The product finds the customer
Global, networked, urban, mobile, personalised – umdasch Digital Retail, which was added to the service range of umdasch The Store Makers in 2014, is committed to the guiding principles of the 21st century.
More keywords than buzzwords for Managing Director Bernd Albl, ones he quickly brings to life. “When I look to the future, a great deal is happening in the areas of virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence,” says Albl, adding in the next breath that the opportunities digitisation offers retail are simply inexhaustible. “In future we may even be able to measure a consumer’s vital signs as he enters the store, which would enable us to present product suggestions to him.” The umdasch expert believes there’s a fundamental split in current opinion in the retail sector on the topic of digitisation: “While it is true that digitisation is accorded a crucial role, at the same time there are
reservations towards the trends and developments.”
„A one-off investment will not suffice“
The issue of data protection and also the necessary investments are inhibiting willingness to upgrade on the digital front. “Digitisation is a process and as such difficult to grasp, or in other words, a one-off investment will not suffice, and development must continually be advanced.” Here too, Albl and his team feel obliged to act in an informative, advisory and supporting function. And that is a valued service. Indeed, umdasch Digital Retail, considered one of the pioneers in electronic price labelling, can surely also boast of having convinced sceptics of the merits of electronic shelf labelling. Whereas electronic product labelling was still viewed with suspicion several years ago, today it is valued above all in food retailing. The display screens affixed to goods carriers enable automatic price and information labelling of the products and are always up to date – and save time as well as money into the bargain.
With Digital Signage to interactive experiences
Digital signage is likewise commonplace. A study conducted with the University of Vienna shows that digital signage has a strong influence on consumers’ cognition, emotions and behaviour. Be it a head-up display at the entrance, mini signage for tailored advertising slogans on the shelving, a transparent box for product presentations or a virtual point of sale as an interactive experience, in the best case effective messages animate consumers to buy. The image of the store and product quality are more favourably assessed, negative emotions are reduced, a return visit becomes more probable, and waiting time at the checkout counter is perceived as shorter.
The technologies of the future
According to Albl the upcoming mobile telecommunication standard 5G, which enables mobile payments and the acceptance of cryptocurrencies, will stimulate developments even further. The standard is scheduled to roll out in Germany as of 2020 and will lay the foundation for a comprehensive digitisation of business and society, according to a study by Roland Berger and the Internet Economy Foundation. “5G is a central lever for advancing digitisation,” it states. 5G will lead to a quantum leap in terms of speed, reliability and availability of mobile telecommunications, the study goes on to claim. The new standard is optimised for the Internet of Things, for the billions of networked end devices that will communicate with each other and with us in future. Thousands of devices will function reliably within a network cell and energy-efficient data will be able to be exchanged.
Mobile payment becomes more and more relevant with the support of 5G.
Customer Tracking, Self-Check-out, Chatbots and Co.
It is already clear that those companies which have firm control of their data today will benefit most. Indeed, this is the basis for optimising all processes, which ultimately leads to higher profits. “A data-driven valuecreation chain creates new opportunities for strategic growth options and the exploitation of potential efficiencies,” says Albl. This includes measures such as involving mobile devices in the customer journey and topics including customer tracking and self-checkout. Then there is personalisation and establishing chatbots/digital language assistants – also to link the channels. “In consumers’ eyes, digitisation has long since blurred the boundaries between on-site and online retailing, even if some will dispute that,” says the umdasch expert. Even if the answers are different in individual cases, the tasks are essentially always the same.
The seamless link between offline and online
“The retailer must fulfill the customer’s wishes. That hasn’t changed of course. And the customer wants to be inspired – he is looking for an experience.” For this reason, Albl notes, a seamless link between digital and physical shopping experiences is the precondition for the cross-channel services customers so cherish. “One of our key tasks is to help with the personalised development and realisation of POS 4.0. Together with our colleagues in store making, we assume the important role of integrator,” explains Albl. This staging of an interactive experience combined with the long-standing shop-fitting expertise characterises the experts’ approach.
The connection between offline and online is a prerequisite for customer shopping experiences.
Seamless shopping: centred on a sense of pleasure
Constant innovation as well as new ideas and technologies look for individual answers. Today’s consistenly networked customer is pushing for seamless shopping, which means that he no longer distinguishes at which point of the customer journey he looks for contact – online or offline. “The consumer no longer thinks about phases, where one can tediously select, pay for or collect a product,” says Albl. The advantage of seamlessness is that there is no pressure. For the seamless-shopping customer, the entire process is associated with a pleasant factor or a feeling of happiness; everything else happens in the background. “What is important to understand is that it is not the customer who has to search for the product – the product finds the customer!” emphasises Albl.
Yet when it comes to digitisation, how do retail companies manage not only to respond, but themselves be at the helm? First and foremost they must consider which topics relating to customers and staff can optimise or expand the company. Where can value-added be created? Or more generally, where can digitisation improve areas of operation?
The integration of Digital Solutions – A process
For Albl it is important in his consulting sessions that trends are understood. And he doesn’t just mean the actual technology, but also its advantages and benefits. Last but not least, the technology must suit the retailer’s overall concept and customer journey. In a second step he recommends defining use cases – the basis of the objectives and approaches for value-added. The next step involves examining where potential touchpoints exist on the customer journey, for example in the retail space or in the digital world – be it via smartphone or on the PC. After all, in the digital age the customer journey begins within your own four walls. “Together with the retail companies, we at umdasch Digital Retail observe and analyse which resources are first available and second required in order to be able to implement the digitisation concept in the next three to five years,” says Albl, explaining the optimal procedure.
Not to forget, decision-makers shouldn’t solely take their cue from trends, but should also give consideration to such aspects as feasibility, expense and others’ experiences. Just because something is complex and novel certainly doesn’t mean it is suitable. “Of course, retailers can use 3D printing, brain interfaces, drones and mind control. And they are no doubt fancy ideas, but the underlying technology is not yet fully developed. And that’s not even to go into the complexity,” says Albl, and advises against being overly proactive in this regard.
The customer as success factor: eleminating reservations, building trust
Ultimately it is the market that decides on whether a digital trend gets accepted. As such it will be exciting to see whether the convenience of mobile payment methods or the fear of mass surveillance will tip the scales. Albl: “Sometimes we have to eliminate reservations and build trust. We are used to trading with physical wares or paying with cash – we have done so for centuries. It’s a pattern based on familiarisation and many of us are safety-minded.” For him, one thing is clear: “As I see it, the acceptance of mobile payments is only a matter of time. You simply need to build trust. After all, the advantages of digital payment methods are obvious.” The foundations for real-time transactions have already been laid at the European level. With the help of this instant payment process, transactions will be finalised within a matter of seconds and the advantages of exchange with cash transactions transported into the digital world – cashless cash, as it were.
„People are becoming more willing to invest“
Fundamentally, the experts have identified geographical differences when it comes to digitisation. The stance adopted in German-speaking countries is, they say, somewhat more conservative in comparison to frontrunners such as Asia or America, but is by no means closed. “Society is open to new technologies, only many consumers are more careful, taking the approach: ‘We don’t have to be the first.’ All the same, we at umdasch Digital Retail are noticing that things are picking up and people are becoming more willing to invest,” comments Albl.
There is enormous potential: In 2050, around 70 to 80 percent of the population will live in urban areas, different cultures are increasingly merging, languages and living habits are blending. Against this background digital solutions have great potential to support or even realise shopping experiences. “We will use space more efficiently. Stores will exhibit fewer goods and yet still offer more variety; new transport solutions are also in demand here. Customer contact will be able to take into account how different the respective language is,” forecasts the digital manager.
This will give rise to new, exciting and at least in part personalised retail spaces. “Of course, as with all changes, it also takes a little courage”, says Albl. Based on the data acquired, he continues, one must exploit the advantages in order to set oneself off from the competition, for instance with digital language assistants – the current “hottest” trend.