Bryan Roberts, Global Insight Director

Given the nature of our work here at tcc global, I spend a lot of my time in the world of grocery retail and, as a consequence, devote most of my store visits and endeavours on this blog to supermarkets and discount stores. As tcc diversifies, however, I find myself exploring non-food retail sectors and stores with greater frequency—occasionally coming across some cracking retailing.

One such example came about as I was walking across Barcelona, attempting to locate the Caprabo flagship supermarket, when – out of the corner of my eye – I spotted a robot travelling backwards and forwards across a shop window, pausing only to stop and dance. An incredibly eye-catching feature  that had me immediately walking towards the Media Markt Digital store.

The store sells across broad product categories such as image and sound, fun and photo, home appliances, computing and mobile. The range can be accessed through touchscreens, which lead shoppers very intuitively through the assortment and into payment and ordering options. Social media and connectivity is acknowledged through the deployment of a videowall that shows real-time activity on Twitter. Other screens are used to educate consumers about the products on display: by touching or lifting an item, RFID is used to bring up relevant information or videos on large screens.

The robot, it transpires, was not there only to entertain and generate a bit of interest—it plays a role in the store’s 24-hour click and collect proposition, delivering items from the store’s backroom into the hands of customers. Genuinely remarkable stuff. You can take a look at the robot and other store highlights in this video that Media Markt put out when the store opened last year.

The store enables shoppers to choose from not only the limited assortment carried in the backroom of the outlet itself but the 20,000+ SKUs available through the retailer’s online platform—available either for click and collect or home delivery.

The interior is beyond striking. Awash with features such as digital screens, video walls, 3D printers, kiosks, touchscreens, vending machines and virtual reality, the environment is futuristic and stimulating. It’s not all space-age gimmickry though: one gets the sense that these features are there for a reason. Whether that reason is education, inspiration, demonstration or actually selling stuff, the overall impression is that this store is built to make money rather than exist as half tourist attraction / half marketing initiative.

Unlike some other ‘store of the future’ visions that have been doing the rounds lately, this concept seeks to embrace, not eliminate, human beings as part of the instore experience. The kind and patient lady who gave me an impromptu tour of the store and the tablet-enabled shop assistants that were helping other punters pay were testament to the enduring importance of real-life people within retail. This was also borne out through instore areas like seating lounges and play zones for kids showing an acute understanding of shopper needs often absent in other stores.

The human aspect is also enhanced through a very full calendar of instore experiences and workshops on topics such as smartphones, photography and robotics, as well as shoppers being able to use VR headsets and participate in gaming. While the store might appear a bit clinical, it was oozing humanity and interaction.

I’ve been to several ‘future store’ concepts over the years and a lot of them have had their future aspects ripped out after a year or two, returning to very much stores of the present. This store feels different though—a lot of what lies within is scalable and practically useful.

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