Retail Storytelling. A great offline customer experience.
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Below an example of sweet marketing. At the right bottom of the image below, there is a short teaser and an invitation to follow and to read the rest of the story by scanning the QR code. I have written already about the possibilities by using QR codes in another post.

Source: Hugo Boss
Credits Hugo Boss Paris

Juliette and Louis – these are the names of the protagonists of “The Hugo Boss Love Story”.

Anyone who regularly looked at the shop windows of the Hugo Boss flagship store in Paris could follow the love story of the two in the city of love. From the first meeting and the first rendezvous to walks together through the French capital.

The communication concept was played out over six months in total. From January onwards, Juliette and Louis already put their stamp on Hugo Boss’s performance in Paris. Still. Until June, passers-by were able to accompany them on their love story.

In addition to the shop window designs, there were in-store productions and POS campaigns.

There is a lot of talk about the dying city centers and shops which are disappearing. I have written already about the missing consciousness when it comes to customer experience, customer journey and the fact that on- and offline should merge to one experience and journey.

But… There is a lot that has to be done offline to attract consumers and to trigger them, to enter the Brick and Mortar shops! This year (2020) the Day of the German Unity fell on a Staturday. Therefore all the shops were closed. My man and I went out un Sunday to have some al fresco lunch at our favorite chinese Restaurant. The weather was nice so we enjoyed on of the last days being able to eat outside.

My man wanted to buy some lounge wear ans therefore we went to Berlin’s signature shopping mall, which is situated right beside the restaurant. I must say, that it is extremely boring and if one has seen one shop, one has seen all.

Garment rails at the walls and some presentation tables with some shirts and trousers. Monotone and dull… There is absoultely nothing to excite the visitors.

There is no creativity when presenting the products, there is no creativity when it comes to interior design. It seems, that many entrepreneurs haven’t heard about the growing importance of retail yet and that this is the reason, that Alibaba and Ebay are going offline as well. Here some short information.

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In another post, I have written about the fact, that online and offline will merge more and more to one seamless customer experience. And this is happening in China already. Have a look at the next video.

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The article with the video can be found here

About Alibaba’s approach

With the Hema supermarket concept, Alibaba shows how online and offline merge effortlessly, day and night, with a 24-hour delivery service. Around 2000 of these stores are to be set up in five years. But that is only the beginning. Alibaba is planning the “ideal community within a 3-kilometre radius” – Hema is just one building block. The basis: the smartphone.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma consistently follows the development of consumer behaviour in China. 80 per cent of retail sales are still generated in stationary trade, and at the same time the worldwide use of e-commerce is highest in China. Retail will not be a question of on- or offline, but of the ideal combination. Alibaba presents. With Hema, the company has created a retail format to test and develop new ideas.

At its core, Hema combines on- and offline purchasing via smartphone. That sounds good but not spectacular. But no other company in the world has succeeded in achieving this level of “barrier-free” consumption.

Hema is a broad-based supermarket with an explicit focus on freshness – right down to live fish that can be bought “freshly caught”. Now it’s getting exciting, because consumers can decide whether the selected fish should be added to the shopping basket or prepared fresh by a chef and then eaten at home. If you like, you can also eat the delicacies directly at Hema.

Before going home, the shopping is done quickly. Each item can be scanned via smartphone to get more detailed information. The service includes supplementary or related product recommendations. Those who come back will receive new recommendations based on their purchase and information history when they enter the shop. Once the purchase is complete, the customer scans his shopping basket at the checkout terminal, and even the food prepared is charged for.

Payment is made by smartphone via Alibaba’s own Alipay app – authorisation is controlled via face recognition, as reported by the New York Times. The disclosure of personal data is not a foreign policy in China as it is in Europe. If you like, you can also order your purchases online and receive them in the shop at the pick-up station.

Everywhere you look, you can see employees picking orders into bags, which are then walked along a kind of cable car to the pick-up station above the heads of the shoppers. Quite a difference with European supermarkets…

I am fully aware of the fact, that the exmpales I show here are done by large companies with a lot of money and other ressources. Bot no one can deny, that they are creative and aware of the needs of customers. Tey also have recognized, that people are fond to shop offline and that need won’t disappear.

It is much more fun to shop with your friends or family and to have a coffee and a snack in between while talking about the items one has seen than sitting alone in front of your PC or holding yur tablet/smartphone in your hands. And therefore, there is no need to be intimidated and even blocked by the grandeur of the demonstrated solutions.

Every single entrepreneur can create a story wich fits perfectly the business he or she is running. It is important to make a Brick and Mortar shop welcoming, seductive and to create a happy, inviting and relaxing atmosphere.

I have written about the fact, that shopping ahould be an experience. It should be fun and exciting. Shopping as entertainment where buying is is a “minor” matter. Friendly and happy people which welcones you warmly with a smile and whi show that the love to assist you. Like a slogan of the TV channel VOX in Germany: 

“We love to entertain you!”

The focus should be on love! This the primary base of retail success. People want to be treated friendly, to receive a tailored very personal service and to be recognized as an individual.

But it is also about the environment, the interior of a shop. Like I wrote at the beginning of this post, in general the shops are quite homogeneous and very far from inviting and creative. Shopping malls don’t deliver an experience which invites to take stroll. No cozy seating possibilities, no freindly people to assist when a customer has questions. And the the shopwindows are also quite liveless. Just some mannequins and no exceptional decoration or other inspiring features, like on the features image in this post.

This reminds me of a tyical Dutch tradition when I was a young boy. In those days, children used to take a paperbox, mostly for shoes, and to decorate it. A room or some trees, a scene from a fairy tale, you name it.

On one side, one would make a hole with which the people could have a look inside that little world. On top one would lay tissue paper to enable the daylight to illuminate the scene in the box. us children used to go out and ask people if they would like to have a look inside the box. No need to say, that this great experience wasn’t for free 😉

This is how these Kijkdoos (spectator box) looked like

And here’s is a window example that shows whatI was thinking about.

I might be a bit childish and that’s absolutely okay with me. It is good, to keep one’s inner child alive :). But let’s be honest, aren’t we all a child sometines? I still can recall how it was, when I saw the seasonal decoration and illumination the first time in Hamburg during the time I was working in a company in this beautiful city.

It felt as if I was walking in a fairytale world. The decoration is really lavish and the inner city (Mönckebergstraße, Jungfernstieg and Gänsemarkt and many adjacent streets) is completley decorated. And I was not the only adult person who was walking around with eyes wide open. Have a look for yourself 😉

People like to be distracted from daily problems and pressure. They want to relax and have fun and therefore it is important to take care that a Brick and Mortar shop is a relaxing and pleasant environment. A place where people feel welcome, feel good and have fun.  I’ve written about the importance Fun Shopping here.

A store should tell a story. A story about you, your purpose and your product(s). A story about your enthusiasm and your appreciation for your customers and your motivation to help and support your customers. I like to compare it wit experience gastronomy. Restaurants are practicing storytelling for quite sone while already. It started in the late eighties/early nineties, when I was working as an event manager in Swiss luxuy  hotels  about 30 years ago. 

In those days, a new kind of concept started to become popular: themes. One very popular theme was Venice. I can remember that me and the other managers went to venice and visited Harry’s Bar, Locanda Cipriani and VizioVirtù Cioccolateria to talk about their venetian masks made of chocolate which were offered with coffee and digestivs.

The serving staff would wear the gondoliere uniform (including hat), a gondola swort was delivered and was decorated with fresh flowers and a band would play italian music during dinner and the chef from Cipriani accompanied us during the Venitian weeks. The restaurant was fully booked every night, because there was a happy atmosphere, easy listening music, friendly and helpfull service assistants and, of course great food 😉

A 360° wonderful experience. Now I hear some of my valued readers say “But one can’t compare hospitality with retail. Two  domains which differ completely”. This is not really correct. 

Both customers want to experience a friendly, personal and respectfull assistance and consulting. When someone wants to buy a pair of shoes, a software or a bottle of wine, the basic expectations about the experience are the same. It all is based on trust, respect, empathy and giving the customer the feeling that he or she is taken care of and that he or she can trust the company/IT agency/shop/restaurant or event agency. This can be achieved by focuccing for 100%on the customer and his/hers needs, demands and requirements.

No matter which domain and which product.

One can signalize a lot by creating an interior “experience” for the customers.

Before I come to retail, I want to tell about one of the best Restaurants I have experienced. The restaurant is named  “M  ON THE BUND” and it is located at the Bund in Shanghai. The Bund (Outer Beach) is one of the banks of the river Huangpu. The other one is called Pudong.

The Bund, Shanghai
The orher riverside Pudong

The Restaurant is situated on top of ne of the historic bank buildings with a really nice roof terrace with view on Pudong. The restaurant and the terrace are just  lovely.

The website already gives an impression of the light and cheerfull atmosphere. A playful and funny design. The site invites you, to book a table immediately. Smething that can be quite difficult, for they are always fully booked.

Here some impressions of the restuarant’s interior and the terrace.  The websites reflects the phsical story perfectly. We had a great evening in a perfect environment. Of course, the ladies and gents who escorted us through the evening were always  friendly and happy to fulfill our (extra) wishes. But that’s common in Asia.

This is quite some years ago, but I still can recall the lovely evening in great surroundings,with perfect food and awesome friends. This because the managers did a great job by creating an atmosphere by decorating the place so pleasantly. 

French restaurants were not so common in China in 2006 and therefore not really low priced. But it was (almost) a pleasure to paythe bill, because of the perfect experience.

Nice story. But what does this have to do with retail trade?

Sorce: Funny Bata

Hospitality and retail don’t differ as much as one might think. In both situations customers (in hospitality customers are called guests) are visiting premises and expect a service. A food service, a consulting or a physical product. I have already written about hospitality so let’s explore the retail field.

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t really need anything. Like Shania Twain once sung: “So it’s shopping every Sunday at the mall”. So when people are doing some shopping, we want some entertainment in the first place.  And as I stated above, offline retail is not going. On the contrary!

Large online companies are discovering the importance of retail commerce, becauee they noticed that still a lot of consumers are buying offline. Even in China and even during Signles Day, which is the national shopping event, which is organized by Alibaba. Here s video about singles’ day:

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But local retail is still playing a role. Especially when buying fashion items, most people want to touch the items to feel the material, they want to try it on to find out how the fit is instead of doing the fitting at home and to have to make the effort to return it, if it doesn’t fit. Another thing as something to do with vanity. People like to leave a shop with a branded bag. It is a good feeling, to let other people see what we can afford to buy 🙂

This kind of luxury subjects need an inspiring, inviting environement. This must not necessarily mean, that one has to invest a huge amount of money. Like the proverb already says “Little things mean a lot”. Some changes can make a huge difference.

Boost your shop window

“There is never a second chance for a first impression”

This is an old proverb but it is still very up-to-date. When passers-by see your shop, they only see the front. They don’t see how nice your shop is at the inside and they also don’t know which great service you offer. So it’s important to prettify your store’s “face”. Make it special, uncommon and maybe even a bit odd. Be brave. Create an atmosphere which triggers people to look at. A bit like the spectator boxes about which I wrote earlier in this article. some examples below. They are just examples, to showcase what can be done.

Let’s start with a very fancy approach. It’s done in Japan.

Unfortunately I must say, that especially people in Europa are very sceptic about smart mirrors and smart windows du to their fear that their data might be misused. But I am sure that the future will force thosepeopleto adopt the possibilities.

In the second video, the man buys his garments by scanning a QR code, which leads him to the online shop whre he can pay and buy the chosen items.  Fast revenues without having the client entering the shop. In another post of mine, I have written about some simpler options to use a QR code on a window shop. Read about it here.

What  about a screen in your window, which shows your your videos on which your present your in-shop marketing about featured items? Videos are becoming more and more important nowadays and moving pictures “force” the people to have a look. In my article about live stream ecommerce, you can read more about this approach.

If you wan to offer an state of the art exprience to your potential customers ad if your are willing to invest in your customer experience to engage your customers, you can use a smart transparent OLED TV.

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I just wanted to show this example, because I am really excited about the current possibilities of retail 😉 But ine does not neccessarily need to invest a huge amount of money. With some kreativity and less costy tools, one can create a beauttiful shop window.

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And here some pictures.

The experience outside must fit to the experience inside

When passers are triggerered by your shop window, it is very important this impression is continued and even enhanced inside your shop. There should be an inutitive feel-good atmosphere enabled by the interior. An atmosphere, which fits your products and also your personal or company culture and mindset.

Some examples 😉

The next example shows a Dutch supermarket called Marqt. Due to the growing importance of sustainable, healthy, fair traded food and self cooking. We all know the Instagram Food Porn “movement” 😉 and all the cooking shows in television and the food ducomentations on Netflix.

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You can read about the retail design of Marqt on the Retail Design Blog. The website of offers alo information.

About the Amsterdam Branche by Standardstudio:

Concept development and interior design for the new and improved biggest Marqt so far.

Marqt opened its fourteenth store at the Gelderlandplein in Amsterdam. With a number of new services Marqt focuses on more convenience and quality for the customer. For example, fresh made pasta, various cuts of meat and fish, fried or marinated. Even chickens are grilled on a spit and fresh mussels shoveled in the desired quantity. There is a ‘Shack’ for coffee, snacks, salads and sandwiches and there is a car park where each week a different food truck will be parked.

The store is for more than 75 percent made of second hand materials, from the lighting up to fridges and other furniture. In the shop there is a greenhouse, the Koelkas, which we developed together with Marqt, that sustainably stores fruits and vegetables unpacked at 14 ° C, the ideal temperature. It also provided free filtered tap water in association with Join the Pipe. With the purchase of a bottle of recycled plastic customers support drinking water projects in developing countries.

Our goal was to get Marqt more to the essence, and that ought not to be an “expensive” supermarket but an accessible market where beautiful products are presented in the right way. The new Marqt feels more like a rough marketplace where different departments present their products. Through the use of large bulk spots the bestsellers presented well and instead of expensive new custom furniture, we used old auction trolleys. Shopping is in this store tastier, easier and above all more fun!

But is has no to be that complicated. One can create nice moments with simple solutions. Just grab some cardboard boxes and play around. Place them opright and put one or more candles (flameless of course 😉 ) with some items inside and some petals

Make it cross functional

A self-experienced example. My parents owned eight shops and also produced own collections. I used to work there Fraidays after school and on Saturday. My father had the idea, to corporate with other shops in the streets where the stores were located, to enable a broader and more diverse imoeression for the people entering the shops.

To name a particular example, in Maastricht there was a corporation with a shoe store and a supplier for juwelry and other accessories. We would exchage items, which would fit with the collection of the season. For example summer skirt with light summer shoes, or a gent’s pair of trousers with some linnen shoes and a pair of sunnglasses or a necklace. 

The shoe and accessory stores would present garments out of our store, combined with their items. Some customers would buy them direcktly in the store and we would hand out the money to the neighbour and some people would be inspired by thier or our items and would visit the “original” store. 

Customers liked it to have an extra “level” and they were inspired, when it comes to combination possiblilities. Another nice experience feature isto offer something to drink, when people are looing around in a shop. It is absolutely NOT to give the people the feeling, that the are forced to buy! If they get a coffee or a softdrink, and they leave the shop, that’s perfectly allright. But they got a “goodie” and a freindly impression, and that is wat keeep sin thier mind.

In may Dutch shops, coffee, water, juices, softdrinks are available. By offering something to drink, having a coffee oneself and doing some small talk a relaxed atmosphere is present. It’s even not neccessary to talk about what the customer wants to buy. It’s importantto let the customer stroll through the shop and give him or her all the time she needs.

When a customer enters the shop one always greet, to signalize the customer thathe or she has been noticed and that one is available. “Hi nice to see you. Have a look around and if you need me, I am here for you.” When she or he is halfway through, I would alsk if he or she would like to drink something. Makes life more relaxed 🙂

Selling is NOT about selling! It is about giving a customer an experience which the customer gets a great shopping mood. The sale should be “incidential” and when the customer leaves, he or she should be happy about the new item and the experience should be a great memory.

Now let’s see some examples of multifunctional retail.


L’Occitane and Pierre Hermé Created a Shared Store Space

Consumers typically have to venture to different places to enjoy the natural beauty products and organic cosmetics from L’Occitane and French pastry chef and chocolatier Pierre Hermé—but a new shared space in Paris, France, is making it easier than ever to indulge under one roof.

On the Champs Élysées, 86 Champs is set up with a dessert bar where live pâtisserie demonstrations can be viewed, and a coffee station where guests will be able to learn about the art of coffee from the perspective of Pierre Hermé. Finally, the third element of the store introduces a restaurant with savory dishes to cleanse the palate in between enjoying sweets.

L’Occitane’s presence in the shared retail space takes the form of an in-store perfumery installation, which also offers a unique take on engaging the senses with its unique and interactive environment.


Roman and Williams Guild Combines with a Restaurant to Sell Furnishings

Roman and Williams Guild in New York is an innovative design emporium that also sports an amazing restaurant. Inspired by grand Paris cafés, Roman and Williams Guild bursts with creative brilliance as it serves as part showroom, part restaurant and part city reprieve. The showroom is filled with furnishings, lightning, accessories, furs, fabrics and other various pieces of design, all of which come directly from Roman and Williams or from collaborators of the design firm. The restaurant, known as La Mercerie Café, serves up French comfort food and is run by Chef Marie-Aude Rose. Serving classic dishes like beef tartare and buckwheat crêpes, La Mercerie Café is not simply an extension of the store, but an entity that is complemented by the store.

The cross between food and furniture was done in an attempt to create a fully engrossing experience. Buyers are encouraged to spend a lot of time in the space and are supposed to fully enjoy it. The restaurant also serves to show the practical use and application of the furnishings sold in the store, as all the items in the restaurant are also available for purchase. Instead of a simple showroom, Roman and Williams Guild has constructed and interactive experience that is built to totally envelop customers.


The Oasis Store Pairs Fashion with Beauty, Food and Beverages

In order to draw consumers to its new retail location and entice them to day, the newest high-end Oasis store was designed with several pampering stations.

At this hybrid retail outlet, shoppers are able to pick up a few new garments, as well as sit down at an on-site cafe, grab a drink at the Prosecco bar or indulge themselves at the beauty and hair salon. The entirety of the two-floor multipurpose retail space is romantically styled, taking inspiration from classical Georgian architecture.

After 3 pm, the Saucer & Spritz cafe turns into a cocktail bar that’s open until 10 pm, which provides ample opportunity for the entire retail outlet to entertain both day and night. When designing the retail space, Dalziel & Pow wanted to create the feeling of “girls getting ready before a night out.”

And last but not least, a cool multifunctional shop based on motor bikes and coffee.

I hope that you could “taste” a bit of atmosphere from the presented examples. Maybe it has brought you some inspiration. There’s no need for expensive and complicated sulitions.

Just be creative and have fun 🙂