Viva la Retailution!

15. January 2019, MAXFIVE

In just a few years, digitalisation in the retail industry will open the door to hyper-personalised offers. As people and smart technologies continue to become increasingly interlinked, new spaces, new markets, new feelings and new interactions are bubbling to the surface all the time.


Erlebnis Shopping
Essential Shopping
point of destination
Poit of destination

The status quo

Just as the realities of day life become increasingly fragmented compared to those of previous generations, many people’s shopping habits are becoming more disparate. Gone are the days of the central figure of the housewife who would do the weekly shop for the whole family. We have moved away from the one-stop supermarkets that defined the twentieth-century shopping experience, towards an almost overwhelmingly broad range of options. These days, consumers can choose between the local farmers’ market, discount supermarket, organic store, retro deli, filling station and the grocer’s round the corner when it comes to sourcing their daily bread. Or they have it sent straight to their home – from Amazon, Bauernkiste or Hellofresh.


Modern shopping habits perfectly reflect the spirit of the times, which is shaped by multi-channelling and puts individuality centre stage. Over the next few years, the old notion of ‘one size fits all’ will quickly recede into the background as self-taught algorithms learn how to come up with increasingly personalised solutions to consumer requirements. But until that becomes a reality, we will have to continue to live with the fact that shopping has become a complex affair for a few more years yet – with consumers left spoilt for choice, literally.

Smart. Personalised. But is it fast enough?

In this age of digitalisation, one particular paradox emerges: the state-of-the-art, digitalised grocery trade is seemingly incapable of fitting in with our fast-paced times. Planning a long time in advance is no longer possible for many people, and no longer the done thing. Scheduled dining occasions are increasingly giving way to spontaneous meals which are shopped for or bought in on the same day. Under this set up, waiting even one day for a delivery seems like an anachronism.


So it is hardly surprising to learn that online grocery sales (excluding subscription offers) with fixed delivery intervals have been left out in the cold: in Austria and Germany just 1.7% of grocery sales are accounted for by the online segment. But with online sales already at 9.1%, Switzerland is proving that this does not have to be the case. And, as one international best practice comparison shows, Tesco is managing to make deliveries in central London within an hour – something that couch potatoes in Austria can only dream of.

Online moves into bricks and mortar
By the looks of things right now, the future will bring a mix of bricks-and-mortar and digital retail. Many companies have long since worked out that multi-channelling and customer loyalty go hand in hand. So it speaks volumes that the masters of the online universe – Amazon and Alibaba –have both opened up real-world stores in recent years. By the end of 2018 the Amazon Go chain was already on its eighth branch, doing away with cash registers and self-service terminals all together. Billing is conducted via the customer’s Amazon account. Practical indeed. And balm for the soul of anyone who has waited in line for 15 minutes the night before a public holiday just to buy milk. Automated ordering solutions are taking things a step further: the coffee capsule containers developed by WePlenish automatically recognise when it is time to restock – and proactively order in replacements too.

Data: the oil of
the twenty-first century

Collecting a broad range of data will become increasingly important – primarily via companies’ own apps. In future, having a more accurate picture of the customer base and offering hyper-personalised solutions will prove ever more decisive. In return, many consumers are prepared to trade their privacy for the convenience brought about by personalised recommendations and offers. The McFit chain is currently building an incredible 55,000m² gym in Oberhausen in Germany where customers can pay using their personal data.

Analog appeal

Believing that the future is digital alone would be a fallacy. In fact, the opposite is proving true. Many people have a deep-seated need to experience, touch and feel. And the more that technology penetrates various areas of our lives, the more important values such as emotionality, communication and humanity become. Another core element of the ‘retailution’ is the growing desire among consumers for appreciable added value upon entering a shop – the kind of experience that transcends the feeling of merely purchasing a product.

More than a point of sale, in the future we will be looking for a ‘point of destination’.

More than a point of sale, in the future we will be looking for a ‘point of destination’, whether it’s hip specialist stores, delis where the staff really know the products, shops selling products from around the world or community shops. What they all share is an uncanny knack of homing in on their customers’ needs in a way that major chains are simply unwilling or unable to do. Here, it is not so much the product itself as the shopping experience that steals the show. Ultimately, a good story beats price every time. To provide a real life example: who doesn’t prefer to go to the slightly shabby Italian deli, where the owner talks with their hands and offers customers a sample of their premium salamis with a tangible sense of pride? Regrettably, neither increasingly intelligent chatbots nor the average checkout assistant at the supermarket can hold a candle to this kind of charm.

The bottom line :
The days of the supermarket as we know it are definitely numbered.

As time passes, there will be a pretty clear line that separates essentials shopping and experience shopping. While the first will play out – partially or fully automated – via a hyper-personalised approach, the second will be all about creating a space where the emotions, sensory experience and interpersonal exchange matter most. Things that people are happy to set aside time for.


If everyone gets their prep work right on point, then there really is no reason for anybody to worry.
Which leaves just one thing to say:
“Viva La Retailution!”

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