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MediaMarktSaturn innovation head: “If you don’t make mistakes you won’t learn”

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Electronics giant MediaMarktSaturn has adopted a “Silicon Valley style” mentality in an effort to become a leader in omnichannel, according to its chief innovation officer.

Martin Wild said in a keynote at the Tech. conference in London that the German retailer had changed its cautious approach drastically since 2011, when it didn’t even have an online offering.

“We were viewed as a dinosaur,” admitted Wild. “Change was not easy because everything was running perfectly.”

Since then, he said, the retailer has caught up to become what he called “fully omnichannel”, but now wants to go further by trying new technologies “fast and early”.

This means that things don’t always work, but the exec says that “if you don’t make mistakes you will not learn”.

Some of these innovations have focused on payments – earlier this year the brand worked with UK start-up MishiPay to launch what it claimed was the first cashierless electronics store in Europe in Innsbruck, Austria.

Customers could simply use the Saturn Express mobile app to scan the products they wanted and then walk out. In the three month trial period from March to May, surveys of customers saw 85 percent saying they would recommend the service.

The retailer also became the launch partner for Google Pay in Germany, a country where cash still dominates as a means of payment compared to faster adopters of card payments such as the UK.

It is also making use of its mobile app as a tool to improve the physical search experience in stores. As Wild pointed out, locating a product inside a physical shop can be difficult and may require first locating a member of staff.

In Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the retailer has worked with Philips to create a solution to bring together the convenience of online search with the continuing appeal of the physical store. Visitors to the shop can search for a particular item. Bespoke LED lighting on the ceiling then communicates with the customer’s phone to determine their location, allowing the app to guide the user to the item they are looking for.

Wild also discussed the company’s use of robots. As the talk showed, one of the key tenets MediaMarktSaturn’s approach to the technology is its consciousness of the need for a charm offensive, considering that consumers can still be wary of interacting with robots. The exec brought a robot named ‘Tom’ onstage which answered several questions and then, on command, broke into a dance routine. So far robots are being used in several different stores to provide customers with information and in some cases guide them to products.

The talk came after MediaMarktSaturn and France’s Fnac Darty launched the European Retail Alliance in August as a joint venture with the aim of pooling digital resources. The two companies will work together to harness customer data and support start-ups looking to disrupt the retail sector.

It’s a marked change for a company that only launched an online store in 2011, but as Wild says, being slow to join the party has just made the company more determined to go faster in the future.

Image credit: MediaMarktSaturn

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