Addressing customers digitally

The future of retail

The Loeb MAGGS stores address customers directly and in a personalised manner – thanks to a smartphone app, Bluetooth and iBeacons. However, how the technology is used is more important than the technology itself.

Urs Binder

Those who know Berne, know Loeb. The retail company has been operating one of Switzerland’s leading retail stores, located close to the train station, since 1881. “Today, there is no more room for growth with retail stores. Finding suitable locations alone is virtually impossible – but we want to grow,” stresses Ronald Christen, CEO of Loeb AG.


In search of the retail of the future, Loeb developed smaller, boutique-style store formats with a careful selection of products: the idea for the MAGGS stores was born. Since the first MAGGS store was opened in Berne in early 2013, further stores have been added in five cities from Aarau to Zurich. “The main target group is the modern urban lady who does not want to see mass-produced goods. We believe that these boutiques, with their exciting range of products, are the future,” says Christen.


Loeb also operates an online shop, which has a specially selected range of products. “Home, kitchen, tableware – the younger generation, in particular, are cooking a lot more themselves, and we have an expert homeware department, the like of which is hard to find these days. We can also also offer this expert service online.”


The customers of the future

Christen would like to reach his customers on all channels, which is why he is driving the digitisation of the retail environment. “In-store business is what we know best. But we can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend that online retail, mobile commerce and modern ways of addressing customers have nothing to do with us,” says Ronald Christen. “We want to offer our customers a unique shopping experience. Not only in stores, but also digitally.” According to Christen, it is important to understand how the future generation works: “They will shop a lot differently than we are used to. This will remain a real challenge for the retail trade.”


You can easily adjust your clothing size using an app


The MAGGS stores are an ideal testing ground for new forms of customer interaction. In a pilot project, Loeb uses the Swisscom Interact platform: “The technology is actually quite simple,” says Daniel Böhlen, who is responsible for coordinating online activities at Loeb. “A smartphone app communicates via Bluetooth with iBeacons that are installed in the store. This allows us to address customers and offer them vouchers and customised offers based on the location.”


Personalised shopping

To ensure that products have the right fit, the required clothing sizes can be entered in the app. The Stylecam adds a playful element. Customers can upload a stylish photo relating to subjects typical to MAGGS and win prizes in a community-judged competition. A personal fashion consultancy service can also be booked via the app. And customers can evaluate their purchases in the app, allowing sales assistants to get to know their customer base even better. The MAGGS app has been available since October 2015 and can also be used as a digital customer card for Loeb’s loyalty scheme: customers can collect gold points with it.


“We have thoroughly considered what digitisation should look like. The most important thing was always to find a way to merge in-store retail with digital elements to provide us and our customers with added value,” says Böhlen, outlining the motivation behind the Interact project.


To identify customer needs, Loeb relies on the proven expertise of the sales personnel. Daniel Böhlen: “Our sales assistants know their customers personally, are on first-name terms with some of them, and have good people skills. They know what customers want and how best to advise them. A lot of feedback from the sales team has been incorporated into the app.”


More than just technology

Loeb developed the concept for the app and the corresponding in-store solution with iPads for the sales personnel together with Swisscom Mobility Solutions. Partner company Smartfactory took care of programming the app. For Ronald Christen, it was a “stroke of luck that Swisscom invited us to take part in this pilot project – as an SME, we wouldn’t have the resources to realise something like this alone”. But he says that Swisscom also benefits: “We contribute our retail expertise.”

“We want to reward customers, not monitor them.”

Ronald Christen, CEO at Loeb AG

After all, technology does little good on its own. How it improves the shopping experience is the crucial factor – and this depends on how you use it. “The spectrum is huge,” says Daniel Böhlen enthusiastically. “For example, personalised offers that appear on a screen in the store window when a customer approaches the store. We want to get to grips with these possibilities and gain expertise so that we are equipped for future requirements.”


However, the private sphere is also crucial to the shopping experience. “We want to reward customers, not monitor them. This is why we don’t track their movements in the store – customers would hardly accept this, and it is also too intimate for us,” stresses CEO Ronald Christen.


The Loeb subsidiary MAGGS operates six concept stores across Switzerland.