A concept store of a new kind, opens up in Berlin, taking experience retail to new heights

German retailer, The Latest, opens unique concept store in Berlin, with plans for UK and China to follow next year, featuring cutting-edge technology, personalised service and breakthrough products.

The first of a new type of concept store aimed at showcasing new products and prototypes from manufacturers and brands around the world opened its doors last month. The 260 sq. m store features up to a hundred carefully curated products, ranging from fashionable hi-tech face masks to eco-electric delivery bikes (detachable trolley included).

What every product has in common, says The Latest co-founder Dhi Matiole Nunes, is the novelty factor: being, in essence, “the latest” of a kind.

None of the products on show are available through other bricks-and-mortar retailers in the country (other than directly from the manufacturer, or online marketplaces). All are quite new, with a degree of innovation that makes them different from anything else on the high-street.”

He uses the example of a new mobile phone simply not being enough to make the cut: it has to have something unique or special about it. He also explains that out of the thousands of new products launched online every year with no particular fanfare, most fall by the wayside because people don’t know enough about them. What’s more, manufacturers rarely have any meaningful feedback on consumers’ reactions to a product’s particular taste, feel or function.

Product demos and data collection

From a list of around 1,500 shortlisted products – many chosen from popular crowd-funding sites, start-ups or big-hitters on Amazon – the owners of The Latest (backed by Avantgarde, a large European marketing agency behind hundreds of product launches for brands including Mercedes, Porsche and Philip Morris International) reach out to fashion, food and electronics manufacturers to sell their concept and narrow the range down to a select few.

The store concept is also quite different from traditional retail. Rather than buying lots of stock and trying to sell as much as possible to meet tight margins in crammed conditions, Nunes says that the onus is on showcasing products for brands that seldom have access to a dedicated store in prime retail locations.

We provide the space and the expertise required for products that are so new or innovative that they’re not yet sufficiently appreciated,” he adds.

Manufacturers rent the space, paying a monthly fee for three to six months, with 100% of sales going directly to the brand (often using the manufacturer’s own ecommerce and distribution channels). The retailer doesn’t buy or own any stock (although some is held at the store for shopper convenience). It simply acts as a partner and middleman between the brand and the consumer. The idea is to offer a platform and test-bed for new ideas without manufacturers having to invest heavily in their own stores, staff or retail point-of-sale technology.

New trends in experiential retailing

The Latest favours high levels of service – with staff highly-trained directly by the brands. The “Experience Experts” are there to explain in detail, demonstrate and record feedback, rather than hard-sell from a list of features already available online, says Nunes:

At the moment, the retail sector is undergoing a massive change. To have a future, retail needs to be redefined. We believe that with the expertise of our Experience Experts, we can decisively shape the quality of the customer experience by taking consumers on an experience journey. We want to arouse curiosity and persuade through competent advice without sales pressure.”

Nunes adds that it doesn’t matter if browsing customers go away and buy on another platform, like Amazon. What’s important is showing off the product and generating interest, as well as accumulating valuable data on the consumer: registering and inviting them for future product launches and events; or recording their likes and dislikes and passing that information back to the manufacturers – for instance, that a certain colour isn’t popular; or the taste isn’t quite right.

Innovative retail technology

With high expectations for levels of service on a wide range of new products, staff are armed with mobile devices and Cegid Retail’s software to help present features and get closer to the customer, including the ability to quickly process sales directly from the shop floor.

Cegid provides us with a unified commerce platform to manage everything from frictionless payments, sales, click-and-collect to CRM, stock management and reporting,” says Nunes (also Head of Retail-as-a-Service at Avantgarde). “It brings all our data and channels reliably together, providing accurate, up-to-the-minute information across our retail, social media and partner-linked businesses.”

For example, Nunes says that the product and stock information held within Cegid Retail feeds the data to be used on the website of The Latest, so it’s important that the price and details are consistent.

What we didn’t want was a mish-mash of different systems that don’t talk to each other and where it’s difficult to get data meaningfully together,” he explains.

It chose Cegid largely because the cloud solution was already being used successfully in 60 other stores that Avantgarde manages across Europe – mainly in Germany, Austria and the UK:

We liked Cegid’s international retail credentials and the ease in which we can quickly open new stores abroad.”

The implementation of the Cegid Retail platform was spearheaded by MSPOS, a local Cegid partner that also helped the company prepare for launching its ecommerce arm and ensuring close links to third-party providers like Magento and Worldpay.

Business and demand for cloud technology among retailers remains strong,” says Konstantin Gergianakis, co-founder at MS POS. “This is being supported by more and more manufacturers entering the market and testing the water, either via ecommerce or pop-up trial stores.”

The Latest plans to open more stores in capitals around the world, including one in London late next year, as well as another in Shanghai, China in 2021.

It’s been a really great experience to see our long-standing partnership with Avantgarde expand even further. We’re grateful they have trusted us to be the payment provider for their first homegrown store, The Latest,” says Maria Prados, VP Global Retail & B2B at Worldpay.

We’re delighted that Avantgarde continues to rely on Cegid for support in its expanding retail businesses and pioneering new forms of innovative retailing,” concludes Nathalie Echinard, Director of Cegid Retail.

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