(OIC) What are the trends in retail design and retail technology? Which new solutions does the international shopfitting scene present to retailers? Düsseldorf’s international shopfitting trade fair, EuroShop, was able to provide a clear answer to these questions: the more digital the shopping experience, the more important the emotional quality of brick-and-mortar stores.

EuroShop takes place only every three years. During this year’s five-day fair, some 94,000 trade visitors and 2,300 exhibitors cavorted in 16 densely packed halls, all of them in search of new ideas to give the trade of the future the right impetus.

Trend topic number one: digitalization. The industry has high hopes for the new payment options, as they will finally make queues at cash registers obsolete. It is becoming increasingly important for brick-and-mortar retail to dismantle obstacles to the customer, and the new concepts for this are mobile checkout and Scan & Go.

“We know from the cosmetics trade that around 20 percent of customers decide on the way to the checkout that they don’t want to buy the product after all,” explains Dr. René Schiller from GK Software. Mobile cash register devices in the hands of the staff can help, because they allow customers to make purchases directly at the shelf after consultation. Scan & Go solutions are even more comfortable.

For example, the German start-up Snabble, which cooperates with Ikea, offers payment solutions through a special app that customers download to their smartphone. The start-up MishiPay, which has just initiated tests with various French merchants around airports and train stations, does not require an app, working instead with QR codes and payment providers such as Apple Pay. “This type of Scan & Go is easy for the consumer and for the merchant because the latter does not have to invest in new checkout hardware,” says Mustafa Khanwala of MishiPay.

Terminals for self-checkout are considered mostly obsolete in fashion and sports retail. “We are sending the wrong message to the customer with them,” says Tudor Andronic of the retail technology specialist Bizerba. “Although the aim is to become faster at the checkout, this must not mean that the customers now have to do everything by themselves.” Nevertheless, sporting goods stores are already implementing solutions that do not require any staff at all, especially for events and festivals. This is where Adidas, for example, is currently gathering first practices.

However, the current hype over digital tools in stationary retail should not obscure the fact that retail will be facing a completely different task in the future. It must inspire, create experiences, emotionalize and bring people together. Retail will become the so-called “third place” or “part of the leisure industry,” says Nicole Srock Stanley of Dan Pearlman, a design agency in Berlin. “Buying is not shopping. People who shop spend their free time doing it, which puts the customer’s demands on a completely different level.”

In the future, the measure of sales per square meter will become less and less useful to stationary retail and replaced by added value to the target group. The purchase transaction will be pushed into the background, and the relationship with the customer will become the focus of all activities. This is another reason why more and more retailers are relying on professional gastronomic concepts in their stores.

But simply setting up a coffee machine is not enough. “Nowadays, nobody comes to us because they need a nice shelf,” says Tim Greenhalgh of the London design agency Fitch. What they are looking for are new concepts. “72 percent of the millennials would rather have a new experience than own a new product,” says Greenhalgh. “The future belongs to service. In the last few years, it was just a side dish; now it’s the main course.” There are many excellent possibilities, especially in sports.

So what does the store of the future look like? For shopfitters, it should always look different. The future belongs to the flexibility of store design. In terms of sustainability, moreover, shelves, decorative elements and installations will have to last longer while being able to change their position, appearance or function at lightning speed.