How we’ll be shopping in future: The Internet is infiltrating our real world through Smartphones
Dieter Bohlen’s shirt, Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoes – seen on TV and ordered instantly. Shopping via remote control or mobile phone, wherever we go and are, at any time of day or night. That appears to be the future of purchase strategies, and it’s already begun. Whether it be Edeka, Karstadt or Adidas, they’re all working on drawing greater benefit from Smartphones and social media.
TV night: It’s a commercial break and no one’s watching. Statisticians recorded increased water usage. A commercial break is the time for a smoke and pee. Or to grab a beer from the fridge and make something to eat, or play around on the mobile phone or computer until the movie comes back on. “TV advertising is increasingly losing its value because viewers see it less and less", says Thorben Fasching. He is responsible for marketing and new forms of Internet use at Bremen software house, hmmh. “It won’t stay that way“, says Fasching. "We want TV to be the back channel“. What he means by this sounds quite visionary: Imagine the murderer in an exciting thriller movie sneaking into a beautiful hotel surrounded by palm trees. We wouldn’t mind going there either. We pause the movie, open a new window via remote control, and book a weekend escape there. Back to the main menu, resume the movie.
The murderer comes, we shop
As normal TV advertising doesn’t work anymore, an increasing number of the country’s major companies are migrating to Internet advertising and so-called product placement (more or less hidden advertising in the shows themselves), e.g. in “Deutschland sucht den Superstar”, where Dieter Bohlen is contracted to always wear shirts made by the brand Camp David. At the moment, anyone wanting to have that shirt still has to go to the shop or online to buy it. But why not place a QR code on the edge of the screen? Then you could scan the code with any Smartphone (Internet-enabled mobile phone) and order it from your sofa, says Thorben Fasching, who is also the deputy chairman of the e-commerce (electronic shopping) group at the German Federal Association of the Digital Economy (Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft).
"Multi-channel commerce" is currently his favourite expression, which could be translated as “shopping in all channels”. Internet, TV, the corner-shop – everything is growing as part of a collection strategy. This is made possible by the increasing use of Smartphones, the little mobile all-rounders. Germany presently has twelve million Smartphone users, and this number is rising every day. The industry expects that, as early as next year, more users around the world will be going online from their mobile than from their computers at home. Although they also use them to play, download music or see what their Facebook friends are doing, 23 percent of Smartphone users have already installed shopping apps on their device.
This opens up an unimaginable number of possibilities. Many of these, such as the interactive TV programme, are still a long way off, but that will change quickly. Apple wanted to launch an Internet-enabled iTV on the market as early as autumn, but it won’t be ready until 2013 now. Apart from voice control and the possibility of downloading movies digitally, it is also set to have software enabling people to shop directly through the TV programme.
For hmmh’s board spokesman, Stefan Messerknecht, Smartphones are also the ideal link between the classic shopping outlets and the Internet. hmmh once got the mail order company Otto-Versand up and running online, and also looks after the websites of Tchibo, Praktiker, Hessnatur or L´Oreal. At the time, it was about making the Internet a popular, user-friendly means of shopping. But today, developments are moving away from pure Internet commerce, says Messerknecht, adding that it is crucial for businesses to interlink as many sales channels as possible. "Classic shops won’t die, but the way in which customers are approached and addressed will change."
The following is a conceivable scenario: A customer with a Smartphone is walking down a shopping street near a Tchibo outlet. His/her location is tracked and he/she receives an SMS inviting him/her to a free cup of coffee. Shops selling sporting items or electronics could also use this method of locating customers near their outlets and addressing them in a targeted manner. Here is a scene which has long been part of daily reality: A customer enters a shop to buy a flat screen. She’s read up on it online beforehand, read rest reports and customer recommendations, but first wants to see the device and clarify further details. In the shop itself, the customer compares the prices via Smartphone, and asks for other users’ experiences via Twitter or Facebook. Where will she ultimately buy it? Many specialist shops are making the woeful discovery that, although they invest in offering advice, the device will ultimately be ordered online. It doesn’t have to be like that, says Messerknecht. "Customers nowadays have ten to fifteen points of contact, such as the Internet, friends, blogs and test reports, before they decide. They’re often better informed than the salesperson." This is also why it would be advisable for shops to incorporate the new media into their strategies, Messerknecht adds, so that the salespeople can keep up. They could also check via Smartphone whether or not the device is in stock, whether it could be delivered quickly for free, and whether there is still room to move in terms of price.
Buying even after the shops close
Retailers could use the aforementioned QR codes to provide additional information on the desired jeans or sofa. Outside shop opening hours, product videos in display windows could be retrieved via Smartphone, or items sold directly via QR codes and delivered to the customers’ homes. There are already various new forms of addressing consumers via mobile devices, e.g. Shopkick, an app which locates customers when they enter a certain shop, giving them bonus points or personal discounts. Points are also earned when products are scanned via Smartphone. The points collected can be redeemed at all participating shops. British supermarket chain Tesco is currently using its subsidiary in South Korea to test shopping via virtual shelves set up at subway stations. While waiting for the next train, people can place the desired items in a virtual shopping basket via large flat screens, and pay by mobile phone. The items are delivered directly to their home. Shopping wherever we go and are. Those who find all this a bit much can always switch off.
*Source: Printedition Weser-Kurier, 02/05/2012