The TYPY Store in Düsseldorf introduces a new way of shopping
by Katja Laska (exclusively for EuroShop.mag)
In 1909, businessman Harry Gordon Selfridge opened the London department store Selfridge & Co. and pioneered the phrase “The customer is always right”. Fast forward to 2020, and his motto is more important than ever and finds a new meaning in the TYPY Store in Düsseldorf’s MedienHafen (Media Harbor). Instead of extensive, personal consulting and on-site customer service, the innovative retail concept features technologies that make shopping quick and easy. In this interview, the store’s managing directors Maximilian Grönemeyer and Carlo Caldi and store operator Georg W. Broich reveal how this new kind of shopping experience works and explain why meeting customer demand and top quality are not mutually exclusive.
Mr. Grönemeyer, who is the target audience of the TYPY store?
Grönemeyer: The TYPY stores are all about speed. Your typical TYPY customer is someone who lives within a five-to-ten-minute walk from the store and wants to quickly purchase what he/she needs: the customer is out of cereal for breakfast in the morning, needs a sandwich for lunch or pasta for dinner, and wants to buy some wine or deodorant in the evening. Customers can expect an uncomplicated and quick shopping experience in a great ambiance.
I want to shop at your store. But in this case, I am not going to the store and take the items off the shelves, correct?
Grönemeyer: You shop before you come to the store by using our app. It has various categories including “lunch” or “beverages”, which were delivered to the store by 6:30 a.m. Customers see up-to-the-minute store availability. This is where they fill their online shopping cart, get a QR code, scan the code on-site at one of the terminals and find out which gate they should pick up their items, which were selected by a robot. It picks the products from high bay racks and the cooling system, places them in a dispenser tray, which opens for the customer once he/she presses the button in the app. There is no need to push a physical shopping cart, no searching the shelves for what you want, and no getting your wallet out to pay with cash or credit card at the checkout. The customer can pay within the app using Google Pay or Apple-Pay or a credit card. Customers who don’t want to use the app can order items at one of the store’s terminals. We call this “classic” shopping. Last but not least, you can also use the app to order a coffee and then pick it up at the fully automated bar.
Does this mean there are no onsite employees because everything is automated?
Grönemeyer: TYPY is a 24/7/365 fully automated store concept. It doesn’t need employees because the robot knows and handles customer orders and even discards expired products. Having said that, we are presently still in the testing phase, which means there are actually some associates on-site to explain the system to customers and assist if needed.
Mr Caldi, how do you store the products?
Caldi: The store measures 116 square meters. The storage room makes up about 70 square meters and warehouses approximately 750 items. Right now, we have a refrigerated and a dry storage area. We could also add an area for frozen foods in the future. Our approach doesn’t focus on keeping shelves stocked but emphasizes the shopping preferences of our customers, which is why we regularly adapt our product assortment. This is a hybrid system where artificial intelligence and algorithms operate in the background to calibrate the selection of products. If the system notices that gingerbread cookies are in high demand, it automatically ramps up the inventory.
Grönemeyer: Georg Broich is the caterer and operator in charge of making the deliveries and filling the warehouse. He hands the products to the robots, in a manner of speaking.
Broich: To make it all work, the robot orders the needed items at 5 p.m. the night before. Production for the next day starts at 6 p.m. and typically lasts into the night. It takes about eight to ten hours to get the fresh product to the store.
How did you come up with the concept?
Caldi: We take a very customer-oriented approach and wanted to create something that is keen on putting the customer first. That’s how we translated a B2B format into a B2C store. However, robotics and automation tend to give off a cold vibe and we wanted to add warmth to the store, which is why we embraced catering and developed a concept that complements retail and highlights quality products.
This is where you come in, Mr. Broich. Your successful company Broich Premium Catering GmbH has made you the fresh food expert.
Broich: The store receives our daily deliveries of fresh, top quality products such as bowls, salads, fish and meat dishes. The app features “Best of Broich” where customers can find all currently available fresh food options. Our product assortment includes many organic products, local fruits and vegetables and classic grocery store selections.
How important are smart and intelligent technologies for your business?
Grönemeyer: These technologies allow us to offer our customers up-to-date inventory information and on-shelf availability in near real-time via the app or a terminal. This creates added value for customers. We also benefit from it because it enables us to find out what our customers really want, and at what time of the day or season. Digital shopping gives us detailed customer feedback, which – thanks to these new technologies – helps enhance the customer experience.
What’s next for your store in MedienHafen?
Caldi: Sustainability is very important to us. We want to reduce waste and not have to throw things away yet give our customers what they want. That’s why we plan to introduce a pre-order system down the road.