Tagged : future

mms-world-new-york

Put the fun back into shopping

“Today’s shoppers want to be entertained. Niketown is theater. And for retailers, that’s the key to the future”. You might think I pulled this quote out of a recent newspaper discussing the success of Niketown versus the trouble many retailers find themselves currently in.

Wrong.

It’s 20 years old. Back in 1992, it appeared in CNN Money. The article also mentioned: “Niketown is putting the fun back into shopping.” Nike is not the only company who realized the potential of a ‘store which entertains its shoppers’. Five years after the first Niketown, candy company M&M opened M&M’s World in Las Vegas. Currently, about 8 million people visit this Las Vegas store every year.

Several years later (2001), Apple opened their first Apple Store. In Apple’s own words: “The stores are designed to simplify and enhance the presentation and marketing of personal computing products.” Just as Niketown and M&M’s World, the Apple Store is a theater. A theater for shoppers.

The other day, I read an article about Dutch retailers struggling “because of the economic crisis”. People buy less. And when they do buy stuff, people tend to visit large well-known chain stores. Or shop online. Most retailers find it hard to compete with these large chain stores and the Internet. It’s hardly impossible to compete on price (they win). In order to survive, retailers need to find other ways of attracting customers.

Retailers should start (and win) the entertainment battle. Put the fun back into shopping. Turn stores into theaters, so to speak. Just like Nike, M&M and Apple did. These companies had tremendous success with it. So why don’t you?

Dutch mountain: Joke or triumph?

The Netherlands, a country known for its windmills, cheese, wooden shoes, Delftware, dikes, tulips, bicycles and its giant two kilometer high mountain.

Huh? A mountain? I thought the Netherlands is the flattest country on earth.

Nope. Not any more. At least, not if a Dutch organization gets what it wants. This organization (Die berg Komt Er) proposes a two kilometer high mountain which will be erected somewhere in the Netherlands. Newspapers report ‘there’s probably enough space for such a mountain’. Also ‘there probably won’t be any negative side effects for the environment’. Yeah, right. Costs are expected to be around 70 billion euros (that’s over 90 billion Dollars). What the mountain will be used for? Agriculture, housing and skiing to name a few. Also the giant Dutch mountain will be used as a power plant. It should generate enough energy to power the entire city of Amsterdam with 100% renewable energy.

I thought the era of mega projects in the Western world was over. So kudos to the design team who had the guts of coming up with such a bold plan. Or is it just a publicity stunt? Are the architects of this Dutch mountain out of touch with the rest of the country? To be fair, the Dutch created 20% of their country themselves, by creating land from water. So there’s no doubt we’re technically capable (or find a way) of creating a two kilometer high mountain. But… let’s be honest, we (the Netherlands) don’t need such a mountain. Why not spend 60 billion euros to make the Netherlands the first carbon-neutral country on earth? Or why not build the Roadmap 2050 design of a carbon-neutral Europe, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas? There’s a saying, God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands. It’s ever more true when the Dutch create their own two kilometer high mountain… which I hope will never be the case.


Map of Eneropa, Rem Koolhaas’ renewable world: how a new power network could solve Europe’s carbon crisis. (image courtesy: OMA)

An offer you can’t refuse


Here’s the deal. You pay me 150 million euros and you receive 300 million euros back. And it’s no scam. For many all people, this would be ‘the perfect deal’. What would your answer be?

Surprisingly, many people (or companies for that matter) answer ‘no’ to this question. BMW, the German automobile company, did not. They decided to go for it!

Back in 2000, they were in need of a new corporate headquarters. After consulting several architecture companies, they picked Wolf Prix’s Coop Himmelb(l)au as architect of their choice. In 2007 their new headquarters, BMW Welt, opened for business. The building had a staggering price tag of over 150 million euros.

When I worked for Coop Himmelb(l)au, I spoke with someone who had been involved in this project. This architect told me there was quite some debate within Coop Himmelb(l)au and BMW. Is it worth erecting a building worth over 150 million euros? Can we build it for half the money? Does BMW Welt have to be this spectacular? Ultimately Wolf Prix convinced BMW to spend the money and build this ‘temple for BWM’ as he called it. The result: In the following years, BMW received free exposure and media coverage worth hundreds of millions of euros because of their new headquarters.

I’m not suggesting bigger is always better. However, sometimes, it can be worth spending a bit more money to reach your goal. Ultimately vision and courage of the client are factors that matter most. Which is even more true during times of economic hardship.

Supermarket pick-up point obsoletes traditional supermarkets


I read an interesting article the other day. Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket franchise of the Netherlands is busy developing a new strategy for selling groceries online. To date, online grocery delivery services are generally more expensive and aren’t viewed as an alternative to traditional supermarkets. With this move, everything could change. After all they’re by far the largest supermarket in the Netherlands.

So, what’s this new strategy? Instead of delivering groceries right to your home, they decided to… wait for it… not deliver groceries to your home. Huh?! Makes no sense? Well, actually it does. First of all, we’re talking about a 600 million dollar business for Albert Heijn (which operates in both the United States and Netherlands). Currently the online business doesn’t account for a profit. Within years, sales should be up to 2 billion dollars and they hope to make a profit. According to the company, selling groceries online is a profitable business. However, this profit evaporates during the last kilometer of the delivering process.

“Delivering groceries to peoples homes is expensive. Also, the customer needs to be at home to receive the groceries”, a spokesperson said. “It is more easy to order groceries by using your smartphone and provide us with a time and desired pick up location.”

That’s why the company is developing a system of thousands of supermarket pick-up points scattered throughout the country. To make this system profitable, they need to dramatically increase their sales. Since this supermarket is market leader, these developments could mean a breakthrough and offer possibilities for other (online) supermarkets as well. I think Albert Heijn just made the traditional supermarket obsolete.

Last week I wrote about the need of a new urban model. I briefly mentioned Albert Heijn (AH XL). I wrote:

Companies continue to scale up. […] Supermarkets like AH XL (large Dutch supermarket) and distribution centers only need a few strategic locations in order to serve the entire country.”

So let’s take a look in the future. First of all, supermarkets only needs a few distribution centers. Furthermore, thousands of supermarket pick-op points are created in the entire country (a supermarket pick-up point could even add value to certain properties, just as a nearby Starbucks store does). It will be possible to order your groceries via a dedicated supermarket app on your smartphone or tablet computer, provide the supermarket with a time and location, pick up the groceries and bring ‘em home.

The Google refrigerator

A short while ago, I read about Google developing a refrigerator that is intelligent to know when it’s running low on certain groceries and ordering them from online grocery delivery services. Back then I thought it’s a waste of research dollars. But if you connect the dots (online supermarket, an app, thousands of pick-up points), think about the possibilities. Imagine the refrigerator being connected to your online supermarket app. The moment you’re running low on certain groceries it adds the item to your app (it might even search for the lowest available price. After all, it’s Google we’re talking about!). You only need to approve buying the item, after which it will be delivered to your desired supermarket pick-up point. That’s life made easy…

NB. Albert Heijn is owned by Ahold. This Dutch company also owns AH XL, AH to go, Gall&Gall, Etos, Stop&Shop, Giant, Martin’s and Peapod. It operates in several countries, including the Netherlands, United States, Germany and Belgium.

A new urban model (part two)

Wednesday I wrote about the need of a new urban model. Today I offer three of my solutions.

When people start to work from home more often and distance becomes less relevant, we should rethink the way our cities (and countries) are planned. Here’re three things we could do in the Netherlands.

1. Create Strategic Office Locations

These Strategic Office Locations replace the current offices in cities downtown. Since less office space is needed, only a few locations are needed. All of these office locations are located at major highway intersections outside of our current cities. Plenty of parking space and extensive public transport is available. Thus eliminating the problems we associate with cities (too much traffic, no parking space, new infrastructure cramped in old cities and always a lack of space).

2. Focus on unique housing

Home equals workspace. This results in people wanting to get out of their houses and avoid getting stressed. That is why people want to be somewhere they love to live. How many people really want to live in a generic apartment in just another suburb of a major city? I guess not that many. Since the Strategic Office Locations are centrally located and only need to be visited several times a month, people can live in the entire country.

Nature loving people might choose the Frisian lakes or Limburg hills. Other people could be more interested in locations like the historic district in Amsterdam where many shops, cinemas bars, restaurants and theaters are.

This development offers major possibilities for remote areas. Suddenly, they’re not that remote anymore…

3. ‘Super Giant XXL Megastores’

Companies continue to scale up. Companies like Media Markt, IKEA but also supermarkets like AH XL (large Dutch supermarket) and distribution centers only need a few strategic locations in order to serve the entire country. These companies will be situated at Strategic Office Locations.

Imagine how cities and entire countries will change. Is it just a dream? Or could this be our future?

Read part one here.