Alexander Birken, CEO of the Otto Group, painted a gloomy picture of the future at the 25th German Trade Congress: “anyone who does not start with the digital transformation now will not be on the market in five years at the latest.” The core theme of the congress? You guessed it: the digital transformation and the consequences for the retail sector.
For many of the 1,500 participants who came to Berlin on November 15 and 16, keywords such as omni channel strategies and customer centric have long been common vocabulary. How the practice looks like is however by no means clear to all companies. The workshops and panels were full of retailers, service providers and associations discussing how corporate structures can be adapted to the digital age.
The speakers really impressed me. In addition to Birken from the Otto Group, Ralf Kleber, Country Manager Germany of e-commerce giant Amazon, and Pieter Haas, CEO of Media-Saturn-Holding GmbH, among others, gave their best-practice examples. While Birken set up five theses on the future of commerce, Kleber described the innovation culture of the top dog, who has invested a whopping $16 billion this year – 30 percent more than the VW Group for research and development.
Of course, the big players do not all follow the same approach, but the heavyweights in the industry agree on one point: it’s all about the customer whose needs the companies need to align to. Because consumer behaviors are changing so rapidly, traders must react quickly – and, according to their own statements, sometimes fail to learn from mistakes. An online supermarket by Otto flopped a few years ago. Today, customers are ready for it, Birken reported.
While many people are still discussing the optimal combination of online and offline channels, Eben Sermon, Vice President of eBay Germany, is convinced that consumers have long since stopped distinguishing between online and offline. This is in line with our experience as a 360-degree service provider for retailers: consumers want to shop whatever they like, anytime, anywhere. It is therefore important to extend the shopping experience from the store to the online world – and vice versa. Omni channel, to use buzz words.
The required technological development is associated with high costs as well as innovation and management use. The big players in the e-commerce sector do this by themselves and have a competitive advantage in comparison with small and medium-sized companies. The latter can use a strong partner that helps them better understand customer behavior.
With our pay-after-delivery solution AfterPay, we offer just that: We extend the customer journey beyond checkout, add new consumer touchpoints and create more valuable data for the merchants. They get more information, interact with their customers for a longer period of time – and stand a much better chance to stay in business, even in five years.
– Director Sales –