Digitalization is a major source of challenges for the retail sector. But it's also a once-in-a-century opportunity for diversification into new business areas and new customer segments. By way of background, a recent survey by Germany's top ICT industry association, Bitkom, reveals that 98 percent of German Internet users shop online. About half of those surveyed research their purchases at brick-and-mortar stores before buying online at least some of the time, and around 60 percent do the opposite at least some of the time and buy in stores after researching their purchases extensively online. Furthermore, the main driver of online research is price comparison, while the key benefit of the in-store experience is the ability to see what the products really look like and try them out.
New cross-channel services such as Click & Collect and Same Day Delivery offer exciting opportunities for retailers. According to Bitkom, 46 percent of Internet users in Germany say they would consider using Click & Collect, while 58 percent of users expressed interest in Same Day Delivery. No less interestingly, around 60 percent of the Internet users surveyed said they'd like to see brick-and-mortar retailers offering some kind of digital service. The wish list here includes smartphone apps that guide shoppers through the aisles and display information on products and specials along the way.
Smartphones are, of course, part of mCommerce – a trend that is transforming the retail sector as more and more customers reach for their mobile devices to hunt down the best deals. The latest figures from the e-KIX eCommerce business index published by the German Retail Federation (HDE) and ECC Köln show that 30 percent of all visits to online shops are made via smartphone or tablet. In other words, optimizing online shops only for PCs and laptops is a recipe for squandering opportunities and scaring off customers. Another hurdle that's slowing the uptake of mCommerce in Germany is the country's somewhat patchy mobile data networks. "In order for the retail sector to grow, Germany urgently needs to fill the gaps in its nationwide mobile broadband coverage," says German Retail Federation (HDE) Deputy CEO Stephan Tromp. Making mobile shopping faster and more convenient calls for seamless mobile broadband networks based on LTE or UMTS technology.
About 70 percent of the 50 top-selling retailers in the eCommerce space in Germany, Austria and Switzerland offer smartphone shopping apps (source: Teradata study). That may sound impressive, but not if you compare it with other industrial nations, such as the UK, where practically every major eCommerce retailer (i.e. 96%) has its own shopping app. Even worse, German retailers are also missing out on a lot of customer engagement and communication opportunities. While two thirds of the above 50 top retailers have apps that include push functionality, only a fifth of those companies actively use push notifications to engage with their customers. Many German companies are also a little slow to get on board with the social media marketing trend. But it is happening, because social media are a great way for companies – particularly SMEs – to accurately target their customers and mobilize them for events and campaigns. Retailers are also increasingly using messaging apps like WhatsApp for direct communication with customers.
The importance of all these trends is reflected in the continued prominence of cross-channel commerce themes at the Planet Reseller showcase at CeBIT 2016. A visit to Planet Reseller (Hall 14/15) is an absolute must for online retailers, systems providers and distributors in the ICT sector who want to keep up with the latest developments. It is where decision makers in retail and purchasing go to learn how they can use the latest generation of e- and mCommerce solutions to grow their sales. But that's not all: At Planet Reseller, these trade professionals can also gather first-hand information on innovations that will future-proof their businesses – innovations in all kinds of areas, including cloud computing, big data and security. Planet Reseller is a "trade only" event, meaning that admission is restricted to ICT resellers and distributors, systems providers and media representatives. Further information is available online at www.cebit.de/en/exhibition/specials/planet-reseller/ .