Welcome to Digital Retail

Interview with Frank Hagemann, Managing Director of xplace GmbH

xplace Salesroom
Attractive customer experiences can be created with digital signage

In many German city centers, the transformation of retail trade is visible – empty retail spaces and a decreasing number of customers in the stores. Brick-and-mortar retail is experiencing a crisis in many places. Besides the pandemic and reduced purchasing power, the rise of e-commerce is often cited as a reason for the decline in customer frequency. To secure the survival of retail in city centers, retailers must take a page from e-commerce and focus on data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the customer journey. Digital signage specialist xplace GmbH shows how it's done.

The digital signage and software specialist xplace GmbH promises its customers an increase in sales by creating a digital in-store experience. "The spirit of electronic commerce has definitely escaped from the bottle," says Managing Director Frank Hagemann. "The question now is how we can lure people back into city centers. We do this by creating attractive shopping experiences. But even more important for retail is the integration of brick-and-mortar sales with online sales."

Xplace uses the digital toolkit to create attractive offers at the point of sale and to connect the analog and digital worlds in the store.

Frank Hagemann, Managing Director of xplace GmbH
Frank Hagemann, Managing Director of xplace GmbH

Hardware solutions such as large-format LED video walls or interactive digital touchscreens, as well as electronic price tags, are the tangible product.

However, Xplace primarily sees itself as a software company. "Hardware is a necessary evil for us to be able to use the software," openly says Frank Hagemann. "Nonetheless, it's important that we can deliver an end-to-end solution. This sets us apart from our competitors."

20 Years of Innovation

Xplace was founded 20 years ago by four IT students and garage tinkerers. "They had the idea to build a listening station for CDs," describes Frank Hagemann, who joined Xplace in 2015 to set up the project management office. "Their first product was sold to the Media Saturn Group, which also decided to invest in the young company."

xplace Digital Signage
Digital Signage enables the connection of the analog and digital world in the store
xplace electronic price tags
Bringing electronic price tags to new life: ESL-Refurbishment at xplace

Another milestone was the introduction of electronic price tags. "We carried out the Europe-wide rollout for Media Saturn, after which we successfully applied for the global rollout for Porsche," says Frank Hagemann. "That was an important step forward for us."

In 2010, the company launched the first in-store TV solutions with its own CMS software BEECEEN on the market. "Today, we can completely replace printed store elements with smart screens," says Frank Hagemann. "This way, customers get the current offers and prices. The spaces can also be made available for programmatic advertising and thus serve as their own source of income."

Corona as a digital driver

Meanwhile, the company has 120 employees at its headquarters in Göttingen and generates an annual turnover of 18 million EUR. It has subsidiaries in Barcelona and Turkey. "Abroad, we are on the move with our own sales and customer service," says Frank Hagemann, who has been managing director since 2021. "Overseas, we work with partners."

The coronavirus pandemic was the first challenge during his tenure. "The pandemic-related closures hit brick-and-mortar retail and also us very hard, but ultimately we got through the crisis with only slight losses. Our salvation was the controlled reopening. We were able to offer solutions that counted how many people entered and left the store. Overall, it can be said that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated digitalization."

Artificial Intelligence

Today, the trend is clearly towards artificial intelligence. "We can already use market research and data analysis in various ways to maximize sales," emphasizes Frank Hagemann. "Take strawberries, for example. Locally produced goods have a short production window and an even shorter shelf life. Case studies have shown that we can sell more through cross-selling and adaptive pricing tactics. When there is an oversupply on the shelves, prices can be adjusted. At the same time, a digital sign can display complementary offers such as pie bases and glazes. In this way, we help customers better take advantage of in-store offers and combat excess stock."

Success that can be measured

The insights into consumer behavior, however, go much deeper. "In addition to digital signage, we also install sensors that can collect large amounts of data on visitor numbers, dwell time in the store, and conversion rate," explains Frank Hagemann. "This way, we can secure measurable successes."

Green Signage

Sustainability is an important driver of new developments. "We have started to buy back used electronic price tags that were previously discarded after about five years, the usual lifespan of their batteries," explains Frank Hagemann. "They are now refurbished and sold back to customers at a discount." Depending on usage and manufacturer, some price tags can even be refurbished up to three times in this way, significantly extending their lifespan and reducing the CO2 footprint.

Innovating into the future

xplace wants to continue to focus on innovation in the future. "We will expand the application areas of our hardware and software solutions and take a new approach to the customer journey," emphasizes Frank Hagemann. "Here, topics such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and sensor technology will be at the forefront." The biggest customer is still the parent company Media Saturn. "However, we also want to increasingly focus on third-party customers. So, we are also looking for partners in store construction to be able to offer a full service."