How can this interlinking of shop and website look specifically and which challenges have to be overcome? Guest author Nikbin Rohany from Shore explains which concepts convince people with a digital affinity to leave their home screen and head for the shops in the city centers.
The city centers are apparently recovering from the corona pandemic for the time being. According to data from hystreet, the inner cities again had 75 percent of the usual passers-by in June 2021 compared to 2019. At the same time, the mood for shopping is loud Gfk consumer confidence index from June 2021 still subdued. Overall, improvements are noticeable, but the crisis is far from over. While the retail, service and hospitality sectors are short-term about restarting operations after Corona, the longer-term structural problems will not go away.
City centers in crisis even before the pandemic
The city centers were in crisis long before the pandemic. E-commerce has long been thinning out the flow of visitors in the shopping streets and malls. In 2012 online retail had a market volume of 28 billion euros, and in 2020 it had already reached 73 billion euros, according to the Trade Association Germany (HDE). The branches of successful online retailers show that city centers still have potential. They usually present a selection of their products in their stores and attract customers with novel concepts. Many shops are more reminiscent of lounges than classic shops, while others adapt the shop design to the design of the online presence. Digital technology is an integral part. Customers can call up additional product information via displays, and the link to the online shop expands the product range on site. These shop concepts are already successfully combining online and offline, while traditional retail is still lagging behind.
Online shop as a bridge to stationary business
Stationary retail has no future without “Google My Business”. The HDE also knows this and in September 2020, in the middle of the Corona crisis, started a digitization program for German retailers together with the search engine operator. The aim is to help more small and medium-sized retailers to have an online presence. The current figures show how necessary such measures are: in 2020 just 45 percent of stationary retailers were selling goods over the Internet.
But even if online shops or the presence on digital sales platforms and marketplaces develop into a mainstay of German retail – they do not ensure livelier centers, at least not directly. Nevertheless, they are of great importance for the revitalization of inner cities. Because the digital presence, if used correctly, can move people into the cities. This also means the other way around: only those who are digitally visible can attract customers to their stores. This does not only apply to the online shop. In particular, accompanying social media appearances enable a wide range of possibilities to awaken the desire for a real shopping experience, for example through product staging, presentations of employees or photos from events.
Fusion between online and offline trading
A good example of a successful fusion of online and offline is Click & Collect, where customers pick up the goods ordered online in the store. 22 percent of consumers have already used it, and another fifth would like to use it. In addition, according to the German trade association, 6.4 percent of online sales were collected in 2020.
Click & Reserve has even greater potential for retailers. Here, customers can reserve goods online and only decide in the shop whether they really want to buy. This not only gives you the guarantee, as with Click & Collect, that the products are actually in stock when you visit the store, but also saves you the typical online shopping frustration if an item of clothing ordered online does not fit again. Used skilfully, Click & Reserve enables brick-and-mortar retail to play out one of its greatest strengths: individual advice with the actual, tangible product.
From Click & Collect to Click & Reserve
Click & Reserve may have been born out of the necessity of the Corona crisis, but it is an excellent example of a solution from which stationary retail could also benefit in the future. With this hybrid concept, retailers can use their advisory and service skills, offer tailor-made shopping experiences and ensure long-term customer loyalty, particularly in the case of higher-priced goods segments.
Many customers decide to shop on the Internet precisely because they receive more product information. A personal and, above all, bindingly plannable consultation booked online can meet this request. Booking systems also have another advantage: if customers agree, they allow personal data to be saved. These can be used for advertising campaigns and newsletters – sales promotion measures that have long been established in e-commerce.
Inner cities: experience shopping through digital technologies
Customer proximity can also be created in the stores themselves through digital technologies. QR codes on the goods in the shop window enable the connection to the online shop. Tablets in the shops make product information available interactively and service robots with information displays give shopping a playful touch.
Augmented Reality (AR) can also attract visitors to the shops. AR mirrors, for example, with which customers try on or try on clothes or cosmetics, make it possible to test a large number of products. And in the case of clothing, also models that are currently out of stock. Some retailers may still see AR mirrors as a gimmick. But future technologies like these contribute to the experience of shopping. Especially a young clientele who are used to using digital technologies intensively can be addressed in this way. For them, a free and high-performance network connection is an argument to go to a shop. In this way, purchasing may become a post on social media. With the corresponding day, the online visibility of the store is increased.
The examples mentioned show that brick-and-mortar retail has a future above all if it does not see itself as a counterpart to the online world, but creatively links it offline and online – shop, social media, direct mail. In the best case, the result is: more service, more information, more experience for customers – and all of this in real space. (sg)
Also read: This is how the purchasing behavior of Generation Z will change after Corona
About the author: Nikbin Rohany is the managing director of Shore. The start-up from Munich offers an innovative software-as-a-service solution for digital appointment and customer management especially for small and medium-sized companies in the service sector – from hairdressers to cosmetic studios to providers in the health, fitness and retail sectors.