Every three years, the international retail scene meets at the EuroShop trade fair. On a packed exhibition site, around 2,300 exhibitors from 57 nations presented the entire spectrum of stationary stores that are now increasingly digitally oriented in 16 exhibition halls.
Digitisation: trending topic par excellence
The trending topic of the fair was digitisation. Retail is changing. While at the last EuroShop in 2017, robots were an absolute novelty with a cute one greeting visitors at Austrian shopfitter Umdasch’s stand, advancing to the most photographed object at the fair, now robots could be seen everywhere. They are supposed to keep an eye on the inventory, not only after closing time, but also during store hours. Incorrect pricing on products and displays and wrongly placed items is what robots are to detect quickly and communicate in real time to the staff. "The point is to issue instructions for immediate action, only to those people who are in the vicinity and who have the right qualifications," says Alexander Honigmann of the US IT specialist Zebra Technologies Europe. And the robots never seem threatening, they are always smaller than the humans and look somehow cute and reserved.
Waiting in line should be avoided
While it will certainly take a while before robots conquer the retail trade, new payment options will reach us a lot earlier. Because retail specialists agree on one thing: There is nothing worse for consumers than a queue at the checkout. In times of convenient online shopping and decreasing footfalls of stationary stores, annoying queques need to be avoided. Some retailers, mainly food stores, equip their customers with small scanners to scan the goods during the shopping process and to pay for them at the end. Other providers, such as German start-up Snabble that is working with Ikea, for example, uses apps on consumers' smartphones. Still others, such as the start-up MishiPay, which has currently started a test series with retailers in airports and railway stations in France, can do without an app and works with QR codes instead. The advantage: “This type of Scan & Go is easy for consumers and for retailers because they do not have to invest in new hardware at the checkout point,” says Mustafa Khanwala of MishiPay.
Artificial intelligence calculates the probability of theft
Particularly in an environment where time is of the essence, self-checkouts make sense. Or wherever one has experienced that the time between purchase decision and checkout is particularly critical. "We know from the beauty industry that about 20 percent of customers on their way to the register decide that they do not want to buy the product after all," explains Dr. René Schiller of GK Software. "Some retailers have therefore started completing the purchasing process with mobile POS devices right on the shelf.” Many retailers even presented "unmanned" store solutions, i.e. without any sales staff. They are important for convenience stores or in sports, for example, for events and festivals. The question of theft is increasingly answered by artificial intelligence. "We calculate probabilities to see what products in what combination are at risk of theft, and then we make recommendations where surveillance might be useful", adds Schiller.
Not without emotionalised shopping experiences
Stationary stores upgrade digitally wherever possible. But is that the solution for stationary retail? Certainly not. Digitalisation is important, but it cannot become an end in itself. Instead, the future role of retail is quite different. It is meant to inspire, create and emotionalise experiences and bring people together. It becomes the so-called "third location". "Buying is not shopping," says Nicole Srock Stanley of Berlin’s design agency Dan Pearlman. "Those who shop spend their free time shopping, i.e. retail becomes a part of the leisure industry." In the future, it will be increasingly impossible to measure stationary retail success in terms of how much has been purchased there. "Shopping has to become a social experience; more and more people feel lonely - that's exactly why gastronomy is booming," says Lisa Beck from design agency Atelier 522. Store requirements are getting bigger - also for store designers. "Nobody comes to us anymore today because they need a nice shelf," says Tim Greenhalgh from London-based design agency Fitch. What they are looking for are new concepts. "72 percent of millennials would rather have a new experience than own a new product," says Greenhalgh. "The future belongs to the service industry. In the last few years, it was just a side dish, now it's the main course."
Flexible solutions are required
The renewal cycles for store designs have become longer, according to the EHI Shop Monitor 2020. The last survey three years ago showed that complete renovations in food and non-food retail happen on average every 8.7 years. It is every 9.6 years now. But that doesn't mean that the stores would not change. On the contrary. The design gets always outdated faster and updates are needed at ever faster intervals. It merely no longer requires a complete redesign. Many store designers therefore specialise in developing shopfitting concepts that can be changed without much effort at any time. This also applies to the lighting design as well as for product displays and wall concepts.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE. Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.
Photos: FashionUnited / Regina Henkel