Cheryl Hunter (shelflife at’s weekly pick of all things new — product, packaging, design, insight, food, décor and more!

  • Absa experiments with retail
  • Sunglass Hut interacts at Fashion Week
  • Oude Molen wins in London

The branch is dead. Long live the branch.

Recent advances in mobile banking have threatened the current-use cases for the physical branch but, globally, retail has shown that maintaining a physical presence is key to any retail strategy: enter the new Absa bank branch.

The new branch at the recently launched Mall of Africa has been creating a stir on social media, but global design, strategy and build company, Design Partnership, says it is not a once-off but an ongoing project headed up by creative director Yatish Narsi: “Even previously online-only offers like Amazon, Warby Parker and Birchbox are moving aggressively into physical channels. The question we’re asking at Absa is not do we need branches…but what is the step change in customer engagement and experience that we can now deliver if we free our banking halls of the mundane ‘bank visit’? Mobile won’t replace physical; it will enable it to evolve.”

To tackle the complex challenge, Narsi says they needed a new way to engage with it: “Virtual reality, 3D-printed modules and furniture pieces, animations and augmented reality are all being used to engage various stakeholders in the bank, bringing the problems to life so we can all input. This helps us literally experience the environment before it’s built so we can all provide meaningful input around customer experience.”

Given the mix of customer profiles, environments and needs, this journey is best viewed as exactly that: “Mall of Africa is not a solution; it’s merely the start of our journey. All the furniture and engagement spaces are mobile and can be moved around virtually overnight. We can respond to customer need quickly and proactively. It means we can also test new ideas.”

The branch includes a foosball table and arcade machines to reduce perceived waiting times and turn this into playtime. Queue benches are supplied as opposed to rails, so customers are more comfortable, and private offices are on castors so they can be moved around as needed.

“Nobody can say for sure what the bank of the future is, so we have built agility and flexibility into this design to help us engage customers and figure out the future together.”


Sunglass selfies

Sunglass Hut and Moving Tactics Digital Impact recently partnered to create an interactive digital experience for fashion fans at SA Fashion Week in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.

Fashionistas were able to try on the latest in sunglass trends, find their favourite sunglass look and then learn more about the product itself, all using a custom-made 40” touch screen. As they placed their chosen sunglasses on the recognition pad alongside the screen, a small radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag fitted onto the sunglasses would prompt and play product-specific information on the screen.

Andy Higginbotham, creative director at Moving Tactics Digital Impact, says: “In addition to the product recognition table hardware and software, we also supplied Sunglass Hut with a customised replica Selfie Cam. The 42” touch display, with built-in digital SLR camera, allowed guests to take a high-resolution image of themselves wearing the latest sunglass looks, which they could then share via social media. It was a fun concept and it proved to be very popular.”

Earl Kopeledi, marketing manager at Sunglass Hut, says: “Our aim is to always create fun and memorable experiences in our stores and at events. We wanted to highlight some of the interesting stories attached to the brands we stock and we were very happy with the experiential outcome for our customers.”


Oude Molen takes Gold

Oude Molen’s new handcrafted premium XO Cape Brandy was awarded Gold at the recent 2016 Global Spirits Masters in the Brandy Masters category, and was the only South African distiller to win Gold in the competition.

The Global Brandy Masters 2016 rewarded the finest brandy brands on a world stage. It was chaired by The Sprits Business, along with a panel of leading sprits and on-trade specialists who judged the brandy in a blind tasting. Trophies for the world’s winning spirits, best distilleries and producers were awarded at a function, held at the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), London.

According to Andre Simonis, MD of the Oude Molen distillery, the global impact of winning this type of award is great for business: “Marketing our brandies as Cape Brandy is paying off. We have focused our marketing of Cape Brandy in the design and development of our premium brandies, and have seen an increase in demand locally and in export markets, especially in the American and Dutch as well and Asian markets.”

Oude Molen XO sells for R800 and is available direct from the Oude Molen distillery; it will be available from liquor outlets nationwide from the end of July.


Cheryl Hunter

Shelf Life is’s weekly column covering all things new. Notify us of yours at shelflife at marklives dot com. Want to sponsor Shelf Life? Contact us here.

Cheryl Hunter (@cherylhunter) has written for the South African media, marketing and advertising industries for more than 15 years. A former editor of M&M in Independent Newspapers and contributor to Bizcommunity, AdFocus, AdReview and the Ad Annual, she has also produced for various television networks and currently consults on communication strategy and media liaison.

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