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Are digitalised stores the future?

10. February 2021, MAXFIVE

Shuttered shoe shops and deserted pedestrian precincts – because everyone’s doing all their shopping online these days? Well, not exactly. Online retail, of all things, might just be the very thing to prevent many bricks-and-mortar stores from going to the wall.

Thema:

digital
einkaufserlebnis
future is now
online-retail
Onlinehandel
stationärer Handel
store
Zukunft ist jetzt

No-one has to go into town to do their shopping any more. A bold assertion. But it sums up the current situation pretty accurately. Social distancing and compulsory mask wearing have cast a shadow over the shopping experience throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The change in consumer behaviour triggered by it will change bricks-and-mortar retail for good.

How will we shop in future?

Digitalisation is the most important trend right now when it comes to the future of retail. In recent years, there have been lots of experiments on ways to reach out to digital customers and get them to hang around for longer. The subject has never been as sensitive as it is now. But the question of what constitutes the basic building blocks of an enjoyable shopping experience to begin with has often been overlooked. Whether its online or virtual, shopping has to be fun. Customers want to be inspired, and captivated by new ideas and new products.

Shopping as a leisure activity

We are already counting down the days until we can arrange to meet our friends again, stroll around the shops – and be entertained. In our isolation, the desire for social contact – virtual or otherwise – keeps on growing.

Shopping should be a retail world that triggers their emotions

In this age of ubiquitous social networks, this emotionality has to exploit all of the available technological resources, so that it can live up to its full potential. Lots of real-world retailers are desperately thinking of ways to reach out to their customers digitally. They have noticed that their products could be put on show much more attractively, too.

Joining the online and offline worlds – get that right and the world’s your oyster

Whether its a store, platform or social commerce venture, there are lots of simple but effective opportunities out there at the moment. You could say that Facebook and Instagram chose just the right moment to launch their store functions.

Another possible measure would be to give consumers the information they need to make purchasing decisions and for their own peace of mind. This could even include real-time updates on the number of people in the store and each aisle.

Pre-selection and professional consultation

Whatever happens “I have to offer the customer some form of added value. I either have to explain things better or – and this is where I see the real opportunity – offer some guidance. After all, the deluge of information and products can be hard to navigate for the customer. So they are happy when they walk into a store that has three different models of a product and can assume that the retailer has whittled the selection down properly beforehand. And that the three variants on show are all good and offer something different. And that is where a well-prepared retailer can stand out. It is precisely these areas where retailers can expect consumers to be ready to pay more – pre-selection and professional consultation,” explained Vienna University of Economics and Business market researcher Cordula Cerha.

Smart path into the digital age

Billa has been pursuing an omnichannel strategy for some time now, says REWE press spokesman Paul Pöttschacher: “The majority of our customers use both channels, preferring to order online for their weekly shop, while heading into the store for their day-to-day essentials. It is also worth pointing out that the proportion of perishables is on the rise online and now accounts for more than 50% of virtual shopping baskets.”

Rethink and seize new opportunities. To do this, retailers need to come up with new concepts and shake up their existing structures to boost customer loyalty, foster a sense of trust and make visiting a store attractive . This transition could prompt the redefinition of contemporary customer needs, where the focus is on meeting fundamental elements of the customer journey and responding to their motivations for visiting bricks-and-mortar stores.

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