Innovation at the Point of Sale - A journey around the world
By Björn Portillo, Managing Partner at hmmh and Nicolas Roemer, Chief Business Development Officer at Serviceplan US.
A few years ago expert predicted the end of stationary retail. The word was that it could not persist parallel to online retail in this new, digital world. However, due to the slow but steady establishment of connected-commerce concepts, this view changed again. Former online pure players like notebooksbilliger.de or mymuesli even established stationary concept stores and now find themselves in the selection of major retail chains. But what are the drivers that have given impetus to this change and what innovations have helped retail get back into the game?
In order to explore the "why" of the paradigm shift, we will go on a journey through business and culture in the US, visit China, and then return to Germany.
Pack your bags in Germany
Many companies and agencies have worked hard to drive technical progress forward and make our everyday lives easier through innovation. Concepts for interactive consulting solutions and mobile consulting via one's own smartphone, mobile payments, or augmented and virtual reality have become sophisticated enough to use them in stores. However, these possibilities still go mostly unused here. Why is that? Is this because of retailers who ignore this potential due to traditional reasons? Or is it skepticism of new things and distrust of technology itself? Are German retailers, their customers, or even both afraid of innovation?
The risk-averse, conventional German loves to research and compare online. Where he goes shopping then, depends on the product and context: sometimes online, sometimes offline. It is important to him that he feels well counseled and informed and that he can study the desired product at length.
Technical barriers and lack of acceptance
For classical retailers it is not only important to have a wide range of products available at all times, but also to display the brands and their products just right for each customer. However, often the implementation connected commerce concepts already fails at the internet access for customers. The use of different systems that are not easy to integrate also often creates large barriers for retailers. This makes it difficult for retailers to recognise their customers and impossible to collect relevant data, to offer integrated consulting or a quick and easy way to pay. With the exception of a few examples.
Another challenge: While it is important to German consumers to test their desired products, even to try it out in their private surroundings, and also expect comprehensive individual consulting, they are often not willing to share their personal information.
Off to the US
The land of opportunity – is this also the case in terms of retail innovation and which of these developments have already established themselves?
A clearly larger population on a land mass that is 25 times larger... this makes it difficult to find the average American citizen. However, we can state that he is open for new things, thinks practically, and always looking for a deal. When he buys ice cream he likes to pay by credit card and when he goes food shopping he always has his trusty coupon book with him. The possibly most important innovation drivers for Americans are thriftiness and comfort.
Ideas are tested and optimised
New concepts arise every day, giving US citizens the shopping experience they demand. For instance, at the end of 2016, the internet giant Amazon opened the doors of his Amazon Go food store in Seattle. Standing in line and the physical act of paying are redundant here. Everything is handled via a motion detection system installed in the store - the so-called "Just walk out technology". Payments are made via PayPal and the Amazon.com account. Due to technical issues in motion detection and tracking more than 20 customers at a time, the store had to close its doors temporarily.