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Conceptual package

The customer journey in medical supply retail - interior designer Elke Park brings the slogan to life.

Digitalisation is modifying every business segment in medical supply retail. This includes new demands in relation to shopfitting. Interior designer Elke Park, owner from Parkraum planning office explains how digitalisation shapes the customer journey in medical supply retail..

Elke Part, when medical supply retailers consider modernising their store with your help, what are the first questions you ask them?

After the initial phase of getting to know them and a presentation of planning examples, I ask two specific questions, as I need to know how the company positions itself in order to be able to create a planning concept.

The first question is therefore: ‘Where do you picture the department within the company in five to ten years’ time?’ For example, a specialist division, such as rehabilitation technology, may be stronger, while another perhaps loses ground.

The second question is: ‘How do you see yourself personally within your company now and in the future?’ This is about whether a Managing Director manages and guides, whether they still apply their hand in the workshop, and whether there are possible changes at executive level or a successor is due to take over. The retail space is then designed according to the answers.

The term ‘customer journey’ is omnipresent in marketing presentations: How do you understand this term and why is it so important?

The use of the Anglicism is justified in German as this specialist term designates a complete conceptual package. It describes the customer’s journey through the retail space with the aid of many experience factors. The merchandise is arranged in an order that makes sense to the customer and has a positive appeal, starting from the main entrance through to sales closure. The location and furnishing of the changing rooms are a coherent, integral part of this journey. Employee and customer activities within the sales process are also taken into consideration in the concept.

So, this means that the entrance zone should not display incontinence products, but items with a positive aura, such as fitness products or stylish mobility themes. It is therefore worthwhile drawing on product groups from several assortments and telling a story. An ideal example was showcased in the shopfitting pavilion at OT World around the theme of walking sticks. Customers were not just shown walking sticks, but other utensils were also on display, such as a bench seat with special cushions, a book with reading glasses, comfortable shoes and plants. The walking stick appeared quite naturally beside them. The presentation should encourage the customer to try out a product. This can be urged either by personnel or via a screen. The customer then gets to know more about each of the products needed.

The sales skills of the shop assistant are particularly important. They direct the customer to related products and accompany them on the journey through the store, enabling the customer to develop a clear idea of the respective company. The journey ideally includes a stop at the changing rooms to try out compression stockings or bandages. A professional sequence of goods conveys a competent impression and creates trust, encouraging customers to return.

Several months ago, you made a visit to the shopfitting specialist Visplay in Weil am Rhein along with several entrepreneurs under the motto ‘The customer journey in medical supply stores’. Why?

When it comes to store layouts, the fashion, lingerie and sports retail sectors are role models for medical supply retailers. The customer is encouraged to browse the retail space. New sales media offer interesting and revenue-generating sales experiences. And this is precisely what is showcased in Visplay’s Village. It was an amazing opportunity to experience the reality of a store in a fictitious food outlet, a beauty store, a fashion shop and the future of automotive retail. We also had the opportunity to look beyond this and admire the architecture that characterises the Vitra Campus almost like a trade mark. The visit ended with a tour of the Office world. A healthcare company does not just need retail space but also requires logistics, workshops and offices for employees, and all business divisions require an architectural shell. A healthcare company must become a brand of its own. And the participants found plenty of inspiration during their visit.

A screen on the wall, digital labels alongside the products - and the customer is already filled with enthusiasm. What should be taken into consideration when using digital media?

Not every product is suited to a digital display. Attention must also be paid to the number of screens. One too many can overburden employees and customers. A conscientious, sensible use is therefore important. Digitalisation should promote sales, emphasise the character of the experience and aid the sale - not cause confusion. Employees must be involved in order to achieve the required effect when installing a digital innovation. And of course, a health company alone cannot manage digitalisation. Instead, the industry itself must support this project. Even the Managing Director at the head of the compan, must want digitalisation. Only then can it function.

What opportunities does digitalisation offer in the changing room?

Digitalisation in the changing room functions in different areas. Digital chips on a product can control lighting. A customer trying on lingerie should therefore observe a different lighting intensity and colour than a customer wanting to try out sports compression products. Lighting should guide and encourage sales. Digitalisation can take the form of a measuring system for compression and bandage treatment. Video tutorials or QR codes on the product can serve as customer advice aids. This is also digitalisation.

Doesn’t the emotional engagement of customers fall by the wayside through the use of technology?

No, I don't think so. Fortunately, the whole cable technology is invisible, only the monitor can be seen. Emotional image content on a screen can be positioned exactly where required to suit the store atmosphere - with as much or as little as the owner desires.

How is digitalisation affecting your work as an interior designer?

To put it succinctly, it creates extra work as several planning levels have to be coordinated. This must not be underestimated and should be respected by store owners in the development time frame. It requires individual solutions for the customer journey. Innovative solutions are much more demanding than just standard layouts.
As interior designers, we have to deal with implementation while planning. This includes solid IT knowledge for targeted and result-oriented planning, so that we don't design pipe dreams. Know-how increases with heightening demands. I personally welcome this development and enjoy the continual motivation that this fresh momentum inspires.

Publication date: 15.04.2019
Picture: ParkraumText:Herr Tobias Kurtz, GesundheitsProfi