On 8 April Villeneuve-la-Garenne, a town to the north of Paris, opened QWARTZ, its new ‘connected’ shopping centre. This pioneering mall offers shoppers ‘connected’ routes featuring digital workshops.
With a view to meeting consumer expectations in terms of omni-channel shopping, the town of Villeneuve-la-Garenne in the Hauts-de-Seine administrative area has just opened a new shopping centre called QWARTZ. The purpose behind QWARTZ is to harness digital tools in order to enhance the customer shopping experience by making a whole series of ‘smart’ services – product information, bookings, price comparisons, personalised loyalty programmes and targeted promotional offers, the means to share recommendations with other consumers, and so on – available in real time, based on a smartphone app. The mobile app provides a geolocated service designed to create a more intimate relationship between brands and customers. As soon as they approach the store in question, customers can receive information on their phone from their favourite brands, and access a product search engine to see what is in stock and reserve a product. If, for example, you are looking for a pair of black shoes size 41, the app will show you a list of shops at the mall that are carrying this type of product. Basically what QWARTZ is trying to do is “re-invent the whole shopping experience,” reveals the shopping centre’s Manager, Raphaël Boucher, explaining: “We wanted to make a definite break with the past here. It’s no longer just about just shopping, it’s also about having a good time. We’ve harnessed digital technology to help us achieve this.”
Reinventing the shopping experience
So the QWARTZ customer is being offered a fully digital experience at the mall. S/he can work in the co-working space, have fun playing QWARTZ Move, an interactive game for the whole family, or leave the children to play at QWARTZ Play or QWARTZ GAME, two areas installed with interactive games. Visitors can also get involved in the life of the centre, with activities organised by a dedicated community management team. They can also interact on a social wall located at the main entrance level. “We wanted to provide a multi-channel approach where everything has been conceived and set up with the customer in mind, so that s/he can move smoothly from shop to shop in a way that creates a more intimate relationship with the brands and their offerings,” underlined Alain Taravella, CEO of French multi-channel real estate company Altarea Cogedim, which has a 50% stake in the centre. Explains QWARTZ Marketing Manager Blandine Charvelat-Louis: “Today’s customers want to be surprised. In line with the gamification trend, we set out to create more of a relationship between brands and customers through a whole range of in-store digital experiences.″ Building further on the digital focus, the shopping centre also offers workshops run by experts to teach the general public more about 3D modelling and 3D printing. Last but not least, another highly original novelty: a dozen interactive hubs which customers can use to access online retailers whose products are not physically on display – what we might call ‘store-to-web’.
Brand digital commitment varies
Although QWARTZ is clearly taking a highly innovative approach, with fully digitised shop windows, retailers’ reactions vary. A spokesperson for clothing retailer Primark, the centre’s flagship brand, pointed out that “the fact that the mall is ‘connected’ is a plus, but that’s not the most important aspect. We’re here because it’s a beautiful, well-designed shopping centre which attracts the young people who are our main target customers.” However, one store stands out from the crowd: French multinational retailer Carrefour catches the attention with its highly connected store offering. Céline Martin, Head of Commercial Models and Innovation for the Carrefour hypermarkets, explains the retailers’ thinking: “We noticed very quickly that smartphones have now become like a third hand to everyone in the family. We saw an opportunity to base ourselves on digital technology here at this mall and to take advantage of this to try out new things and see what happens.” At its QWARTZ hypermarket, which stretches over close to 12,000 m2, Carrefour provides a truly differentiated service, making a whole range of options available to its customers, such as a mobile app called ‘C-où’ – which sounds like the French for ‘Where is it?’ – designed to guide customers through the shop, help them find out about the ingredients or components of a product, and much more. Meanwhile the digital hubs help customers to find recipe ideas and choose their wine. “Digital technology helps you to provide customer support mechanisms and to respond to recurring customer needs such as ‘I can’t find the products I’m looking for’, ‘I can’t find any promotional offers’, and ‘I need to talk to someone’″, stresses Céline Martin.