5 examples of digital shop concepts in the retail industry

Corner shops, department stores and specialist shops are gradually disappearing. But this is a trend that has been around for over 50 years and as such not linked to the rise of the Internet. The retail industry is in a constant state of flux. In future, retailers will have to think outside the box and come up with new, and above all digital shop concepts. Only by doing so will they still be able to reach the majority of the customer base in the future.

This requirement is being catered to in the online environment with a steady stream of new innovations and technological solutions. Many characterise these changes as a paradigm shift. But this doesn't mean that bricks-and-mortar retailers will lose their relevance. Rather it means they must strike a new balance between digital and traditional points of contact with the customer. The following digital shop concepts illustrate how retailers can combine both digital and traditional aspects.


Meals by message: Ordering via messenger services

One digital concept that has enjoyed a noticeable boost thanks to the pandemic is ordering food via messenger services, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram and Threema. Here, use is made of the digital communication channels that the customers already have access to. The advantage: as a retailer, you don't have to set up a variety of different social media profiles. Instead, you find out what messengers your customers use and selectively insert your service there.

This possibility is primarily being used by restaurants that have had to establish an alternative source of income as a delivery service, or at least collection service, due to the pandemic. It allows customers to conveniently order delicious food and ready-to-eat meals to their homes via messenger service.

The retail industry is gradually starting to explore the possibilities, and offers one or the other service via WhatsApp. The large retail and supermarket chains haven't jumped on this bandwagon yet, preferring to rely on their own platforms instead.


Visually appealing: Shopping in the social web

The photo platform Instagram has offered so-called "shoppable tags" since 2016. They enable you to link your products – or product catalogue – to your Instagram profile. When you post new product photos, you can tag the goods and pricing on the photo. Do you primarily appeal to a young audience? Then you should really give Instagram a try.

As digital natives and millennials are doing more and more of their online shopping via the social web, researching products in the social networks will become standard practice in the foreseeable future. Retailers in the lifestyle segment are increasingly relying on the shopping experience via Instagram. Not that many retailers in the German-speaking countries have embraced the trend yet, though.

If your customer base consists of young people and you sell products that can be effectively showcased on Instagram, there's no reason not to try this digital concept out yourself.


Personalised shopping experience: Arrange appointments for shopping

The numerous pandemic-related restrictions have meant that the retail industry has had to come up with creative solutions – and the ideas are not just limited to the use of messengers for communicating with customers. Customers are also being offered unique, personalised shopping experiences.

Rituals, a Swedish cosmetic brand, developed out of necessity a personalised shopping experience for its customers. Indeed, they made a virtue out of necessity. Customers can arrange an appointment at a Ritual shop of their choice via a digital booking system. During this time, the shoppers can shop at their leisure – without the presence of other people. In this way, Rituals makes it possible for each of its customers to enjoy a safe, unforgettable and very unique shopping experience.

It seems quite simple to put into practice - all you need to make it work is a booking system tailored to your brand and the needs of your customers. Of course, a system like this only makes sense if you offer a product or service that your customers would only get in full shops under normal circumstances.


Automatic point-of-sale terminals: Shopping to go

A digital shop concept without cashiers? You may be familiar with such a concept. In the United States, the American online mail-order company opened a number of cashier-free grocery stores. Customers pay by app or credit card. The supermarket chain Tegut has been testing the concept since the end of 2020 as well. Here, customers in a test shop scan the products and groceries themselves and pay for them via a number of payment methods, such as app, credit or debit card. And they don't need to go through a check-out or wait in line.

With this digital shop concept, Tegut is responding to the change in society’s consumer behaviour, lifestyle and work habit due to the pandemic. The idea focuses on convenience goods people need every day – you won't find exotic or especially expensive foods here. Another advantage of this solution: the shop concept – theoretically – allows the small supermarket to remain open 24/7. As such, the shop adapts to the habits of its customers, and not the other way around. The logistical and technical requirements for such a shop shouldn't be underestimated, however. But the concept can be imagined on a smaller scale too. In rural areas, you often see vending machines that are filled with a limited number of important products. So, anyone who needs something urgently can also "shop" on Sundays and public holidays.


Fully digital: The future of shopping in the digital city

A virtual marketing and event city? Just such a digital city went online on the 1st of December last year. So, what makes the Open Digital City (OCD) different to the normal digital conferences and formats? In the ODC, visitors can move around freely, gather information and discover new things with just a few clicks. The Open Digital City is open 24/7 and is growing constantly according to its developer Marco Janck.

Besides a digital conference centre, where visitors can listen to interesting presentations, there are so-called Theme Districts, which are dedicated to various marketing disciplines. Visitors can discover shops and kiosks here. So-called Culture Hoods feature art, social projects and serve as inspiration. Guided tours and food courts complete the digital city experience.

The technical implementation of such a digital city is certainly impressive – but it isn’t transferable 1:1 to the retail industry. Rather, the example should be used as a source of inspiration. When it comes to devising shop concepts, think outside the box and digitally too, if your customers are increasingly spending time there.


Upshot: So, everything's digital then?

There are a lot of ways you can use technology for your own shop concept. Many of the examples cited here show that you shouldn't think in purely digital terms, though. You can be far more successful with a mix of digital technologies and traditional concepts. You should try to use digital means not only to reach your customer base, but make their daily life easier, if possible, and perhaps inspire them a bit too. Personalised ordering, communication and payment options are a first important step.

Are you already using social media to communicate with your customers? With social media marketing, you can selectively target your customers in the social web, build and maintain a relationship with them, and present your products to them. If you don't yet know where to begin, feel free to contact us.

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