Picking-Up brand-new retail experience at OCHAMA
Coverage: 2,000 sqm
Location: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden and Utrecht
Time of Completion: Jan. 2022
Agency: Storeage Group & Claessens Erdmann
Creative Directors: Kang Li & Li Kang, Leendert Tange
Chief Designer: Lieke Genten
Photographer: Luis Monteiro
Official Website: storeage-group.cn
Jan 10, 2022, JD.com unveiled its new retail model, named Ochama, consisting of four omnichannel pick-up retail stores in the Netherlands. The seemingly simple design, highlighted by red elements, mirrors the pragmatism and aesthetics of the Dutch, with some surprising twists hidden inside.
Overthrowing a traditional cut-copy-paste mindset, Ochama introduced a new retail strategy. It is a systematic design strategy based on the habits of local customers, cultural differences, and experience design. The vision and confidence of JD.com to enter the global market can be seen through the stores.
Ochama is short for Omnichannel Amazing, meaning a remarkable omnichannel shopping experience. As the first independent business branch of JD.com to expand to the overseas market, Ochama has been in operation in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, and Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Ochama is the first omnichannel store in the country to provide a full range of products, including fresh groceries. The leading retail technologies and logistics from JD.com will guarantee 100% automatic preparation, delivery, and customer services and help improve the interaction and lower the costs. This will offer the customers an extra 10% discount.
The brain behind the Ochama is Storeage-Group, a Dutch design agency working in retail design for over 22 years. Ochama is an opportunity for Storeage to return to the basics of design thinking.
“Design is not just about looking good, especially in the case of retail design,” said Kang Li, managing partner of Storeage in the Asia-Pacific region. Instead, Storeage has proven that the key to a successful design project is a design philosophy that integrates the brand strategy, offers an outstanding consumer experience, and delivers on a solid business model. Call it the Why, How, What of retail.
The business logic behind Ochama design
A retail business strategy has many components, including service models, marketing strategies, product selection, and display. Still, in the end, it all comes down to the idea of connecting to PEOPLE. The original idea for a product, online or offline, has to do with where people live, how they live, their lifestyle, and spending habits.
This is the underlying logic and the part where Storeage excels. The company emphasizes local business mindsets and rigorous logical thinking in retail to make an emotional connection to people rather than just a visually pretty picture for success.
According to Kang Li, the Netherlands is often the first portal for global brands to enter the European market. And the Dutch adore the simple things in their purest form in daily life, so the design naturally follows this idea and shows it in every detail.
Considering the dense population of the Netherlands, their desire for efficiency, and the popularity of picking up purchases on their daily commute, the location strategy of Ochama is built around the stores sitting in areas away from the old downtown but easily reachable by the major highways and arteries throughout the city.
The exteriors of the stores are modest. Some are built with bricks highlighted by red logos; others are open glass window façades. The stores quietly blended into the neighborhood without too much disruption.
Find the right balance between technology and humanity through details.
At Ochama, technology is used to lower costs and improve efficiency. This can be found in the warehouse's visible mechanical arms, AGV moving robots, and the store's self-service counter and focal product display area. Fine materials imported from China and exquisite craftsmanship became a powerful medium at Ochama to strike a balance between technology and humanity.
The interior of the stores is highlighted by red and blue paint to echo the brand's visual language. Shelves made of bamboo are easily spotted once people step into the stores. The bamboo was processed for a soft and warm tone.
The selves are set in an orderly fashion, and their semi-transparent style, similar to a Chinese screen, allows people to wander around and enjoy the contemporary interpretation of traditional Chinese culture. The softness and subtleness of the bamboo also neutralized the heaviness and roughness of the metal and concrete.
Storeage created a red crossing structure named CONNECTOR to tie the bamboo poles, and it can be adjusted with remarkable agility for weight-carrying. Its prototype is Dougong, an interlocking wooden bracket used in ancient Chinese architecture.
Dougong was invented over 2,000 years ago during the Warring States Period and was often used in large buildings to frame the roof. The brackets are placed between pillars and beams to transfer the weight from the upper part of the building to the base through the pillars. Different structures in the building are well connected in such a flexible way.
People can see the Dougong-tied bamboo poles at the entrance, the display area, and the self-service counter in the store. Though the material is quite simple, it can deal with various needs. The gadget is the perfect combination of Chinese traditional wisdom in leverage and modern technology in large projects. The exquisite crossings are also a symbol of good luck.
Interaction-based spatial design
The design of a space is the process of understanding and experimenting with the delicate relations between people and items. It is a subjective and perceptive experience defined by the dimension of a scene, and the material, color, and display of the items in it; they are the vibes of a domain. A tech-oriented retail space requires detailed considerations of these factors.
Apart from the CONNECTOR and bamboo gadgets used in both furnishings and main structures of the stores, metal showcases are thoughtfully placed to match the display of products. Storeage takes advantage of the differences in the height of the cases to create several levels of visual stimulation to better guide the customers. Focal displays are set up in each area of the store. The arrangement of various scenes makes the store a customer-friendly space and helps to fuel the possibility of spending.
Mellow round shapes are applied to the visual design for Ochama, including the curving traffic paths in the stores, to offer safety and convenience. The way through the display area to the pick-up counter is guided by red curving lines on the blue floor; the crossing lines give the customers a clear direction.
Many curving traffic paths are used in the space except for areas like the pick-up counter and self-service counter that require specific signs. These Mobius strip-like curves are born from the brand's design language and evolve into important symbols in the space. They also pass on the infinite possibilities in Mobius strips to customers entering the room.
Designers froze the scrolling action of a mouse into a static image for the visuals to highlight the tech nature of JD.com and create an indoor virtual reality environment. The design of the lines and pauses responds to the webpage of Ochama, and customers will be reminded of the act of scrolling a page when they walk through the paths, creating fun moments of exploration.
The price advantage that Ochama has to offer and the efficient delivery system from the warehouse to stores result from the automated technologies from JD.com. To show the people how Ochama can do this, Storeage suggested letting the technologies come to light.
Customers can see how the service robots and the pick-up counters work, how the conveyor belts move, and the whole process of mechanical arms sorting products. The technologies are integrated into the shopping experience and the design of space.
The designers of Ochama choose to return to the basics in design instead of placing priority on the visuals or spending much of their time creating a space simply for aesthetic experience. The design philosophy of Ochama is supported by technology, market research, and studies on consumer psychology, as well as special elements from China and the Netherlands. This makes Ochama an experience-oriented project based on consumption habits, customer service, and people's feelings about space.
Storeage, the mastermind behind the project, acted as an eclectic practitioner who juggles technology, culture, and humanity to build an interdisciplinary and precision retail experience rather than simply being a design agency.