It wasn’t all blue skies for offline retail even before corona hit: ‘Will retail die?’ some had gotten into the habit of asking and the term ‘retail apocalypse’ has been around for a few years now. In fact, the German retail trade association HDE predicted that between 2017 and 2020 50,000 stores across the country would close down. And now corona. Does that mean that ‘retail vs. online’ has been settled once and for all? While the challenges might seem more numerous than ever, the number of solutions is steadily increasing as well. Let’s take a look at three current issues brick & mortar retailers are dealing with. And then let’s explore how we at Leaf address each one of them!
Demand for digital
The demand for digital options when shopping at offline retailers had been growing for a while. Now corona has given it the last impetus it needed to take center-stage. Features such as free WiFi or digital loyalty programmes had long before corona turned from nice-to-haves into must-haves. Now online offers are more popular than ever, alongside contactless payment methods. We at Leaf add the last missing piece to the digital brick & mortar experience: the digital (hygienic!) receipt. With a contactless digital receipt, or ‘leaf’, customers can track their spending more easily and even earn rewards.
It is no news that engagement for retailers is broken. While e-commerce gets all the tools to understand their customers and offer personalised promotions retailers hand over a receipt and watch their customers walk out the door. No more interaction, no chance to build a meaningful relationship post-purchase. The customer has come, often prompted by elaborate campaigns, and has left. There’s no doubt as to who’s been winning this round of ‘retail vs. online’ so far.
Enter Leaf. We asked ourselves, where the retailer and the customer lose touch: After handing over the receipt. So this is where we saw the chance to create the missing link in an otherwise digitized transaction. Through smart receipts, a loyalty program and an insights platform, Leaf provides retailers with new possibilities. It is now finally possible for offline retailers to understand customers and engage with them the way e-commerce does. Who’s winning engagement now?
With all the challenges brought about by corona, it’s easy to forget that the current pandemic isn’t the first hit brick & mortar stores in Germany have had to take in the ‘retail vs. online’ arena this year. As of January 1, 2020, retailers are legally required to provide customers with a receipt – no matter the value of the transaction. While Germany only introduced this legislation recently, other countries, such as Austria, have been requiring receipts for all cash transactions for years. This means that large numbers of receipts are a problem for retailers internationally both in terms of cost and environmental impact.
The legal requirement translates into upgrading the POS systems, purchasing thermal paper and incurring additional costs for disposing of the receipts customers leave behind. This is bad news for retailers because price is a factor that often tips the scale in a customer’s personal ‘retail vs. online’ battle. Luckily, Leaf digital receipts are a cost-effective and easily integrated solution to the problem.
In addition, during a time when environmental awareness is steadily on the rise, toxic paper receipts are simply outdated. We only had two words when we found out that we had no choice but to take such a receipt: ‘How ridiculous!’ And that’s why we’re extra proud to provide Leaf to retailers. It has a positive environmental impact and when it comes to preventing climate change, every little bit counts.
So who is winning ‘retail vs. online’ then?
There is no doubt that retail is facing severe challenges, but maybe catching up isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Options such as Leaf certainly do their part to support retailers. And who knows, maybe one day, offline retail will be able to offer all e-commerce can. The in-store experience might just become the added benefit that tips the scale. With this thought, we’ll leave you to decide whether the ‘retail vs. online’ battle is as settled as it might appear for now.
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For the German version of this article, click here.