A few years ago, online shopping was limited to items that could be easily shipped, such as books, CDs or consumer electronics. We now have everything imaginable delivered to our home – from cat litter to baby diapers, from fruit and vegetables to Christmas roasts (and even theTree * ). In fact, there is hardly an industry in e-commerce that digital change has not captured.
But that is only the half truth. Because online and offline are increasingly going hand in hand for the benefit of the customer. There is no single trend in shopping, but rather a multitude of developments that complement each other – and that create a shopping experience that will be different from what we know today. Join us for a look into the not so distant future.
1. The boundaries between online and offline continue to blur – and advice remains important
They still exist – the trench warfare between online retail and physical stores. The Lower Saxon Greens are demanding that online trading should also be shut down on Sundays, online mail-order companies complain about high return rates and shopkeepers that their shops are only being used as showrooms and that customers then order online for a little less money.
The first dealers are introducing a consultation fee, which is then billed when purchasing. This is not wrong , for example , when it comes to topics that require a lot of advice, such as school satchels or carrying systems, and if it is reasonably justified and communicated, it will certainly meet with understanding from customers. On the other hand, retailers will increasingly discover online advice, especially for advice-intensive products that we would have said earlier that “you can’t buy something like that online”. Music dealer Thomann demonstrates how one exemplary manner Combine moving images, audio and printed content well *.
Customers, on the other hand, have long since made their choice when it comes to online and offline: They do one thing without leaving the other. This is shown by the KPMG study “Trends in Retail 2025 ”, which predicts somewhat lower growth figures in online retail in the coming years, but definitely sees acceptance for new ordering and delivery options. What can be ordered on the Internet is also ordered on the Internet and bulky or advice-intensive goods continue to find their buyers, especially in city centers and on the green fields – with the necessary delivery services if necessary.
What we will see in a few years is the almost natural combination of online and offline – at least for the retailers, who can proliferate with the pound of retail stores. Then the jacket is available in every size and every color and the customer can order the desired combination at home or in the branch on tablets. This not only lowers the costs for the dealers, but is also convenient for the customer because he does not have to drive into town a second time.
2. Groceries and everyday items are increasingly being bought online – this is where most of the growth is
Amazon is conquering the grocery trade – and is once again becoming the pacemaker and determiner of an industry that (at least in Germany) has not been blessed with excessive margins in recent decades. It has not only been clear since the takeover of the US organic supermarket chain Whole Foods that the online giant is also exploring its possibilities in the food sector – Europe will follow in 2018 or 2019 at the latest.
This is likely to be particularly worrying for providers such as Rewe or Allyouneed, who are active in the same business field and have tried to gain acceptance over the years. But the chances are growing for them too: Once the Germans have discovered buying groceries online for themselves, they will do so more often (like the British and Americans already today). And then at the latest there will be flat shipping rates such as in Great Britain.
We will not only shop online or offline. Ordering food will become more popular in the near future: for large and heavy stock purchases on the one hand, but also for the spontaneous supply of fresh food of all kinds on the other hand, when guests have announced themselves or for other reasons you do not make your way to the nearest supermarket wants or can.
The cake that needs to be distributed is big: According to GfK, German food retailing generated sales of EUR 176 billion last year and even if there is only a market potential for around eight to ten percent of that for online grocery sales by 2020 (these figures The management consultancy Oliver Wyman recently came up with a study ), a tenfold increase is still possible from today’s perspective.
However, same-day delivery is increasingly becoming a necessary condition, even in rural areas. Because customers are less and less willing to wait for deliveries and want to find them at a certain point in time – this can also be a packing station or their own trunk. But there is one thing we will probably not experience, even if the first pilot tests in the USA suggest this: that we allow the parcel delivery service to access our apartment while we are not at home.
3. The other side of shopping: Customers rely on the shopping experience and the story behind the goods
Everyday shopping is the compulsory program that we want to solve as smoothly and efficiently as possible, while enjoyable consumption and shopping touch the soul. While technical means should make it as easy as possible for us to procure everyday goods with the help of apps and assistants, other purchases should be linked to a real shopping experience. For 77 percent of Germans, these real experiences become all the more important the more shopping is done through digital channels (QVC-Zukunftsstudie * ) – simply because purchases online are less and less different in terms of their experience.
In this regard, the retailer in the city clearly has the better cards from home. Bridal fashion stores, smaller fashion boutiques or even car dealerships have been leading the way for years: the customer wants to perceive the purchase and information about products as an experience. As one he shares on social media these days, telling family and friends about. In this respect, a shopping experience that retailers offers is more than just satisfying this one customer; the customer regularly becomes an ambassador and influencer of his environment.
Nevertheless, in the future we will drive less and less into the city or into the industrial area, get annoyed about parking fees and traffic jams, but rather order quickly online instead. The crowd-butchering service Kaufnekuh.de demonstrates that storytelling also works in this environment . Here the customer learns the story of “his” animal and has, at least in theory, a similarly close relationship to the farmer in the neighboring village.
It will be these stories that will become more important in the years to come – be it from the winemaker, from whom you used to get your wine directly, or from individual foods. We will also see a shift towards large, opulent flagship stores in which brands are literally celebrated – this is also a countermovement to the advancing online trade.
In other respects, online retailers also have good prerequisites: Not only can they play the keyboard of social media without a media break, they also know the history of all customers better than any specialist retailer. It usually remembers some regular customers and their preferences, but not as comprehensive as a modern CRM tool can. Recommendations are really accurate if the company not only evaluates the online data as before, but also tracks the customer’s preferences offline. With the customer card, Ikea shows quite well how big data can work with an offline focus (even if the company is only gradually learning the lessons of cross-channel marketing) .
4. Dynamic and individual pricing: Retailers rely on the shopping preferences of their customers
Dynamic pricing is already known from online trading, even if many retailers are still cautious, at least on the outside: a product often changes its price several times a day, depending on the supply of the competition and demand from the customers. Companies rely on algorithms that constantly scrutinize price search engines and competitors for their prices. Already today, more than three quarters of all page impressions received by the major online retailers result from bots that get an idea of the current price of a product.
But it is no longer a phenomenon that is restricted to online trading. More and more chains are using price displays on the shelves that can be centrally adjusted within seconds – above all, as the retailers state, to reliably display special offers, but also to adjust prices to the current framework conditions.
Another variant of these price fluctuations is individual pricing – so far only found in e-commerce and not yet reliably proven in studies. A customer who has already ordered high-priced goods at the regular price with his iPhone in the past can be given different prices than a buyer who has always ordered reduced goods – and is more likely to be recognized as a bargain hunter due to his buying behavior. In addition to the consumer behavior and place of residence of the customer, the time of day and weather or the date in the course of the month are included in the calculation of the algorithms, i.e. information on how much money the customer currently has in the account.
Many customers are still evidently reluctant to use such practices: 91 percent were against it in a survey by the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Consumption, and such practices are currently still an immense expense for retailers. However, providers will not be so clumsy as to impose higher costs on customers, but rather make special offers to selected users. These will not only be customers who already have a long purchase history, but above all those who the retailer defines as an early adopter, influencer or social media enthusiast.
5. Assistance systems, self-checkouts and sales robots: The retail sector increasingly needs fewer, but definitely different staff
More and more often we will also meet salespeople and cashiers in the stationary trade in the form of robots and machines. The sales robots from Media Markt and Saturn, which are already being used on a trial basis in a branch in Ingolstadt, show that this doesn’t have to be damage. The roughly one meter tall devices greet customers, guide them to the product they are looking for, explain the most important functions and, if things get too complicated, call in a human salesperson. The first experiences are positive, and in theQVC-Zukunftsstudie * , 23 percent of those questioned said that they could well imagine using advice from avatars or robots.
Assistance systems based on touchscreen will soon also be a matter of course for many customers – after all, literally every child now uses tablets and smartphones. This is a problem for unskilled workers, but not for specialist salespeople – their expertise is in demand wherever detailed knowledge and serious advice are required. And in many cases the tablet becomes a loyal companion for the sales force. Because the customer can quickly convey to the customer which variants of a product are still available, what the availability looks like, or order the product that is not in stock to the customer right away.
At the same time, the sales assistant is increasingly coming into our living room – or is already there in the form ofEcho Dot * , Google Home Mini and other intelligent speakers. If so requested, they will remind us that we wanted to order a present for the mother-in-law because her birthday is coming up next week.
In the near future, we will see completely cashier-free shops or at least self-service checkouts in areas where things have to go quickly, for example at train stations and other traffic hubs – and no longer just simple vending machines as in the past. Not only the Japanese retail chains Lawson or Real in Germany are working on intelligent cash register systems that automatically scan, recognize and collect the goods when the shopping cart is placed in the detection zone. Amazon goes one step further and could soon start completely cash-free Amazon Go shops in Germany as well .