Makeover mania: Romanian telecom operators get interactive

Newsroom 05/09/2011 | 13:37

The lines and curves in the design of a store are the result of intense deliberation, BR learned from telecom operators, who explained what went into the revamping of their branches – money, resources and a great deal of planning – all of which should boost the odds of attracting their technology-driven customers to the ‘candy store’.

Otilia Haraga

Interactivity is the magic word. Ask all the operators on the market and they will tell you this is the formula of success to draw the customer in.
However, the formula differs depending on the company’s own needs. For instance, when Romtelecom and Cosmote decided to join forces and open integrated stores, the main element considered was the way in which two different brands of two operators acting on different market segments could be combined.

“The final goal is to create, within the same retail space, a general area of communication, that is limitless, in which the customer finds a generous range of quality products and services,” said Cosmote and Romtelecom representatives.

This was the starting point, to which the essential elements from the portfolios of the two operators were added. In the case of Romtelecom, these were television, internet and voice. For Cosmote, they were voice and data services as well as a large smartphone portfolio.
Romtelecom and Cosmote, both part of Greek group OTE and set to merge, launched in June their new integrated store concept in six locations: three in Bucharest (in the Dorobanti, Pantelimon and Mihalache areas) and one each in Targoviste, Sibiu and Bacau.

The spaces for the new outlets were chosen based on various internal analyses regarding traffic in the respective areas and the consumer profile.
“Reflecting these elements, three of the stores are former Romtelecom locations, and three were opened by Cosmote under this concept, in new locations,” say Cosmote and Romtelecom representatives.

The concept of the stores was imported from Deutsche Telekom (which is also involved in the two companies as it holds shares in OTE) but was adjusted to suit “the particularities of the services offered and the profile of the Romanian consumer.”
“Although the categories represented are the same as at DT, when it comes to the portfolio on display we have considered the specifics of the market in Romania. When creating such an exposure space, which has to host all products and services, we carefully preserved a good balance between highlighting spearhead products and services – such as smartphones, IPTV, and mobile data – and showcasing ‘traditional’ ones: mobile phones, satellite TV, internet and telephony,” say officials from the two companies.

Another operator that has big plans for this year is Orange Romania, which started the long-term implementation of a new concept two years ago, with the launch of the franchise network.
The concept – which “centered on the touch & play concept, allowing clients unmitigated contact with live products connected to the internet that they can try” – was created by the agency Design Day, under the name of One Design, and then taken over by Orange, which rebranded it as Next.  Moreover, it was adjusted to the local context by Silviu Garet, merchandising manager at Orange Romania, in collaboration with designer Ioana Corduneanu and the company Ykon Solution Group.

“The result was impressive and colleagues in the France Telecom Orange Group welcomed the new Orange Shop as a standard in telecom retail,” says Garet. The designers reapportioned the space to reflect where customer interest lies. There is a smartphone area with the newest handsets, dedicated shelves for tablets and laptops and special stands for accessories. The Orange shops have a Play Corner, where applications for smartphones and tablets have a dedicated space. The overall look was also changed by dropping the traditional counters for face-to-face interaction between Orange employees and customers. A couch and even book shelves completed this more familiar look.

Orange started revamping its Orange shop network last year. To date 13 stores have undergone this process, in Bucharest (Plaza, Mosilor, Iride Business Park, Victoriei Square, Carrefour Orhideea) and around the rest of the country in cities such as Alba Iulia, Cluj, Constanta (in City Mall), Galati (in the Mazepa district), Oradea (Lotus), Resita, Zalau, and Targoviste.
The investment in the new design for an Orange shop is around EUR 120,000 but varies depending on the size. “We aim to have the new concept implemented in all Orange stores by 2013,” says Garet. This year the company will modernize nearly 40 stores in the entire country, so that there is a new Orange Shop in every county.

While Orange based its concept from France Telecom standards and Cosmote and Romtelecom  on Deutsche Telekom’s, another operator, UPC Romania, part of Liberty Global, resorted locally to Grapefruit and Arcsett.
“When we thought this new concept through, we had three main elements in mind: access to the digital world, customer interaction and product demo,” says Monica Ilie, manager national retail at UPC Romania.

The store concept was born ‘from a detailed analysis of the habits of our subscribers who interacted with the representatives at our work points on average once every two months, especially to pay their bills. The new UPC store concept came from the desire to transform the interaction process into a proactive one,” says Ilie.
The first store with the new design was opened at the end of January last year in Bucharest. Since then, the concept has been rolled out to other cities in Romania. Another three outlets were opened in Bucharest, then one each in Ploiesti, Bacau, Galati, Cluj and Timisoara. Over the coming period, UPC will focus on stores in other large cities where it is active.
“Grapefruit identified the types of interaction and the functional areas, defined the circulation flux and created the branding components of the new concept. Arcsett created the architecture concept, the retail design and was also in charge of project management and implementation for the pilot store that was opened in January last year in Bucharest,” says Ilie.

The opening of the first UPC Concept Store, which is located on Mihai Bravu Road, involved an investment of approximately EUR 200,000 which went into the new concept and the 130-sqm location. For revamping the other stores over 2010-2011, the investment in each location was lower, as the concept had already been created. So, depending on the venue and the surface, the investments amounted on average to EUR 70,000 per location.
“In large cities we are planning a total change for our stores while in other important towns we will carry out a revamp, which means making major improvements to the current design,” says Ilie.

otilia.haraga@business-review.ro

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