Brick-and-mortar stores need to look beyond channels and embrace a new way of thinking about retail, according to the CEO of MediaMarktSaturn, Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailer.

“We’re no longer just supplying products,” Pieter Haas told the recent dmexco conference. “We’re making sure you can live your life in the digital world, that your iPhone is working, that your tablet is working, that your television is really smart.”

Just as the telephone evolved from the old tethered device into a mobile one that then became smart, so the store has followed a similar path, Haas suggested. “Building a smart store means you have to add functions. If we stayed like the old phone no-one would use us any more.

“We were retailers, then we became online retailers, then multichannel retailers, now we have to become smart retailers by offering new services, by offering home services, by offering mobile services.” (For more, read WARC’s report: The smartification of retail.)

It’s a point reinforced in the latest campaign for Saturn stores, launched this week, which focuses on people and their personal experience of technology.

“It's not just the products themselves that make technology a reality,” said Remko Rijnders, Chief Operating Officer of MediaMarktSaturn Germany. “Rather, the accompanying services are becoming increasingly important, with which we make life easier for our customers.”

Partnerships are an essential part of those services, since, as Haas observed, MediaMarktSaturn can’t do it all by itself, however.

“We are not the inventors of new technology,” he pointed out. “Retail in general applies new technology. Innovation will only become faster so we have to be ready for that. And we won’t be able to do things on our own – partnerships will be key.”

Nor is it just purchasers of high-tech comms equipment who benefit from such tie-ups – buyers of top-end coffee machines at MediaMarkt, for example, have had them delivered by someone able to explain how to use it and clean it and help them make their first cup of coffee.

“That’s a completely different experience and that’s what we should offer in the future,” said Haas. “Not just products, but solutions and a smile on people’s faces.”

Sourced from WARC