Since the first e-commerce projects started their rapid spread in the 1990s, the shopping behaviour of broad ranges of customers has changed fundamentally. Today, retail clientele is largely made up of digital natives, who place great importance on the in-store shopping experience without needing to rely on the familiar advantages of the online world. The modern customer expects availability queries, means of comparison with offers from other retailers or access to more detailed product information as a matter of course. This is contrasted with a need for "real" passion for emotionally charged products.
The head says: digital convenience
Modern retail concepts such as Click & Collect, Electronic Shelf Labelling ("ESL"), RFID and Beacon technologies can mostly be integrated in existing systems and linked to high-performance analysis tools. Merchandise management processes are thus made more efficient, the in-store experience and customer loyalty improved. So much for the economic prospects for the big players in the sector.
The heart says: real passion
At the same time, a completely different change is taking place on the high street: a return to handmade passion. Whether a coffee roaster, barber shop or bike specialist - the customer is increasingly seeking out specialist providers who are consumed by their enthusiasm and convince with passion and specialist knowledge. For example, a large chain of booksellers has started to put handwritten recommendations from its staff on the books on its shelves. The clear message: we know our range. We have an opinion. Books are not just products for us, literature is our passion.
Vacillating between the two poles
The successful path for the future will probably be a tightrope walk between digital convenience and personal expertise. The advantages of the online world are decisive for standard and mass-produced products, regardless of whether the customer is standing in a shop or orders using a mobile device while sitting comfortably on the sofa at home. As soon as emotion and appreciation play a greater role, however, someone who is a specialist trader locally has the advantage.
Embracing the connection between the two worlds and communicating it credibly will be one of the central challenges for retail in the years ahead.
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