• Austriandesign Slide

Trade innovations in the crisis

The Corona crisis is hitting the trade hard. 

Nevertheless, it is precisely in this state of emergency that immense forces are released. The trade is moving together and looking for new ways into the post-Corona world.

Retail - like our entire society - is going through hard times right now. Every day, retail (not grocery) is losing millions of euros in sales. Many retailers have had to close their shops in recent weeks, and many online shops are also experiencing a sharp drop in customer demand. And yet, it is precisely in this crisis that we feel that something is moving, that precisely because we have to break out of old patterns, new forces are being released.

Large and small traders work together, customers initiate aid programmes and offer support, different sectors find common ground. Suddenly Rusty blockades loosened, prejudices and competitive thinking thrown overboard, solutions found together.. What is most important at this time is to stick together. To share knowledge and work together on the future.

What is happening in retail right now moves everyone a lot and that is why Matthias Horx's Zukunftsinstitut has decided to Innovative strength of the trade in recent weeks and to map them. Not with the aim of showing all innovations or solutions in their entirety and for each individual, but nevertheless a current basic pattern that makes it tangible what power and speed the trade is displaying and what innovations are relevant for the future even after the crisis mode.


Dash Delivery - new mobility cooperations secure home delivery

Many shops and restaurants are closed, while food delivery services are completely overloaded. In short: Delivery becomes the decisive factor in the crisis.

Beyond the existing services, new ways to the customer are emerging everywhere: Restaurateurs are becoming caterers, supermarkets are becoming mobility providers. In China, food delivery giant Meituan Dianping is already taking contactless delivery to the next level, bringing Meituan Grocery's e-food deliveries home with unmanned vehicles and robots. An easier solution to implement is to deliver the products as a retailer itself: for example, the local bookshop Topping & Company Booksellers in Edinburgh, Scotland, sends its staff to customers on foot or by bike with the books they have bought. Marks & Spencer, on the other hand, works with logistics partners like Deliveroo to deliver essential groceries. And Providers of taxis, rental cars and car sharing, car rental companies, perhaps even public transport, become new suppliers in the crisis. The bus company Löble Reisen from Baden-Württemberg, for example, now drives goods to female customers with its buses, while in Munich the taxi service provider IsarFunk supports local restaurateurs with the "MyWirt" campaign.


Streaming services - retail brings the shop to the couch at home

Chat or video allow merchants and brands to stay in touch and offer new services and shopping even in these difficult times. Taobao Live, Alibaba's streaming platform, for example, shows chefs live in restaurant kitchens, real estate agents offering home tours, farmers promoting their fruits and vegetables, and even car dealers staging and selling luxury cars. Calvin Klein, in turn, celebrated the launch of its fashion collection in Asia in a virtual pop-up store. Not only did well-known Asian singers perform there, the customers also received a virtual personal tour of their favourite products.

Germany is following suit: The Düsseldorf-based start-up LiSA (short for Live Shopping Assistant) offers a range of services for Breuninger and others. Live stream shopping and the matching video advice. Many local retailers use social media to stay in touch with their female customers: e.g. Schuh Baar in Potsdam enables professional advice for buying new children's shoes via WhatsApp or Zoom.


Crisis Business - retailers and brands take responsibility

The crisis makes it difficult for retailers and manufacturers to continue their normal business. It is not only the hardship caused by closed shops and changing customer behaviour that makes companies look for alternatives. Also the will, Supporting people in crisis and to help drives them. The underwear manufacturer Mey and the clothing manufacturer Trigema now also produce mouth masks, the car manufacturer Fiat Chrysler and the fashion company Prada produce protective items for the health sector. More and more traders and manufacturers who currently have to stop their usual production and business, are now producing products that are particularly needed in the crisis. H&M, for example, also plans to produce and donate protective clothing for health workers. The spirits producer Jägermeister supplies alcohol to a hospital. Henkell Freixenet donates pure alcohol, which Merck now uses to produce disinfectants. LVMH, the world's leading luxury group, now produces hand disinfectants in addition to alcoholic beverages or perfumes, which are currently becoming increasingly rare on the market. In this way, retailers and manufacturers are making a valuable contribution to society in these times of crisis.


Local Ecosystems - cooperation instead of competition between traders

Everywhere, traders are joining forces to overcome the crisis. The focus is on the Expansion of a joint presence. Ebay started the Instant Help programme for small and local businesses relatively early, Shopware now connects over 50 retail providers to support smaller shops with training, sales and delivery solutions. And the Lozuka platform provides IT free of charge to interested retailers in a region to set up a regional web department stores'. The apps Wir von hier and Lokalkauf, which are still under construction, are the result of the Hackathon of the Federal Government of Germany. Either one receives the goods directly from the retailer or via an intermediary delivery service. But local businesses are also joining cross-sector together and call communities into being: today, for example, you can buy a voucher for your favourite shop and redeem it after the crisis, e.g. on helfen.berlin, vorfreude.kaufen in Vienna, Heimatliebe in Wiesbaden or worldwide on pleasedontclose.com. In the social networks, you can already find numerous Communities of local retailers. In many cities, too, online platforms and portals are set up by city marketing and local advertising associations where residents can get in touch with local shops, whether in Uelzen, Darmstadt or Berlin, etc.


Resource sharing - securing jobs by lending out employees

It is not only production stoppages and a lack of customers that are burdening the economy. Some industries have exactly the opposite problem: they are booming particularly strongly due to the corona crisis and suffer from Staff shortages. Retail giants like Amazon or Walmart have advertised 250,000 new jobs in the US alone to meet the growing demand for female employees. This imbalance has already led to some creative solutions since the crisis began. In China, more than 40 restaurants, hotels and cinema chains have already lent their staff to Hema, Alibaba's online supermarket chain. In Germany, too, a Staff partnership between McDonald's and Aldi quickly became known: The fast food chain lends its employees who are not currently needed in the restaurants to the discounter. In Austria, a separate job platform was even set up by the Ministry of Economics and the Trade Association for the temporary hiring out of workers for the food retail sector. The win-win situations that are currently emerging show that layoffs do not have to be mandatory in the economic crisis.


What matters now

In this time of crisis for bricks-and-mortar retailing, the following are becoming apparent Traders in solidarity and highly adaptable. They are pushing things that they now urgently need - either to structure customer masses and deliver goods to them or to be able to generate customer demand in the crisis. What has long been in (digital) strategy papers of large and small traders is now being implemented pragmatically and consistently, while at the same time and within the scope of their possibilities, many of them still show a willingness to help and get involved socially. It is precisely these companies that need to be promoted and protectedWhen the crisis is over, we will realise how creative they were and how much local retailers and responsible trading companies contribute to our economy and our society.


Details: Retail Report 2020 Theresa Schleicher and Janine Seitz
Photo: unsplash/Gaelle Marcel