For luxury brands, communicating their unique positioning is key. Additionally, Customer Experience is increasingly becoming a key driver for market success. In this project for Mercedes-Benz, we combined both approaches. We updated the retail experience and created a branded customer experience for ‘Mercedes-Welt am Salzufer’, with nearly 36.000 square meters one of Mercedes-Benz’s largest dealerships in its home market and an important reference point for their brand. Our goal: to strengthen brand perception and provide a retail experience to align with their premium claim. The concept we developed became the blueprint for the new global retail concept.
Understanding retail experience in a wider context
In order to create a premium, on-brand retail experience, one main task lay in understanding all the relevant factors in the buyer-space-host system. As co-creation and internal stake holding were central aspects in this project, it was run entirely in close collaboration with a cross-disciplinary task force consisting of innovators from the dealership.
We started out by conducting in-depth interviews with premium car buyers. Exploring their needs and expectations during the purchase phase shed light on the current car-buying journey and the part the retail space played within it. To understand how customers and visitors were using the space and interacted with employees we accompanied them during visits. Finally, we validated our insights through an online survey with a large number of participants.
We evaluated the current state of the retail experience with our mix of expertise in brand communication and customer experience, as well as knowledge in the psychology of physical spaces. Additionally, we used mystery shopping to get a first-hand impression of the purchasing experience.
To learn about strengths both of the brand and team staging the retail experience, we ran one-on-one interviews with management, complemented with an online survey with a larger circle of employees.
For inspiration we analyzed examples of customer experience and retail best practices from within and beyond the product category together with our trend and foresight partner LHBS.
Creating a holistic retail experience strategy
The extensive research phase resulted in a wealth of findings, which was further worked on together with the client’s task force. In a series of workshops, we identified main areas of improvement and opportunities for the brand, as well as goals for the redesign. Target groups were defined and customer personas created.
After an inspirational service-experience safari together with the task force, we crafted a vision for the branded customer experience, rooted in customer needs and the main strategic message of the dealership. This vision also served as brand purpose to motivate and guide dealership employee behavior. Our subsequent retail strategy centered around two goals: exceeding car buyers’ needs with a pleasant, state-of-the-art experience in all encounters, while embodying the premium character of the brand.
To deliver on our ambitious strategic goals, and to create a holistic experience, we developed a panorama of nearly 60 ideas and initiatives for improvement. They touched on many different areas, including welcoming situation, car exhibition concept, consulting process, test drives, handover experience, repair service or the various hospitality offerings. Our solutions made use of architecture, layout, signage, offered services, events, and memorable experiences. Employee behavior, internal processes, culture and communication were also included. All ideas and initiatives were described in detail and structured in a roadmap for implementation.
In this project we were able to create a holistic retail design concept with clear and actionable solutions designed to provide a branded retail experience that both serves buyers and the Mercedes-Benz brand. Our concept for ‘Mercedes-Welt am Salzufer’ served as a blueprint for the further design of the new global retail concept and was realized by Graft Architects.
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