The digital point of sale leaves some open questions

The Inspiration Store
eBay’s »Inspiration Store«: It this what the future of trade looks like? (Photo: eBay press department)

What will the store of the future look like? This question occupies classic retailers and now evermore pure players. Amazon is just the most famous example of a company with digital DNA that has dared to step into stationary trade.

The reasons for this should not be dismissed out of hand: in the longterm, pure players are missing direct customer contact and touchpoints at which customers come into contact with the brand. It takes a much bigger marketing budget to stay present. This is still easier to gain the trust of customers in the carbon world than in the digital sphere. There is a good reason why even digital savvy Rocket Internet is filling-up Berlin with billboards at the moment:


Furthermore, the increasing number of empty blocks in the inner city means cheaper leasing prices – an ideal test environment, as short leasing time can be negotiated and pop-up store concepts realised more easily.

Can an unprofitable stationary shop be used as a marketing channel? In light of the numerous thinly set-up pure platers, this question can hardly still be honestly answered with a “no.”

But there is still a not of potential for innovation in the field of tension between on- and offline which could be worth tapping into.

Stationary is becoming digital: there is no lack of partners

According to statistics from Royal Mail 16 percent of small and mid-sized British online traders plan to open their own store / use the display areas in an existing shop in the next twelve months.

You can also see that the transformation of stationary trade is gradually picking up speed. Even small retailers are having positive experiences with offering their customers mobile payment methods via tablet for instance.

Both the number of possible multi-channel services and of possible partners is huge. There are certainly a lot of possibilities open to traders. Companies, like eBay, increasingly see themselves as partners for retailers, and want to bring services like »click & collect« or home delivery to the agenda of traders.

With »Shopwings«, the Samwers want to represent the grocery trade in the internet. The introduction of >>Apple Pay<< shows that even Apple doesn’t want handover the field to PayPal etc.

Sometimes it seems as though it is the traders themselves who see the least potential.

Online thinking wanders into the offline world – we’re just missing the implementation

The customer doesn’t care what channel they’re shopping in, and this varies according to situation. The fact has been analyzed enough in discussions on multi-channel and leaves only one possible conclusion: stationary trade either has to integrate the advantages learned from online shopping – like comprehensive information, home delivery, or ordering around the clock – or give up.

» »We turning into Walmart a showroom for online shoppers.«

Walmart-CEO Mike Duke «

This is the only way that business is really ready for digitalisation. When even the point of sale become digital, the borders between the channels will be abolished. For instance, you should of course be able to order products which are sold out in the shop online.

This is already possible in Walmart and Kmart in the USA. Customers can either take away their purchases themselves, or have their delivered to their home for free, as this tongue in cheek video explains.

IBM lends its voice to the cross-channel choir

IBM five in five retail
Graphic: IBM

» »In five years, local stores will merge digital with the instant gratification of physical retail to offer a more immersed and personalised shopping experience.«

Sima Nadler, IBM researcher «

IBM is convinced that there is a local future for trade. In the annual trend analysis »The IBM 5 in 5« company researchers predicted a comeback in shops, although in the form of online shops to touch.

There are still open questions

There is only one problem which cannot be solved in this way: how do we want to get out of the price transparency of the internet and its associated price wars?

It is also questionable whether or not it is enough just to gear-up shops with tablet and screens. Can you bind customers that way? What is being offered here, that is actually new? Why should customers play around on an iPad in a shop when it’s more comfortable at home?

There are questions which needs clear answers. After all, it requires a huge amount of effort when building a shop, on top of the technological challenges. This is where channel changing hurts especially.

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