"A strong brand experience is becoming increasingly important!"

Interview with Andre Pauleck, Managing Director of hartmannvonsiebenthal GmbH

hartmannvonsiebenthal Barrys Bootcamp – Fitness Studio Frankfurt am Main
Barrys Bootcamp – Fitness Studio Frankfurt am Main (D), design and implementation by HVS

The agency hartmannvonsiebenthal is fully committed to brand architecture. In this context, it is engaged in the design, production, and management of trade fair stands as well as points of sale in the retail sector – segments that have undergone fundamental changes, not least because of the coronavirus pandemic. Managing Director Andre Pauleck spoke with Wirtschaftsforum about the current business development and the future of brick-and-mortar retail.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Pauleck, hartmannvonsiebenthal GmbH is entirely dedicated to brand architecture. What exactly can one understand by this approach?

Andre Pauleck: Essentially, this term encompasses any type of spatial implementation of a brand, including the design of trade fair presentations, such as at CEBIT or IFA as well as at many other specialist events. In this segment, for example, we take care of Deutsche Telekom, for whom we design and build the corresponding trade fair stands. But also at the point of sale in the retail sector, we take care of implementing an engaging brand experience and a sustainably positive customer experience. Our range of services includes the entire journey from the first draft through to the concrete realization in the serial area all the way to the roll-out in large quantities in the DACH region and beyond.

Andre Pauleck, Managing Director of hartmannvonsiebenthal GmbH
Andre Pauleck, Managing Director of hartmannvonsiebenthal GmbH

Wirtschaftsforum: Events, trade fairs, the brick-and-mortar retail sector – all these segments were extremely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. What aftermath of these cuts do you still feel today?

Andre Pauleck: Naturally, the trade fair business completely collapsed overnight with the start of the pandemic in spring 2020. Although we can now see that this business sector is slowly coming back to life, the downturn was very pronounced and lasting. Nonetheless, I do not believe that some of the forecasts from the early days of the pandemic – that the era of physical events was over and the future lay in purely digital events – have come true. Rather, digital possibilities will also prospectively prove to be a consistent extension of on-site events, for example when guests from the other end of the world – potential customers, partners, or experts – can be added live. In the future, in my opinion, primarily hybrid solutions will characterise the landscape. Personal contact on-site remains essential for most companies and organisers. As a consequence for brand management, this means that besides designing a physical brand experience, relevant digital skills as well as coherent and comprehensive brand communication are needed – hartmannvonsiebenthal can offer complementary solutions from a single source together with our sister company, the digital services provider CPS GmbH, and our parent company, familie redlich AG.

hartmannvonsiebenthal GmbH Euroshop 2020
Euroshop 2020 – own exhibition stand, design and realization by HVS
Sennheiser - Flagship Store New York
Sennheiser - Flagship Store New York

Wirtschaftsforum: And how has the retail sector been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Andre Pauleck: In the retail sector, there were hardly any notable declines – on the contrary: Many retailers have even expanded or implemented remodeling measures during this time to position themselves even better for the future. Some of our clients were able to record significant sales increases despite the pandemic. Many market observers initially thought that online commerce would explode in growth and largely displace stationary competitors from the market. But that did not happen.

Wirtschaftsforum: Why is that – isn't shopping online much more convenient than having to go to a brick-and-mortar store?

Andre Pauleck: That certainly applies to a retail environment that offers no pleasant experience and is solely focused on a functional supply of goods to the customer. However, precisely because of the challenging competitive environment posed by online providers, brick-and-mortar retail must focus on what makes it strong: competent advice, a pleasant shopping experience, inspiring interactions with brands and other people. Even today, these elements are essential for sustainable customer loyalty. Take, for example, the drugstore chain dm, for which we have designed and implemented several hundred points of sale: dm aims to ensure that customers buy their toothpaste, shampoo, and other hygiene products in its stores and not elsewhere. This goal cannot be achieved primarily through the lowest price but only through corresponding identification opportunities and sustainable customer loyalty.

hartmannvonsiebenthal Barry's Bootcamp – Gym Frankfurt am Main (D)
Barry's Bootcamp – Gym Frankfurt am Main (D)

Wirtschaftsforum: At this point, does brand architecture come into play?

Andre Pauleck: Here, many measures are conceivable: Wider aisles ensure a more pleasant shopping process because customers do not have to bump into anyone. Open spaces allow for exchange, interaction, and advice. Protected areas like quiet corners for mothers with small children are also important elements so that customers do not perceive their shopping as a stressful necessity, but can associate it with a positive experience. Retailers who have understood this and consistently implement corresponding solutions can look forward to the future with confidence.