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Shaping brands and experiences to please the brain,
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Interpreting Media Markt’s Digital Store

July 19th, 2016 · No Comments

On November 18th 2015, Media Markt announced its opening of the sector’s “most technological store” in Getafe (Madrid) — a 2,400 square-metre shop where around 5,000 products could be found with electronic labels showing prices matching those on its website.  They said it had white, lower-level furniture, and that training courses would be provided. And it would offer a product-pickup Stop&Go service, a kind of drive-through service.

Despite Madrid’s being its flagship store, it failed to cause any rivers of ink to flow. It was an incremental evolution.

240 days later, the situation is radically different. On Saturday 16th July 2016, Media Markt opened its “Digital Store” in Barcelona’s city centre, at a site previously occupied by “Casa Danone”.  This store is going to create an impact not only in the sector, but also in the way electronic products are purchased.

What we can found

Walking along Avenida Diagonal — on the water side — we see a shop front that looks very different to any of the chain’s other stores, with signs that are not easy to read due to their position on the glass window.


On the left-hand side, in the shop window, the movement of a restless robot can be seen attracting the looks of the passers-by. It is a great example of what a shop-window should be: a real ad, instead of a product-warehouse-shop-window.


Its entrance is already special: no products can be seen, just a digital screen and people who greet you as you walk in.


Afterwards, you see a number of zones (called “worlds” or “universes”) corresponding to conventional product categories: Image & Sound, Household appliances, IT, Telephones, and Fun & Photo.


In each of these zones, no products are on display, but a full-sized digital wall (d-wall), where moving e-people invite you to touch the screen.


On each d-wall there is an embedded “screen” showing you what is available on the mediamarkt.es website. In actual fact, its contents are the same as the website’s.

That is a wise and cheap way of creating a new pilot store, supported by economies of scope.

There, visitors can search for the product they are interested in, just as they would online.

It is very important to note the large number of staff offering to help visitors choose a product.

There are also zones with uncommon product categories, such as the phone protective-cover customisation, produced on the spot.

Every retail solution is built by three components (products, services and activities), with the second being the important one here. Specifically, business services such as financing, post-sale installation, phone contracts, digital photography printing from a variety of media, etc. become key services.

Once you have chosen your product, payment can be made at interactive kiosks — even with PayPal — and in less than two minutes you can pick up your product from a warehouse desk, with one single queue, where your turn will be announced. Previous purchases made online can also be picked up from here.

Essentially, this store is based on an old retail format that had been struggling to survive: the “catalogue showroom”, the leader of its type being Argos, in the UK. This British chain’s paper catalogues have already been replaced by interactive screens. In the new Media Markt store, such screens have got larger, more theatrical, to become d-walls.

Ultimately, it offers some non-commercial services that are very attractive to its visitors.


The training and events area, next to a wall with an interactive projection where children can add their own drawings, which, once scanned, become part of the projected picture story.


And finally, an area for experiencing virtual reality, as attractive as it is incipient, commercially speaking.


Whether at this store or online — which is, in fact, the same — the purchased products can be collected from an uninterrupted 24-hour service, and handed out by the robot in the shop window.

Here, again, we observe that functionality (logistics) is combined with surprise and playfulness.

The store, from a management perspective

If we compare some of Media Markt’s various retail formulas, we can observe:


The best 3 things about this store – from a management perspective

Its playful component, plus the use of the surprise effect starting at the shop façade with its robot, and continuing with its customising of accessories, its virtual reality area, etc.

The determination shown by this pilot store. It is a good example of how R&D should be done in retailing, testing to the maximum — focusing on a core idea — without overly worrying about mistakes, or about the investment in the pilot store. If approached with the “hand-brake” on, its conclusions would not help to learn, improve or rule out.

This store is proof of the clear support provided by Ferran Reverter, Spanish CEO, and the Managing Board, because they have had to make some hugely important decisions:

  • Removing most physical products from the store.
  • Having understood that you can no longer think in terms of online or offline shopping, but OnOff shopping. A large majority of customers visit the website before going to the physical store, or they do so once they are in it. As such, they have understood that the debate between a bricks-and-mortar store and the Internet cannot be resolved with incremental patches, but with a new business model.
  • Accepting that a new business model must be validated: a very different Profit & Loss Account, as well as an investment need very different to that of conventional stores.


Motivated and friendly staff who show their pride of belonging, aware that they are co-protagonists of an innovation.

The 2 things that could be improved upon by this store – from a management perspective

Both relate to the convenience (process) part of the shopping experience.

  • Firstly, given that the d-wall contents are the same as online, why would someone choose to travel to the store to use Media Markt’s website standing up, instead of sitting down on their own sofa? The answer is: because its salespeople’s help is very superior to online personal help; i.e., a chat.
  • Secondly, the way of filtering the products until finding the one that best suits the customer. Here, this process is done by focusing on the product’s features rather than on the customer’s. What happens when you do not know what the number of spins per minute on a washing machine means? That such variable is no longer a good filtering criterion.
Its positive side: this lack of customer-centricity is an endemic problem also suffered by most competitors.

Let’s not forget: Buying consists of ruling items out.

As a way of conclusion

Not many new things can be found in this retail concept but, as a whole, its meaning is different to that of existing stores within the sector. For example, a digital interactive wall had already been presented at Berlin’s World Retail Congress, in September 2011:

This is how I visualise the ideal way of using this store:

  • Try choosing your product sitting on your sofa, where you will be able to complement the information with that on other websites. Once you have made your product shortlist, go to the Digital Store, where you will find exceptional, super-motivated, smiling staff to help you choose the product. You may be able to leave “wearing it”, or a robot may hand it to you on Sunday, on your way to (or after) an evening out.

Media Markt, which had not been quick to react to digitisation, is now not only up-to-date but it is leaping ahead. Paradoxically, it is doing so by using the old showroom-catalogue format, a website-shop with the possibility of being the worst of both worlds. However, by adding 3 ingredients (surprise-playfulness, great staff, and very well-thought-out services) it has created the catalogue showroom 2.0, a new omnichannel benchmark.

Lluís Martínez-Ribes, june 2016.
Photos by the same author.
More info: http://specials.mediamarkt.es/digital-store

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Retail evolution in parallel with Customers’ life evolution

February 12th, 2016 · No Comments


Sculpture and photography by Lluís Martínez-Ribes

No doubt. Retail is changing continuously, usually silently, sometimes in a more disruptive way.

Here you can see a possible parallel evolution between Customers’ life and contexts, and the main retail formats.


Clic to enlarge image

I wonder if this self-explanatory chart may help. If not, I can add more details at the comments.

→ No CommentsTags: cliente-persona · context · Contexto · customer-people · omnichannel · OnOff · retail

WITHOUT CONTEXT, WE ARE MYOPIC. Managing contexts in marketing

November 25th, 2015 · No Comments

In 1994, the Japanese Dr. Masaru Emoto started to feel interested in taking pictures of the microscopic shapes of different kinds of water, once frozen. He detected with a huge amazement that the water crystals that formed after showing it positive words, play good music or praying to it, are much more beautiful than those formed when the same water is exposed to expletives and negative stimuli. It can be seen in his website.


Now, I propose you a less mysterious issue. Please think if you -as a consumer- spend more money during a working week or during a holidays one. Most of the people I’ve asked tell me that not only they spend more on vacation, but that even their price sensitivity during that period is lower.

The two previous examples are showing us something important: context matters a lot.

Context is a great variable in marketing. In the second example, if your company sells to people who are on vacation, not only will it increase your turnover, but also its Gross Margin can increase, because many customers -in a vacation tone- accept a slightly higher price. Therefore, context can also affect your P&L account.

Too “in vitro”

The usual way to approach marketing has been something like trying to understand the predictable behaviour of customers, as if they were “in vitro”.

The renowned method of marketing mix, or the “4 Ps”, is a paradigm of this approach. We have all used (and some of us have taught) it. It something like an equation: Put 4 drops of high-performance Product, plus 3 drops of Price-below-the-average, plus 2.5 drops of a creative Promotion, plus 3.25 drops of Commercialisation-Channels to capilarise the market; and then the result = Success.

This traditional approach has great advantages: it’s easy to understand, it provides self-assurance to those who initiate their careers, it facilitates having a budget, that can be adjusted without great effort the following year. Furthermore, it has been so spread that in all countries and sectors you can find people who understand this method.

However, this marketing and research model approach forgets that customers’ life happens in contexts that influence them, many times in a non-conscious way. You don’t go to the cinema as often before having a child than after the birth.

With this evidence, we have to face two challenges:
is context understandable?, is it manageable?

The “packaging” of life

First of all we need to understand what is the context. Let’s start with a couple of examples.

The famous architect Le Corbusier said: “Paris is a lab that tempts to experiment mysterious (architecture) instruments. Paris is a “packaging”, or what’s the same, a context.

According to Dr. Natalia Fernández Díaz, context is what wraps a message. But not only this, it’s also what wraps a process or an experience. For instance, a purchasing process.

A rather usual type of context is the combination of Time plus Space.

Tesco created in South Korea a renowned initiative in which people waiting for the metro can scan with their phones certain products reproduced on the walls, simulating a supermarket, so that they could purchase before getting on the train. This idea is successful because it takes place when people are bored on the platform waiting for the train. If those walls were on the walking aisles, barely anyone would buy. The “where” + the “when” make an action succeed or fail, without changing the assortment, the price, the aesthetics, customers’ money availability, etc.

Another good example. When the first iPad was launched, this tablet was very critisised because it didn’t have a lot of the features computers had as a default. Its success was based on understanding the context of the users. When someone is working for some hours with a desktop computer or laptop, the most appropriate is having a table and a chair to seat in an ergonomically correct way. On the contrary, when someone is seating on the sofa, a tablet is the most adequate to that context, even if it didn’t have as many features as the common computers. The body position shows a different context.

Lluís Martínez-Ribes. It’s called “relevance” when the message, brand or experience proposed by the company fits the context or contexts of the customers.

Image by artchandising

It’s called “relevance” when the message, brand or experience proposed by the company fits the context or contexts of the customers.

The relevance is equivalent to context management.

Regarding the computer and the iPad the relevance of the product is related to the postural context (table and chair in the office versus sofa at home) allow to predict the success of a product, regardless of its characteristics or features.

Main types of contexts

The model of contexts proposed here is based on Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological framework for human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1994), that has been adapted to the approach we will use here.


(Clic image to enlarge)

The diagram above shows the contexts that might affect customers’ decisions. With it, we can identify those elements of our customers’ contexts that can be helpful to understand them and then devise an adequate solution.

In this model we can distinguish for levels of analysis:

At the centre we find the individual, with the personal characteristics that define him/her, such as age, gender, personality, intellectual oefficient or experiences. Most of these elements won’t be very useful if we want to orient our solution to a wide population segment. However, other elements such as age or gender, in some cases may help us understand our customers.

In a second level of analysis, we find all the elements that we can control as a business, that affect the decision making of the customer in the moment of purchase or later usage of our solution. Semiotics and the other stimuli we generate are part of this level: for example, the lighting in a store, the product layout, its framing, the packaging aesthetics, the functionality of the product when the customer uses it, or the sensations raised by the design of a store or website/app. Generating certain stimuli creates contexts that affect the decisions customers make.

In a third level we can find those contexts that are external to the person, that we don’t have control over, like:

  • The macrosystem, in which we find the family or the peer group. For example, regarding the sale products for companies, this would be the corporate culture of these customers.
  • The exosystem, in which we find local politics, networks, mass media or, in b2b, the patterns of the sector we belong to.
  • The macosystem, which includes the beliefs system, the general available resources, the customs or the influence of the hyper-connected society.

This third level, even we have no influence on it, gives us the necessary information to understand customers better.

From picture to film

One of the biggest mistakes a lot of us have made (mea culpa) is seeing marketing or brand strategy as a static picture, instead of seeing it as a film, scene by scene. And here it’s when the fourth level of analysis comes into play, the chronosystem, that introduces the variable time in the understanding of the contexts that affect the customer.

The chronosystem has two sides. On the one hand, it refers to the changes through time of the context a person is immersed in, such as the changes in the family stage, in the economic status, or the place of residence, for example.

On the other hand, at a more micro level, the chronosystem includes two moments of great interest as an inspiration to devise a brand or a customer experience:

  1. The previous moment the customer has just lived
  2. The subsequent moment the customer visualises he/she will experiment

The customer doesn’t feel the same, or pays the same conscious attention in his/her first purchase from our company as when has become a regular customer. The elements of the “marketing mix” could be the same, but the customer’s own “dynamic context”, makes him/her perceive our brand in a different way.


With the permission of the supermarket chains, I’ll give you a tip to spend less when going shopping: go after having lunch, meaning not hungry.

Again, the “retail marketing mix” of the store is the same, but the different context of the customer leads to a lower purchase.

All this leads us to a dynamic vision of the contexts. What the customer has felt and will feel can inspire us to devise the “present scene”. For example, the moment of the purchase decision.

Feeling the empathy with the customer and looking for the relevance scene by scene we can create a memorable story in a customer process.


Abstract yes. Practical, a lot

Dr. Ralf Ebert, Marketing Director at Bayer Veterinary, said during a speech at Esade: “positioning can be expressed as a product in a context. Context gives meaning to that product”.

For example, a fork is for eating, -specially in western countries-. But this fork in Vevey (Switzerland) is a work of art.

On the same direction, Dr. Neale Martin says that context is more important than any other variable.

The variable Context has various applications, such as:

  1. Understanding a type of customers, detecting insights than can be activated lately.
  2. Devising new products and solutions that fit those contexts and that therefore are liked by the customers.
  3. Designing customer experiences, for example purchasing processes, omnichannel processes, post-sale attention processes, etc.
  4. Communicating in a relevant way, and such having more probabilities that the message doesn’t get lost.

Many contexts can be managed

Many times contexts can be managed, specially those at the second level of analysis, the controllable stimuli.

This management can be reactively (we react appropriately to a challenge or complain) or proactively, meaning taking the initiative. Both can be adequate. We can see it in some examples:


(Clic image to enlarge)

If we are aware of the contexts we can reinterpret many functional tools from a higher customer centricity.

For example, omnichannel, this important global trend, can be understood as the relevance -or the adjustment- of the selling company to the customers’ contexts.

The omni-context is a fundamental base of the omnichannel, because the same customer can be in different contexts during a period of time: when being in a hurry, when being relaxed, when being alone, etc.

Great managers are able to understand well the contexts of the customers, interpreting their life and social evolution, and then acting consequently shaping a “next practice”.


About Dr. Masaru Emoto

  • http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaru_Emoto

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol. 3. Oxford: Elsevier.

→ No CommentsTags: context · Contexto · Dynamic · estímulo · insight · insights · Relevance · stimulus