Antwerp, 17 December 2019

Coming up with an idea is easy. Coming up with the right one takes work. It requires extensive research, testing and ultimately implementation. In the spring of 2020, the Future of Shopping is coming to Antwerp. In The Future of Shopping, a ‘Living Retail Lab’ of no less than 5,500 sq.m, retail chains and tech companies collaborating in the experiment will be able to launch new concepts and to measure whether it works for the customer. RetailDetail CEO Jorg Snoeck explains this fascinating new venture with a very clear focus on connecting people and commerce.

Captain of Retail Jorg Snoeck, is an international speaker, founder of RetailDetail, and award-winning author of the book ‘The Future of Shopping’. With the latest news, trends and expertise in retail at his fingertips, he is a well-known speaker inspiring leaders and everyone interested in retail from Hong Kong to Cape Town, to all over the world. Snoeck is on a personal mission to ensure more entrepreneurs and businesses can continue to thrive in the challenging and rapidly changing retail landscape. He sees setting up the Future of Retail as a logical next step to RetailDetail’s existing activities. “Alongside guidance, information and inspiration for the B2B retail environment, we want to get closer to consumers.”

‘Connecting people and commerce is the main priority’

Food for thought … and inspiration
In the ten years since it was founded, RetailDetail has grown from a retail news blog to the main source of retail knowledge and inspiration in the Benelux, with more than 250,000 monthly visitors to its website. The Retailnews publications, Retail TV and a whole range of conferences and events keep retail professionals up to date on the latest trends and developments. On top of this, the Retailhunt inspirational study tours for the captains of the industry are getting a lot of positive feedback for their exclusivity and high quality. Thanks to his enormous network, Snoeck and his team can open doors that remain closed to other players. This is how they promote the really interesting discussions and personal contacts between CEOs in the sector. The Retailhub serves as a B2B test lab for retailers and technology providers. And shortly, RetailDetail – and Multi – will be adding the new B2C Future of Shopping to this long list of initiatives.

What will the future of shopping look like?
“In the Future of Shopping, retailers and brands will offer the latest technologies, innovations, products and experiences directly to consumers.” Jorg Snoeck is very clear that this is a shop and not a showroom. “You can discover, test, experience, and buy. It will be a shopping centre in the shopping centre.” By registering, preferably in advance, consumers become a part of the lab that can follow and analyse their customer journey, naturally within the set of frameworks of privacy legislation. Among the things the test lab will be studying will be how consumers respond to technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, biometrics and facial recognition, interactive communication systems, mobile payment applications, loyalty systems and robotisation. The targeted ease of use for customers starts right at the entrance, where you can use facial recognition or a QR code to enter the fast lane for entry. Snoeck uses a map to explain the concept: “An escalator from the Stadsfeestzaal takes you to the Welcome zone on the first floor. From there you can enter the open, themed zones fashion, lifestyle, living, and food.

‘It will be a shopping centre in the shopping centre’

There is a slight blurring of segments where retailers and start-ups will try out new store formats, products and services. This is how they will prepare jointly for the future, when shopping will be a mix of physical and digital, a fusion of experience and convenience, of emotion and technology.” Snoeck says the agreements with the lead partners are close to completion, and the other parties will be selected jointly. When asked which formulas are a good fit with this experiment, he replies: “Let’s just say that existing formulas are definitely not a good fit.”

Anyone can be a DIYer
Snoeck does give a few examples. “DIY giant Hubo is planning to set up a shop where people can buy building materials, including workshops on what you can do with those materials, under the motto “Anyone can be a DIYer”. There is even a plan to build an entire home with 200 people who have never done a DIY project. This is how consumers and retailers create a story together. We also help retailers with their storytelling in the shop. We are working on a multifunctional app that could eventually replace all other loyalty apps: for check-in, workshops, payment, loyalty, feedback and promotions. The test lab has to offer lots to experience and lots to do. For instance, show cooking with new types of food, such as insects and seaweed, a Master’s degree programme for top chefs, radio and TV broadcasting, fashion shows, workshops, and a multisensory restaurant where eating is combined with an immersive audio/ visual experience.”

‘Existing formulas are definitely not a good fit’

Retail Hub
The second floor will host the Retailhub, a B2B knowledge and inspiration centre, and we will bring together retailers and suppliers. More than 80 companies will be showcasing their latest innovations, from the Samsung Smart Fridge to digital technology for stores. An ‘apartment of the future’ will confront visitors with the impact that the technology has on what you do at home, such as what you eat and how you prepare your food (or have it delivered). Inspiration tours will allow visitors to experience the customer journey of tomorrow. An additional programme of activities will be offered, including a retail hunt through Antwerp. RetailDetail is planning to relocate their offices to the Stadsfeestzaal, and to create co-working spaces, an auditorium, and meeting rooms. All in all, it will be a very lively business environment.

Why did you choose Stadsfeestzaal?
“We want to be where the customers are. Stadsfeestzaal is an iconic place in the heart of Antwerp’s shopping district that welcomes no less than 6.5 million consumers every year. Those visitors will also be able to visit us next year. We are the very first retail lab in the world and I expect this initiative to attract worldwide interest. The Central Station is close by and the centre has a car park, so it is easily accessible from anywhere. The city of Antwerp, which is very enthusiastic about the initiative, will even include it in the list of tourist attractions.”

What new trends can we expect?
“We may indeed set a trend but that is not our goal. The aim of this initiative is to use current trends to map out how consumers shop using data. By asking them questions and by testing the innovations every retailer is looking for. What we learn from this will make all of us better. At the end of the day, everyone wants to book sales and returns on their investment. I see a lot of retailers with doubts about how they’ll keep their businesses going and attract consumers in the years ahead. Let’s not mince words: how they will survive. They are making investments today on the basis of limited insights, with little certainty that what they are doing will work. Twenty years ago, you could calculate conversion rates using a folder, but the new influences have now become so complex you need to do in-depth research. We want to help retailers think about that search for new things.”

Is retail still fun in the end?
“Oh, most definitely. It’s not all gloom and doom. It is very difficult for most right now, but retail will never disappear. Because people will always want to shop, whether it’s online or offline, in a shopping centre or in their local corner shop. Retail’s not going anywhere, but it will change. However, it will have to adapt to consumers, and that is the big difference. In the past, consumers had to adapt to new retail concepts.

‘Consumers and retailers are creating a story together’

These days, consumers are no longer waiting for new concepts, because they are firmly in the driving seat. Every consumer can become a retailer and sell items online; we have the simple tools to make that possible. Which is why what is happening is so unbelievably exciting. Consumer spending is higher than it used to be, and it’s more thought through and more ethical, and now consumers want everything quickly. Food is delivered to their door within 10 minutes. Of course that’s fantastic, but it adds a whole new dimension to the entire food chain. The chain has to adapt, including the producers and technology, but that makes it exciting.”

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