Even before the pandemic, brick-and-mortar retail was in the process of a negative transformation: deserted inner cities, falling visitor numbers, growing competitive and price pressure, and demanding customer needs are making life difficult for retailers. New store concepts and greater cooperation between towns and retailers are urgently required in order to make city centres more appealing to consumers again. A current study from consulting firm FTI-Andersch is looking at shopping concepts for the future and the chances for stationary retail. It identifies seven priorities for stabilisation and sustainable success:

  • Digital in-store experiences
  • Flexible adaptation to trends
  • Individualisation and co-creation
  • Sustainability
  • Omni-channel integration
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Branding

In this and future blog posts, I will be taking a closer look at the aforementioned success factors and will expand on them.


Online and offline – with each other, not against each other.

We know from the past few months that younger consumers in particular have changed their buying behaviour during the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to win back this generation Z especially, as its purchasing power is considerable. The combination of physical presence in a store plus digital elements could successfully help attract (young) people back to the inner cities and shopping centres. After all, there are definitely aspects that many miss when shopping online, including being able to touch or try on the product and receiving expert advice. So the key factor for retail success is connected shopping. Online and offline – with each other, not against each other.


Some practical examples

Digital in-store experiences make your store more attractive. But what might this look like in practice? Here are a few ideas:

  • Digital payment systems that make long queues a thing of the past (amazon shows how this is done in its amazon go stores in the USA)
  • Information on product availability retrievable online
  • Intelligent customer recognition via a digital customer card
  • In-store navigation to the products that customers are looking for
  • Smart mirrors and apps for virtually trying on clothes or testing makeup (offered by Clinique and Estée Lauder, for example)
  • Social retail experiences: using a user-defined mini app-like program, customers can book in-store appointments and items to try on, contact customer services, find out about new products and exclusive content, and share their own content (Burberry operates such a store in China)
  • Digital installations: luxury retailer LuisaViaRoma, for example, has transformed its Florence store into an underwater paradise

Digital solutions primarily serve to bind customers more closely to brick-and-mortar retailing. Retailers should also take advantage of the opportunity to use them to collect and analyse customer information in order to tailor their offerings even more closely to their target groups. After all, the greatest added value of brick-and-mortar retail is on-site service. This is not just about collecting and storing customer data in a way that is, of course, always compliant with data protection laws. The data collected could, for example, be used to analyse and optimise routes through the store.


Connected shopping presents brick-and-mortar retailers with major challenges: in addition to an out-of-the-box mind-set, financial investments are also needed. This won’t happen overnight, but should be carefully planned and implemented over the next 1 to 2 years.


From person to person

In my opinion, investing in interpersonal customer contact and communication is just as important. You have probably already experienced, or know from your work, that a salesperson can decide whether customers leave the store with a full or empty bag. Customers don’t just expect smart mirrors, digital payment options, QR codes and app downloads. They expect a “real” person on site: an advisor, a friend or a coach. Someone who can communicate. The quality of this contact determines whether or not a purchase is made and whether or not customer loyalty is actively shaped. That’s why I urge you to invest in the targeted selection and training of people at the POS. After all, they are the psychologists of the future and represent a decisive economic factor for brick-and-mortar retail and hence also for the attractiveness of inner cities.