Modern store – with a strong identity

The shops of the future have a lot to offer. They need to have a soul – and decelerate the customer. An interview on the modern store with Katharina Agilar from 7places and Frank Dittel from DIA – Dittel Architekten. Author: Steffen Gerth, Der Handel.

Perhaps a modern store is no longer in a city in the future, but rather at home, on your computer – and the customer is sitting in front of it, wearing a pair of Virtual Reality glasses, two controllers in his hand, as he navigates through the shop that will never exist in reality. Last year, Saturn presented a virtual shopping world like this one – after all, the electronics outlet wants to be among the pioneers of the digitalisation of the shopping world, as digital boss Martin Wild said at the time.

However, Frank Dittel has a word of encouragement for stationary dealers. »There will still be real shops in ten years’ time,« says the architect from Stuttgart. His company, DIA – Dittel Architekten and the corporate daughter 7places, designs and builds stores for example for the Stuttgart Fashion Store, Breuninger. For Dittel and Aguilar, physical sales floors no longer fulfil pure consumption purposes – it has more to do with exchange between people, advice and service. The shop as a social biotope, so to speak.

The shop as a social biotope: exchange between people, advice and service.

But, this biotope needs to be cleverly designed, so that it provides a new consciousness among shoppers. A stationary dealer should never try to reflect the online world – he will always fail in terms of the breadth and depth of his range. »Society expects a stationary dealer to curate,« says Katharina Aguilar, who is in management at 7places, and responsible for digital business. The dealer must have a strong signature and present himself as a master of his range. »Packed shelves and rails that are overfilled with clothes discourage the customers. The shop must have an identity and radiate a feeling of trust.« An arbitrary approach doesn’t have a future.

This signature includes the shop fitting, which nowadays needs to be more than just »attractive«, »practical« or »original«. For Frank Dittel, the primary question is: »What does the trader’s brand transmit?« Terms like values, traditions, local flair and sustainability come to mind. What this intellectual superstructure has to do with shop fitting becomes self-explanatory when it is designed in contrast to the online cosmos.

On the internet, everything happens quickly, click, click – the customer flies through the world of products, new shop, new shopping basket. The stationary shop must slow things down with orientation and lots of service.

An oasis like this requires special processing and design techniques. For example, Aguilar sees a trend towards regional materials, such as local wood. And she sees a return of building materials, such as bathroom tiles from the 1960s and 70s, which, at first glance, appear old-fashioned, but which are being built into walls as design elements today.

Smart Store

Technology certainly doesn’t always excite the customer

However, without practicality, any design would only be worth half as much. For the architect, Dittel, the shops of the future need to be flexible. »That’s a major issue,« he says. He’s referring to moveable walls, so that the room can quickly be adapted to new requirements. And technical gimmicks are part of all things new. At the moment, they are being put all over the shops – with almost too much motivation – according to the motto: we are super modern. What interactive shop windows or touchscreens that take the customer to the online range have to offer, still remains to be seen. Dittel warns against installing technology in shops, unless it has added value. »The customer notices whether something has been thought through.« He prophecies that technology will be integrated seamlessly in the future – no longer for the purposes of blatant boasting, but rather as a shopping aid.

Technology should be integrated seamlessly, as shopping aid.

And virtual reality (VR)? For both, it isn’t as silly as it seems. Their logic: A shop only offers a limited world of experience, which can be expanded by VR. »You can beam yourself into a fashion show somewhere else«. Saturn’s VR vision is not as absurd as it sounds, after all.

Source: Der Handel
Author: Steffen Gerth

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