Turning shopping into an experience

Zukunft Shopping

Changing retail

The structural change is profound. Digitalisation ensures 24/7 availability, product and price comparisons are available at the click of a mouse, and shopping convenience extends to free return shipments with pick-up service on the doorstep.E-commerce is in the fast lane and online retailers are ahead in terms of automation and technology. But stationary retail is not out of the game. It is repositioning itself with new formats, offers and sophisticated marketing.

On-line or off-line: The main thing is getting it.

The new generation of buyers no longer distinguishes between sales channels. Therefore, the perfect orchestration of online and offline, clear positioning as a brand and efficient use of technology are decisive for the trade. It is quite possible that customers check out the shops and then go for an online purchase.

Only a combination of digital and analogue spaces, as they complement and support each other, conveys the shopping experience as added value and manifests itself to consumers. There is no either/or, as Gerhard Fehr, behavioural economist and owner of Fehr Advice, said in our interview. Experience spaces must be experienced analogously. This is one reason why online providers such as Zalando, Amazon or mymuesli.com also rely on offline and launch promotional activation measures.

Values instead of value

While discount offers have dominated in recent years in order to retain customers, today's trend demands a responsible use of resources with a high degree of transparency. The "main thing is much and cheap" no longer attracts Generation X and the Millennials. Material things have lost their high value to a sustainable experience.

This opens up new opportunities for the retail sector: those providers will be successful which create in-store experience and thus enhance their offering. It's the experience per square metre that counts, not the productivity per square metre.

Niche products and small brands with an ethical and transparent product policy benefit from the emerging zeitgeist. New, unique spaces are evolving to transport brand values. The Swiss cosmetics label Farfalla is a successful example.

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Swiss natural cosmetics Farfalla: New branding and shop architecture

Less is more

No department store can compete with the abundance of offers of online providers. On the other hand, there is the advisory competence of stationary retailers. "Other customers were interested also in..." - references and Chatbots can not compete with the friendly smile and the personal discussion. Customer proximity, services and experience help to retain customers.

On the retail space, changing, curated product offers are crowd pullers in a unique atmosphere. Once a year, Glatt therefore houses the largest walk-in wardrobe in Switzerland. Themed courses and the meet-and-greet with national influencers complete the event.

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Curated shopping at the Glatt shopping centre

Third Places

With the fusion of gastronomy and experience, classic retail approaches become hybrid places inspired by like-minded people, where visitors like to linger and be stimulated.

Even heavily frequented places such as airports or train stations have developed into temples of consumption. Whether for quick shopping or to bridge the waiting time, new shopping formats are emerging. The Migros Food Station is a successful example of this.

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Supermarket with integrated gastronomy formats
Future: Chatbot instead of sales consultant?

Stationary trading will remain in place. It is no longer the number of locations that counts but the quality of the shop location. Technologization will ideally allow consultants more time for customer care and enable new services.

The financial industry is mutating into FinTech, in the travel industry the neighbour is also a hotel and in the music industry vinyl is already hype again: As in other industries it remains rich in experiences and changes in retail.

For my part, I am looking forward to meeting "my" market trader on Saturday, the Zalando package in hand.


Text by Karin Knapp. She likes to pick up trends, but does not ride on every wave.

Sources: Retail Think Tank UK, GDI Das Ende des Konsums, Studies PwC Germany and KPMG Switzerland