The future of shopping

27. October 2017, MAXFIVE

BILLA is a pioneer in Austria’s supermarket landscape in terms of innovation and computerisation. The newly created online shop is its centrepiece. We talked to BILLA executive Robert Nagele about the benefits of the multi-channel approach and take a look at the future of shopping.



Mr Nagele, BILLA is constantly offering its customers innovative options for shopping, and is especially focusing on the online area. Has that been your most significant innovation?
The past 10-15 years have seen it become standard in many areas of life to order over the internet and have the goods sent to your home. The challenge in recent years has just been how to do that with food. It’s actually been the number 1 challenge. There are chilled and frozen goods and especially very fresh goods, some of them only fresh for a day, which we can’t send by mail in a package. They represent very special challenges for food retailers. I’m pleased and proud we are facing these challenges and have emerged as a pioneer in Austria. We are the first to supply a full range in all temperature zones to all addresses in Austria.
We are a true multi-channel supplier where our customers can decide whether they go to the shop or shop online – at the same price.

Will the online shop completely replace the supermarket around the corner sometime?
No, I don’t think that’s going to happen. There’s an emotional component to shopping and it’s also used as a communication platform.
In addition, there are transactions that we can only handle physically – cash withdrawals at the checkout, for example. However, the function of supermarkets will change. With a combined, multi-channel “physical/digital” approach we’ll see a reduction in large sales areas.
The so-called “extended digital shelf” will also make it possible to provide the customer with goods very quickly on small surface areas. It will go in the direction of ordering what I want online on my way to the store and the goods will be waiting for me at the checkout when I get there.

The supermarket gets smaller and the online shop bigger?
No. The standard product range in the online shop will hardly change, but it will expand strongly in terms of special products. It’s difficult, for example, to offer a large range of gluten-free and vegan products in the physical shop because the market is very small, but it works online. We’ll also expand our associated services. These include parcel services or being able to order the ingredients for a recipe with the click of a mouse.

How do you assess customer acceptance of your innovations?
I see our role as a key player in the market as creating trends from innovations. It’s important not to change everything dramatically overnight – we need to have a close dialogue with our customers. This will also differ from place to place. A shop in the 5th district of Vienna might well be different in size and product range from one in the 20th. We’re approaching very individualised times.

Together with BILLA executive Robert Nagele, we relocate to the year 2020 and go shopping in the future:

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