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31 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
In the long term, a bricks-and-mortar retail business can’t compete with the costs of an e-commerce supplier. But it doesn’t need to if it has found its new role: for example as a service point or as a display by and for people. And above all in their own surroundings, following the mega trend of re-urbanisation. Why travel to an out-of-town location when you’ve got a combination of e-commerce and showroom just round the corner? That’s sure to be an attractive alternative for lots of people. And it seems to be paying off: Zalando is starting with the launch of stores of this kind. Cyberport, an electronics retailer, has already moved ahead and is opening one outlet after another. But what makes the protagonists different from the established classic retailer? They’re all increasingly transferring their highly efficient digital trade systems to the (sales) “area”, and they don’t claim to stock the whole product range. It’s very clever – this webshop you can walk into, as it were, that has the best elements of both worlds.
In this model, measures to get to know more about your customers function well: on-line, footfall, length of time spent in the shop, terminating the shopping journey are not a problem and have for a long time been systematically embedded in the feedback to the marketing staff. But now measures like these can be used in your local shop too. Practically every mobile phone has its wi-fi switched on to locate its own position and it is, therefore, recognised in the shop.
Similar to visiting a website, the shopper leaves a digital trail. A vision of the future? Not at all: free customer wi-fi has been introduced precisely for this reason.
But here too the search for a ready-made blueprint has up till now been in vain. Because, up to now, quite simply it didn’t exist – the final, single, valid concept that connects all channels in procedures and communication.
Nobody has yet found the Philosopher’s Stone, even though lots of people get excited looking for it. But if you admit there is no concept that can simply be copied, the only thing you can do is set out on your own journey. This theme should be right at the top of the agenda for the management of the big purchaser associations if we want to put a stop to the increasing demise of small retailers. Especially as a huge opportunity for repositioning by the local specialist trade is in the offing. The big players in the sector, like Playmobil and Lego, are now solving declining physical presence by opening their own shops. Many brands can’t do that, or don’t want to. Strategically, this creates a lot of scope for also re-defining the role of the trade vis-à-vis the industry.
An example of what this kind of business model can look like is weShop, which you can visit in Munich.
Together with Vitrashop and Cisco under the conceptual guidance of the Serviceplan Group, they have created a possible answer to the changes the market is undergoing
There and then, you can see what the customer is interested in, what he is looking at and what he walks away from. Huge potential for the small space that this technique makes better and better for those customers in close proximity.
The years ahead will be very exciting: everywhere in the landscape of trade, things are on the move. It’s clear to everyone that something has got to happen. Also, that no longer can anything be put right with homeopathy treatments. The direction of the business model in its entirety is on trial – and as such it must be an issue for management to address. It looks increasingly as if the pressure has now become great enough to tackle the “holy cows” in the structure and to change them. Bold and forward-looking retailers will probably win; the slow guardians of the status quo will possibly find their way into the ranks of the doomed department stores.
On-line or off-line? It’s no longer the question of good or evil but simply the reality of consumption experienced by customers.