Person testing lemons in a Billa Corso supermarket

Good business

23. May 2016, Editorial

Customers need to stop shopping only online and start shopping in real life again. What’s needed: big feelings.


point of communication
point of sale
shopping experience

Shopping is a short trip these days. From the dining table to the desk or from the bedroom to the living room. Wherever the laptop is currently parked. Online shopping is more than just convenient because you can do it in your pyjamas, it is also fast and provides an unbeatable selection, endless possibilities to compare, a huge number of product reviews – in fact, it’s not even necessary to list all of the advantages to brick-and-mortar businesses. Everyone knows them because everyone uses them. What doesn’t change is that, once in a while, we need to find our way back to the real world. For retailers this means too little; they need often, constantly or even preferably.

Shopping in actual shops needs to become an emotional experience with clear added value for customers.

Moving the POS to the POC is a solution to the dilemma. Point of Sale becomes Point of Communication. Shopping becomes an emotional experience. Personality is more important than variety; differentiation more exciting than abundant selection. Max Celko and Sven Gábor Jánszky from the German think tank “2b.AHEAD” emphasise exactly that in their market survey “Die Zukunft des stationären Handels“ [Future of Stationary Retail] from 2014: “Retailers must see themselves as a social platform and provide customers with a possibility to experience brands and be part of the context themselves.” In other words, proper communication on multiple channels and provide consumers with added value in the process. It’s about a smart connection of online and offline that functions well when felt.

Apps, Virtual Reality, Social Media: The way Macy’s has been doing it is the way it will stay in future.

Macy’s in the US, with about 800 stores, is a prominent example of how communication can be completely changed with customers. The occasion for the thorough restructuring was a survey conducted by Macy’s: “Macy’s found that customers who shop across channels are 8X more valuable than those who shop in a single channel.” But, a prerequisite is that the stationary retail makes the multiple channels available as well. Websites and mobile apps are only the minimum, a general ‘must’, without which it doesn’t work. For example, customers who shop at Macy’s can also use their Backstage Pass – an app that allows customers to scan QR codes for products to locate background information – such as about production, parts and materials. At the Beauty Spot, customers can use the camera for virtual make-up. In future, there will be a virtual fitting room – with a mirror that is simultaneously a touch screen so that outfits can be changed quickly without having to stand in front of an employee half-naked.

The personal benefit for customers is also (or especially) in the foreground with social media activities. Today, everyone knows that posts from clothing retailers, chains, etc – whether on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat – pursue a commercial purpose. And that is okay for fans and followers, as long as there’s a benefit. Liking a discount, linking to a contest, making a pre-announcement of a sale. But what stationary retail will always have ahead of online retail is the opportunity to make points through personality and personal contact. Ensnaring customers so that they can be wound around the little finger over the long term.

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