How do we want to shop in the future and what tasks should and can retail take on in the future - ISPO Munich Online 2021 tried to find answers to these questions in numerous expert panels. Many developments have intensified during the pandemic: Online retail has grown disproportionately and will probably change buying habits permanently. This is fueling the long-lasting search for new concepts for stationary retail, which had to complain about falling frequencies even before the pandemic.
At the same time, the pandemic has made it clear how important stationary retail is to us and that the digital cannot replace the analog without loss. What conclusions do experts draw from the findings?
There is no getting around digitalization anymore. The retail lockdowns have left retailers with no choice but to look at online business. "You have to meet customers where they are," says Thomas Ganter, CEO of the fashion and sports store L&T in Osnabrück. For a long time, e-commerce was not a strategic focus topic for L&T; instead, the store invested millions in experiential shopping. The real surf wave in the basement of the sports store, the integrated fitness studio and various gastronomy concepts have brought L&T a lot of attention and numerous awards. Now L&T is working on a multichannel strategy after all, in order to be able to reach all customers in the long term.
The pandemic has shown that e-commerce does not mean "losing" the customer to online retail. Customers simply want both: stationary and digital shopping options. And they are quite loyal. "We have seen that many customers we know from stationary retail have now switched to our online shop," says Andreas Vogler, CEO of Globetrotter. "That was an important learning for us: we can stay relaxed when one channel is closed." Even advice works online. "The chat function is now used much more than before," adds Vogler, "and two-thirds of chat customers then also buy from us."
Turning customers into fans is also the motto at Internetstores, says Chief Brand Officer Frank Aldorf. This can be achieved through targeted data mining and the use of artificial intelligence. Both help to "better understand customers, create communities, interact with them, and stay relevant," says Aldorf.
Many merchants are now taking a big step forward and working on integrating all channels and reducing complexity for the customer. "Germany has caught up tremendously in digitalization during the pandemic," notes Dr. Axel Rebien, co-CEO of payment service provider Unzer. "At merchants that didn't even have card terminals in the past, you can now pay touchfree."
For all the justified attention paid to online retail, the pandemic shows something else: "We're all just noticing what we're missing when brick-and-mortar retail is closed," adds Vogler. The importance of stationary trade is more noticeable than it has been for a long time. People are missing direct contact, and retailers could make better use of this proximity to customers, says VDS President Stefan Herzog. "Retail has to get out of the consumer world and into the living world of the customers. You can buy a new running shoe online, but what the customer needs is advice that accompanies him in achieving his sporting or health goals."
Herzog wants to open up the booming health market for sports retailers and has presented the new "VDS Connected Coaching Concept for Retail" at the Ispo Munich Online. The idea is based on the multifunctional test and analysis device VELIO®, which was developed by the German company Gesund4You. The device is installed in the store and precisely determines the athletic level of the customer in just 15 minutes and creates an individual training plan. The digital and analog interplay of analysis and support through to product advice offers sports retailers a new USP.
The future of retail also includes a completely opposite concept that was only made possible by digitalization: the cashierless store. In 2016, with the opening of the first Amazon Go Store, Amazon publicized the idea that shops could also function without a cash register terminal and even without staff. In 2020 the German grocery chain Tegut opened a similar concept with “Tegut Teo”. A small but complete range of groceries is offered on 50 square meters; customers can access it via their credit card or app. "Teo is the stationary answer to online trading and combines the advantages of stationary stores with people's shopping habits and the modern technology of the 21st century," explains CEO Thomas Gutberlet. The stores should be a supplement for places where regular stores are not profitable or where 24/7 opening makes sense, for example on company premises or in villages. Ten more Teo stores are scheduled to open in 2021.