With Google, online retail has learned to think in terms of customer journeys. As in e-commerce, cities should also look to customers. The city center can offer them added value. For this, the shopping experience must be staged in the context of the overall offer of a city center. But above all in the context of the modern buying process, which is increasingly starting digitally. The physical product alone is no longer sufficient for positioning – the perspective is decisive. Why is it worthwhile for customers to physically encounter dealers, sellers and partners?
Successfully revitalizing inner cities – a practical example
One example of this is Keller-Sports from Munich. The shop can be redecorated so flexibly that customers are re-inspired in the small area. The fact that they come at all is due to the additional function of the store: as a starting point for urban sports activities (including a locker for valuables and clothing) directly on the Isar.
Downtown can be the place where digital and physical advice merge, as bicycle dealer Rose or glasses dealer Mister Spex do. The focus is on the salespeople’s advisory skills, which are included in the product price, but are never really appreciated. Social networking at the POS, as Bonprix shows in the Hamburg store, combines style advice with the service level of logistics geared towards high throughput. Even trying on becomes an experience. And payment is as easy as clicking the order button.
Online trade vs. stationary trade
The competition between online retail and brick and mortar stores is not fate – as is often claimed. The retailer can digitally extend local proximity and thus address many more customers than just those in the store. Once the assortments have been digitized, the advisory service can also be expanded virtually through online chats, for example. Furniture dealer Cairo shows, for example, which products are available in the exhibition or for quick take away. A virtual tour with an integrated shopping function is also possible before visiting the stationary design store.
All that remains is to relieve the retailer of one of the last burdens: the dependency on opening times. What use is it to the commuting customer if he is always late during the week and has to waste his valuable time on logistical purposes on the weekend? E-commerce can regulate this much more easily – provided that the municipalities also make transfer stations available to local retailers, which are not only reserved for parcel services.
Bringing inner cities to life – a brief outlook
The easier municipalities make it for residents to experience the city at their own pace and rhythm, from citizen services and health services to culture and enjoyment, the more likely these possibilities will be interlinked. Smart politics relies on e-commerce and digitization – in order to strengthen the value of the encounter as the core of citizenship and public spirit.
Also read: Stationary retail – How city centers are becoming more attractive again.
The author: Gero Furchheim works as a board member of Cairo AG and has been President of the Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel eV (bevh) employed.