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Retail is dead, long live retail - five tips on how brick-and-mortar retail can thrive in Post-Corona

By Professor Dr Wolfgang Merkle

March 7 2022 - Almost two years of Corona discussion with accompanying lock-downs, mandatory masks and access restrictions have also left their mark on consumers and left a lasting impression on their behavior: Because in the Corona state of exception, many people have apparently simply gotten out of the habit of going downtown and have now shown all consumers the advantages of online retailing in terms of selection and services.

In the wake of this continous evolution, how should stationary retail, already weakened by two years of temporary closures and limitation of access, react to the current situation? Has the industry learnt valuable lessons from the past year, and how can it prepare for possible new store closures and cuts?

The recent developments caused a further deterioration in the consumer climate, which is likely to lead to a further increase in the shift in demand towards online that was initiated with the introduction of lockdowns across the world.

This means that retailers have to face a fundamental revision and sharpening of their concepts.

Here, we look at five tips and strategies retailers can implement to reinvent their businesses and counteract changing consumer behaviour.

Create more experience per square metre

Stop thinking like a retailer and act on "more experience per square foot" instead of more "sales per square foot".

This approach will set you apart and will help you to innovate and succeed in comparison to the competition.

Make products tangible with all senses

Offer your customers more than an online shop can offer: make your range of products and goods tangible with all your senses and use your presence for direct exchanges with your customers. Make a targeted pre-selection of the individual products and give authentic advice. That is the ultimate objective and your real advantage over online trading. You can exchange personal information with the customers and create an engaging shopping experience for them.

Use the possibility of three-dimensional staging

"We've always done it that way" is an absolute no-go, even against the background of a traditional company. Online trade is flourishing and the USPs of retail must now be clearly brought to the fore and the advantages of personal presence must be exploited. Use your physical presence and stage your offer with an exciting shop design and attractive merchandising.

Optimisation of process quality and customer orientation

Take the consumer's perspective into consideration even more than before and pay attention to the overall operating and service quality, down to the smallest detail. Relevant information on the manufacture and use of individual products can be helpful here. Optimise the check-out and payment processes and offers that pay even more attention to the wishes and needs of the customers.

Checking your own communication channels

Flyer advertising does not necessarily contribute to customer loyalty. Instead, consider giving relevant and inspiring background information about your products in order to develop a real binding force with attractive content and ideally to encourage further recommendations.

If brick-and-mortar retail wants to survive in the long term, it must be even more committed than before to playing off its specific advantages over the increasingly diverse online competition which is easily accessible with just a few clicks. If customers are to continue to visit the stationary retail trade, then shops must offer more than a web shop.

About the author

Professor Dr Wolfgang Merkle is Professor of Marketing & Management at the University of Europe for Applied Sciences (UE), a private University in Germany with locations in Hamburg, Berlin, Potsdam and Iserlohn. He held various management positions at Tchibo, Galeria Kaufhof, ZARA, Massimo Dutti und Otto.

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