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Power to the people!

By Chris Buecker, CEO of Retailplus


Throughout the course of this pandemic, I have been amazed by the ability and agility of people adapting to the chaos and the challenges. It’s been like nothing we have seen before.

Retailers had to cope with stores opening and closing and the various restrictions and regulations. They had to accelerate their online capabilities and services to meet consumer demand, which was forced to go digital and has then stayed that way.

Notwithstanding, electrical retailers and the whole industry managed these challenges and even experienced an unexpected growth in 2020.

In our last survey we conducted with senior executives from the technical consumer goods (TCG) industry during the online TCG Summit Leaders Talk in May, the vast majority saw a continuing positive trend in 2021.

When everyone started working from home last year, people equipped their office spaces accordingly, but they are now demanding more sophisticated products for elsewhere in the home. The IT and SDA categories will continue to be in demand, so retailers should ask themselves what the CE market will look like in 2022; it will be interesting to see how sales figures compare against 2020 and this year.

Stores of the future

Retailers will need to define what the role of the physical store is. As technology becomes more and more complicated and customers need help in order to choose the right solution for their needs, they will be assisted by people. And stores have people – people to talk to.

Therefore, stores will be there in the future, maybe not exactly as we have seen them before, not just as stock piling units but as places of learning and interaction. Places where consumers can see, touch and enjoy technology and experience it, but most importantly where they can interact with sales people who have the knowledge to navigate customers towards their purchase.

I think we have to forget about the terms “online” and “offline”, and rather speak of “one channel”. The pandemic has sped up the digital transformation and showed electrical retailers who are lagging behind the necessity to implement a real omni-channel business model.

Last year, the leading CE retailer in Russia, M.video, was voted by the Grand Jury of the TCG Summit as CE Retailer of the Year for the successful evolution from an omni-channel to a “one retail” business – based on mobile technologies, data analytics and personalised service. By now, around 60 per cent of the company’s total revenue is internet-driven.

Nowadays, consumers move seamlessly along their journey from one touchpoint to another. Online video consultancy with sales associates directly from the store will become a normality. Dixons Carphone has already launched this service; even though it may not be perfect yet, it will become professionalised over time and turn into a strong additional tool for ‘brick and click’ retailers.

Another example: even faster delivery services are now the norm, but as China is showing, this can be taken to a new level. And the growth in live streaming commerce is becoming a whole new channel; social media is offering numerous opportunities.

At the recent TCG Summit in Budapest last month, Alibaba and an expert for retail in China looked at compelling business cases and what European tech retailers and brands can take from it.

The coming years

I am positive about the future. I see two major opportunities for our TCG industry. During the COVID crisis, technology has been recognised as a way forward, so retailers are in a great position to fight for a decent share of the consumer’s wallet.

In addition, another big opportunity is to accelerate innovation. In crisis mode, people tend to buy more durable products that would last longer and retailers can play an important part here. Consumers should not buy the cheapest but buy the best. This was another topic discussed at the TCG Summit last month.

The way forward is to broaden the technology presence within households and a faster renewal of products. If this can be applied then I predict great things ahead in our sector.

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