ECE starts Future Labs in Hamburg and Essen (DE)

New interactive shopping experiences: Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum in Hamburg and Limbecker Platz in Essen are ECE’s “Future Labs”. In both, ECE is testing as of now numerous services–from a virtual guiding system, a large number of social media connections up to interactive play areas. “We are thus taking up the results of the study presented in February on the purchasing behavior in a multi-channel world and bring new interactive shopping experiences in our shopping centers,” says Alexander Otto, ECE CEO.

Both “Future Labs” are meant to serve as experimental sites for new technical trends and ideas. “Developments that are well received by the customers will be continued and implemented in other centers. Ideas that don’t appeal to the customers will be replaced by new ones,” explains Henrie W. Kötter, Managing Director Center Management at ECE.

“We asked ourselves: what can we learn from online retailers?” explained Kötter. It is decisive to provide potential customers tailor-made information at the right point in time.

For this purpose, among others, a free smartphone app was developed (available for iPhones as of now, for Android phones as of May), which informs about current offers, events and news. A point collection and voucher system round off the services on offer.

An overview on further “Future Labs” novelties:

• Mall Wall: the visitors can become active on the specially designed high-definition, four-by-four meter mega screen: the choice is between e.g. fashion tips, social media, blogs, games, and so-called augmented reality animations in which the visitor can experience an expanded reality via virtual pictures.

• The giants’ journey: at the kids’ play area center visitors aged 6 to 11 can virtually enter the giants’ world and experience adventures. Up to six kids can take part in the game–the individually scored points are saved on a wristlet.

• WLAN: As of now there is WLAN access in the center. Visitors can register via a short message and receive an access code (first hour free).

• 3D guiding system: as new type of shop search the 3D guiding system “Your Way2go“ offers the opportunity to load the fastest route to the desired shop as 3D animation via a QR code or to display it on the screen.

• At the Info Gate service staff answers the visitors’ questions via live video stream–e.g. regarding shops in the center or the departure times of busses and trains. The customer information with personal contacts will not be changed.

• “Gloria” is a virtual mall avatar and knows everything about the center. The visitors communicate with the virtual shopping center guide interactively via touch screen. “Gloria” provides helpful tips, plays with the visitors and sends video messages.

• Multi-media Lounge: In a relaxed atmosphere customers can get to know the latest Samsung technology in the Multimedia Lounge–e.g. they can test tablets or surf on the Internet. It is also possible to check out the so far largest 3D TV mounted in Germany (70 inch) by United Entertain that can be used without 3D glasses.

• Social check-in: log into Facebook at the terminal and show the community where you are at the moment.

• At the smartphone and tablet charging station visitors can charge all mobile devices (for a fee).

• Photobuzzer: pose, press the buzzer and a portrait is uploaded–after previous approval–to the center’s Facebook page and the Mall Wall.

• Warm coats and shopping bags can be dropped off at the automatic wardrobe–the coat check is a printed barcode.

• How satisfied are the center visitors? On a small tablet customers can provide feedback by answering questions on their satisfaction with smileys. Alternatively, there is the possibility to scan a QR code that directly leads to a feedback form.

• Even better and faster communication among all employees in the center will in future be ensured by Mallcomm–an app available for every shop employee. It contains information which otherwise is distributed in paper (e.g. tenant manuals, advertising schedules and tenant information).

Apart from all those technical innovations, ECE is also constantly working on the improvement of the services offered in the “real world”: thus in both test center exist XXL parking spaces as of today making parking as well as loading and unloading for visitors who need more space more comfortable.

Directly involved in the “Future Labs” are also the retail tenants of Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum and Limbecker Platz. They are looking forward to the now launched “future experiment” with eager anticipation.

Sandro Schramm, Head of Marketing at the fashion provider “comma”: “For comma, the mega-trend digitalization is an important component of our corporate strategy. We are therefore very happy that our brand is a partner of ECE’s Future Labs in Hamburg and Essen right from the beginning in order to win further insights in the omni-channel shopping sector.”

Florian Oechsner, Head of Commercial International Retail at s.Oliver: “As ECE’s strong rental partner we are looking forward to the project. Together with ECE we would like to test new paths and possibilities to make the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience even more attractive for the final consumer. With the integration of new media, we would like to address specifically Internet-savvy customer groups.”

About the study

In a comprehensive study with the title “What the customer really wants” ECE together with the Roland Berger Strategy Consultants analyzed the purchasing behavior in a multi-channel world. Around 42,000 consumers were asked about their shopping behavior. In addition, nearly 2,000 participants of the study wrote a personal shopping diary for one month. The analysis of all data brought surprising results to light. The share of online retails is already larger than expected: seven percent of the online purchases generate 16 percent of the overall turnover–with upward tendency. However, the offline retailer with a brick-and-mortar shop has no reason to give in to the online competitors. Two thirds of the consumers are regular brick-and-mortar customers; there, customer needs are satisfied that the online trade cannot yet or will never be able to satisfy. The “What customers really want” study can be downloaded for free under

Source: ECE

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