely has there been a word with such a major significance and such a high degree of uncertainty at the same time. The fact is, however, that it has become established in private households and should not be neglected by companies when they are making strategic decisions. However, there are often difficulties precisely in the area where private purchasing power and entrepreneurial interests meet, at the point of sale. This was highlighted in the Smart Store study conducted by the EHI Retail Institute and Microsoft: “The path to a networked store is often difficult and extremely complex”. It is precisely in this area that the partnership between Hoffmann Ladenbau and the Bonn-based digital specialists Immersive Stories focuses on navigating and supporting customers through complex market requirements with their combined know-how. Thomas Ahlers (Hoffmann Ladenbau) and Martin Esser (Immersive Stories) report on the cooperation.

How did the partnership come about?

2immersivestoriesThomas Ahlers
Our customers always needed classic retail architects in the past who were primarily responsible for the design element of the store concept. Digitalisation was neglected inasmuch as nobody could really assess how this new topic should be integrated in the best possible way. But we are currently experiencing a change in customers’ views: more and more of them are recognising the need to also use digital media with a creative concept and are asking us for solutions – and this is precisely where Immersive Stories comes into the picture!

Martin Esser
For us, shop fitting is the interface between the store and the digital exhibits. However, a digital concept should never be an add-on to the classic store concept – it’s best for them to both merge into one. Therefore, the idea originated to get all the people involved in the project - the customer, creative element of the store design, digital design and shop fitting - around the table at a very early stage in the store planning. This provides the customer with a coordinated, coherent concept from a single source.

What sets Immersive Stories apart from others? What range of services do you offer?

Martin Esser
Today the customer no longer makes a differentiation between online and offline; this means that they expect the same experience in a store as they get on the internet – just a little bit better. We therefore create brand experiences that build on digital components and develop digital solutions that allow experiences gained from shops to merge with the shop fittings and the presentation of products. We offer the complete range for the integration of digital components - from the strategic approach, the design and the construction of the application to the analysis and long-term support of the project.

What is the specific procedure for a retail project?

Martin Esser
The first question that we ask the customer is: “Do you have an omnichannel strategy?” If this is not the case, the objective must first be defined. What should the components be able to do? Is the aim for them to provide sales support? Do you want to generate additional brand value or a product experience? We say that “the format determines the technology” and not the other way around. We therefore initially develop the different formats for the shop in a workshop – depending on the requirement. Whether it is the shop window, entrance, presentation of products or point of sale – each zone has its own requirements in terms of the communication and customer experience. We start designing and producing the content with this information. The prototypes are then tested under real conditions in a pilot store.

Thomas Ahlers
At Hoffmann Ladenbau we are involved from the beginning but only come on board for the technical development of the pilot store. During the workshop phase it is important that the creativity of the digital and classic store designers set no limits in terms of feasibility. We therefore deliberately take a step back at this point. In the second step we develop appropriate solutions to connect the analogue world of the furniture to the digital elements.

Immersive Stories

Martin Esser
The testing of the prototype at the point of sale is an essential component of the procedure and takes place before the roll-out. A pilot phase usually lasts for three months. Then we have substantive analyses in order to make digital or analogue adjustments to the furniture or to learn from the interfaces. The latter is particularly important for the training of the sales staff who have a significant influence on the success of a digital concept. After all, employees must be behind the concept in order to convey a credible message.

Thomas Ahlers
I agree. We therefore offer an after-sales service that provides fast remedial action in the case of technical problems and supports the sales staff in their day-to-day work. The concept is then rolled out if the pilot store experiences are positive. After the intensive preparatory work in the start-up phase of the project, Immersive Stories with their creative services takes a back seat of course during the roll-out. The real work begins at this point for Hoffmann Ladenbau with the reproduction of the complete concept at the different locations.

What are the most common errors when digitalising a store?

Martin Esser
Firstly, starting with the hardware, based on the motto “Now we need a few more monitors” and then thinking about meaningful content. Secondly, considering the shop fitting concept and digital components separately.

Thomas Ahlers
And thirdly, underestimating the quality of the furniture to accommodate the digital components. because this development requires a high degree of precision, an absolutely precise construction and, last but not least, the foresight to determine how and at which points this furniture module should be reversible for maintenance work.

Does furniture that incorporates digital components look different to conventional furniture?

Thomas Ahlers
4immersivestoriesDefinitely. Furniture was primarily used up until now to accommodate and present products. Furniture that is developed as a touch point etc. does not have to accommodate any products but has to incorporate a screen including the corresponding PC or computer. You need to be able to request information about products, an online shop, social media topics or availability on this screen. In other words, we are already talking about two completely different furniture systems. There are also differences in the way the furniture is constructed. The furniture has to be able to withstand the heat generated by the electrical components and we have to address the issue of installing fans and exhaust air. The lower part of each piece of furniture must be reversible in order to ensure electrification from the floor area. There are a few exceptions where the use of batteries or docking stations makes sense. In fact, we strive to use hard-wired cabling in shop fitting depending on the store technology.

One last question: What does digitalisation mean to you…?

Martin Esser
...the opportunity to create new experience worlds in the retail trade and to merge the boundaries between online and offline.

Thomas Ahlers 
… an incredibly high level of expertise with regard to the technical feasibility of a furniture module.

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