September 18, 2014 / 12:36 PM / 3 years ago

Virtual meets real in Media-Saturn's new store

Wolfgang Kirsch, CEO of Media-Saturn Germany, poses in the European state-of-the-art store of German electronics retailer Media-Saturn after a news conference at the headquarters in Ingolstadt, southern Germany, September 18, 2014.Michaela Rehle

INGOLSTADT Germany (Reuters) - Europe's top electronics retailer Media-Saturn unveiled a new store with access to more products via a giant video wall and a drive-in collection point for online orders, aiming to better link online and offline shopping and fight back against internet specialists.

Media-Saturn, whose sprawling stores selling everything from washing machines to laptops generate about a third of the revenues of retail group Metro, has seen online competition from the likes of Amazon steadily erode its business in recent years.

A dispute between majority owner Metro and Media-Saturn founder, Erich Kellerhals, delayed the company's move online until 2010 and it is now playing catch-up, trying to integrate its e-commerce business with its stores.

"Big stores and low prices ...are no longer a guarantee of success," Wolfgang Kirsch, head of Media-Saturn in its home market Germany, told a news conference on Thursday.

"Our new store is driven by the central principle of finding new ways to combine the online and offline world in a new shopping experience which really inspires the demanding customers of today."

The new Media Markt store due to open next week in the southern German town of Ingolstadt is part of a broader trend among traditional retailers to use technology to make better use of costly store space to present a bigger range of goods.

British clothing retailer Marks & Spencer has developed a "virtual rail" that allows shoppers in a small Amsterdam store to browse its full catalogue on large screens, while German sportswear firm Adidas uses digital "shoe walls" to present all its styles and colours.

The new Media Markt store features a huge video wall where customers can navigate through all 60,000 products on offer online - compared to the 45,000 available in the store - as well as a drive-in facility behind the store where shoppers can collect orders made online or by telephone.

It will offer shoppers free Wi-Fi and charging stations for smartphones as well as digital navigation of the store.

Store staff will also demonstrate how gadgets can be used together, for example how smartphones can work with baby monitors.

REASON TO VISIT STORE

Electronics firm Samsung has also recently launched a life-size, touch-screen interface that allows customers to check out its full range of fridges, washing machines and dishwashers.

"Retailers will see multiple benefits," said Simon Hathaway from Samsung marketing agency Cheil which developed the system.

"It allows them to show a full range in relatively small space and creates a genuine reason to visit a store, something that many struggle to deliver."

Media-Saturn, the world's second-biggest consumer electronics chain after Best Buy with more than 950 Media Markt and Saturn stores in 17 countries, saw sales fall 1.3 percent to 16 billion euros (12.63 billion pounds) in the nine months to end June.

Online sales still only account for about 7 percent of sales, but Kirsch said about 70 percent of customers already check out products online before buying in the store, while almost half order online and pick up in store.

Its main store rivals in Europe are Dixons Retail and Darty Plc, but it also faces fierce competition from Amazon. British online domestic appliances retailer AO World is also planning to launch in Germany soon.

As it responds to that threat, Media-Saturn launched a new service earlier this year to offer express home delivery of smaller items like smartphones and laptops within 30 minutes, which it plans to extend to large items in future.

Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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