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Digital or analogue: What technologies do brick-and-mortar stores need?

By Guest Contributor


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Givenchy store in Los Angeles Credits: Givenchy

Will a certain number of square feet actually generate the sales that hardened retail managers expect? Probably not. But it does not matter. After all, brick-and-mortar retail is merging with online retail and the role of stores has changed. They are no longer (only) responsible for sales, but also serve the need for convenience and destination.

The Bershka store in Milan is a good example of how technology and digital installations in physical retail stores can work. It offers ‘click & collect’ terminals in store windows, options for self-check-out (SCO), return drop-off points prominently located in the store and opportunities for influencers to produce content and thus act as multipliers.


Ordering online often seems the easiest thing to do. However, misdirected parcel deliveries, delays, incorrect sizes and returns can also make online shopping time-consuming and costly. Easily accessible ‘click & collect’ terminals and return stations directly in the store can make the process easier. Prerequisite: they should not disrupt the flow of customers in the store and fit in with the overall look. Customers also feel heard because ‘pain points’ in the store are addressed - for example, long queues at the check-out can be avoided by self-checkout.

Self-checkout in Stradivarius' Stuttgart store. Credits: Inditex

Reservable changing rooms, interactive mirrors that can present colour variations and combination suggestions as well as the simple ordering of these additional items without having to leave the changing room are further technical integrations that increase convenience in the store and thus become more attractive for many target groups. Because in the end, the desired result for the customer is just one thing: getting the perfect outfit with little effort. And for the brand and the retailer: to sell as much as possible and ensure a return visit for the next purchase. In-store technology makes this possible - regardless of whether the actual purchase is made online or offline. This is why the use of technical interfaces connecting to a brand's online store is a must, especially for large chains.


When online and physical retail are seamlessly linked in the backend, sales per square foot are no longer the decisive factor. The store should be a ‘place of experience’, where the brand is met - transactions, on the other hand, can and should take place online, preferably with interfaces on site. The store should offer a unique experience, a place that makes multiple visits worthwhile. But even more importantly, it should give consumers a sense of community, the feeling of being part of a group of like-minded people. This can be incentivised in a variety of ways. Roughly speaking, however, they can be divided into three focus categories: events, 'Instagrammable' settings and community.

Adidas pop-up in Berlin. Credits: Adidas

If the store is to become the central hub of the brand community, it makes sense to create a target group-specific programme - from regular events to changing content campaigns and opportunities to connect with each other to memberships that offer special benefits - online and on site. 
 On the other hand, stores become attractive when they offer something extraordinary - either for direct sharing on social channels or through the opportunity to stage themselves for content. The target group acts as a multiplier and makes the location even more attractive for the respective peer group. Design, gamification and technology make it possible. The Bershka store in particular, with its prominent ‘click & collect’ tower, bold design and spacious changing rooms does this well. The latter offer plenty of space for self-dramatisation - changing light and music moods, room for the closest circle of friends, enough space to pose. Changing clothes is not a chore here but a celebration. An activity that is planned in advance and enjoyed. The store is no longer a transactional space, but creates emotions and experiences.

DJ Khaled's office / studio in the "We The Best x Snipes" store. Credits: Snipes

In Asia and the Middle East, malls that were thought to be dead are once again becoming destinations for the younger generation. Through digital twins of the buildings, target groups familiar with the mobile game Pokémon Go - where players travel in the real world to experience digital experiences in specific physical locations - can collect goodies and be directed to different shops through various incentives. Technology that inspires - across all target groups.

Does every store need this?

Not every store can, should and must utilise all technical possibilities. Quite the opposite. To put it simply: The smaller the shop, the less will technology pay off. Boutiques in particular distinguish themselves through their curated offer, by addressing a specific target group that seeks and honours precisely this service. ‘Click & collect’ and self-checkouts are less desirable here than a more curated selection and personal customer loyalty. Especially as there is usually less space available than in large high-street chains. 
 What applies to most, however, is that technology should be integrated to the extent that it meets and - ideally - exceeds the expectations and needs of customers. From a simple newsletter to inviting the community and drawing attention to the specially curated offer to interactive mirrors - there are plenty of options. The decision is up to each brand.

About the author
Torsten Dietz is managing director at Liganova, a leading group of companies for effective brand and retail experiences from idea to realisation - physically, digitally and virtually. He is responsible for global retail campaigns and sustainability solutions and thus for retail transformation, innovative POS solutions, international production and sustainability transformation. With over ten years of experience in international retail marketing and a keen sense of the changing retail landscape, he focuses on developing sustainable concepts for Liganova's clientele - global premium brands from the lifestyle, sporting goods, automotive, luxury, fashion and retail sectors.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.DE. Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.