Optimally off-line

Optimally off-line


Inspiration from Leo van de Polder

We are literally going off-line in the port of Scheveningen, the new home base of Leo van de Polder, Global Development Director at Shop! With many years of retail experience under his belt, he explains his vision of current developments.


Whether we’re talking Europe, the US or China, the discussion everywhere mainly focuses on online, off-line and omnichannel; it’s a worldwide thing. The challenge facing retailers, brand manufacturers, producers and developers is: what approach to take in execution? More and more, in-store execution is proving to be the hero. So how do you translate what happens online into your store?

Meet Leo van de Polder, Global Development Director at Shop! Until 2000, I could be found on the shop floor at V&D. I then founded my own agency for in-store communication and was already a member of Popai Benelux. In that period, a strong split became apparent between ATL and BTL, often with poor integration in store. Popai, point of purchase appealed greatly to me, and suddenly I was a board member working at the global level. The Shop! mission is to assist its members in gaining better performance and visibility.


Conducting an in-store dialogue is increasingly important. There is however a difference between the Netherlands and other countries. In the US, they are way down the line in communicating a concrete message with a smile, while the Dutch retail sector is relatively logistically driven. The mix here will be found in gearing the logistic basis to actual inspiration and temptation in the store. Rationality versus emotion, they would appear to be contrary but that is not the case.


It is all about the tone of voice of the message, rather than the means of conveying it. Digital is not an ultimate target in itself, but simply also a means to an end. More and more cooperation is required within the chain. Work together as a brand manufacturer and retailer, and react to the local shopper behaviour. As a producer, play a greater role and use neuroscience, for example, to monitor the effectiveness of a message.

Some companies that achieve great success online then struggle in the in-store situation, and fail to maintain the dialogue with shoppers, by designing the entire store rationally in a single colour, for example. Being a retailer is unique. There are gurus who claim that the online/off-line distinction does not exist, but off-line certainly plays a role in the mindset of shoppers.


A melting pot is a healthy development, as is apparent in the fashion world. Print and digital media are alternated within the same environment. It is a long-term relationship, in which the partners must each find their way. Even though consumers have endless options, they still enjoy a day’s shopping. While digital does affect behaviour, checking things on your phone and gathering information, shopper needs do still exist. Be sure to add an experience. If online shopping is an option, why would you visit a store? A different strategy is required: less stores, more flagships. And while this has always included catering options, food and retail can now be seen to be grouping ever closer together. This is increasingly happening in-store internationally. In Tokyo for example, in the Lexus department store, where shoppers buy merchandise, buy a car or dine in the restaurant. They connect people to the brand; those people do something special and tell their home front about it. The combination of food, entertainment and retail became crucial some 10 to 15 years ago, and there is still a great deal to be achieved here. Bring the funfair into the supermarket, as it were.


The Americans are masters of presentation and communication. Even when a shelf is empty, they communicate this with a wink. There have been great technological developments in China, where they have taken a leap forward using the WeChat and WePay techniques for example, enabling shoppers to use a QR code to exchange information and locations, and to make payments. Yet there too, the consumer needs prevail; take the interest in brands such as Louis Vuitton for example.


Create space for brands in the stores. Individual furniture makes the store more inspiring, for example. I wonder what’s around the corner? It makes the experience more fun. If you can appoint a captain who is given the freedom to design part of the store, per category, and you rotate this role, the store becomes an exciting place This takes time and money, but gives shoppers an extra reason to visit your store.


The sustainability movement is here to stay. How will you apply it consistently? The more effective use of resources and smart positioning of items plays a major role here. What is visible at which moment: what are the touchpoints during the shopper journey?


Shoppers are looking for inspiration. Create buying moments, days, weeks with certain themes. A fantastic example was the Bijenkorf department store in the Hague during Chinese New Year, when the entire store was decorated in style. That binds shoppers, making them more likely to visit the store again a week later. Brand manufacturers can help retailers fill the annual commercial calendar efficiently, inspiringly and temptingly.


If you translate this into eco-friendly, the result is a permanent display. First and foremost, you need to transform this into a fun communication statement. Vlastuin practices this like no one else, with their reusable Multi Display. The strength of this system lies in its modular, expandable construction and great suitability for visual statements. That is green, less CO2, but also, and most importantly, approached from the shopper’s point of view. This gives a win-win in retail by deploying the carrier in set focus positions, strategically within the store layout. Make the store surprising by constantly updating special offers, possibly even adapting your buying process accordingly.


Multi Display is a system that can be widely applied. There lies the strength and an enormous opportunity for retailers. Here too, it is important that brand manufacturers, retailers and producers join forces to meet shopper needs and trends.