Retailing 2020: serving the digital consumer

Everyone already knows that the Internet changes the future of shopping... but who knows what exactly these changes will be, how consumer behaviour will change and how we, the retailers, should adapt to that? Our experts will point you to the answers during the first RetailDetail Congress, but retail professor Gino Van Ossel already lifts a corner of the veil.

The birth of the digital consumer

This increasingly digital world has given birth to a new kind of consumer, as University College of London professor David Nicholas will demonstrate on the RetailDetail Congress on 26 April. This new, 'digital consumer' is promiscuous in terms of media consumption: he knows no loyalty to favourite news sources and quickly scans the summaries of articles – at best.


This shift from thorough information to quick scans is omnipresent: of longer reports, this digital consumer often only reads the short summary; of short summaries, he often only reads the 140-character tweet when it is shared on social media. He never returns to as much as 40% of the websites he visits... and most important: he is starting to adapt the same habits offline, even during shopping.


Shopper-centric commerce

This new attitude towards life can have huge consequences for retailers: it will not be enough any more just to open a web shop or to make a mobile app. Retailers will have to learn to catch – and hold – the consumers' attention, a difficult task ever more retailers are becoming very aware of.


“The centre of things should not be the technology, but the customer and his experience. We should not divide retail in e-commerce, m-commerce, f-commerce and so on, we should think of 'shopper-centric commerce': the kind of commerce that, in all its different forms, starts from the customer”, says professor in retail marketing Gino Van Ossel.


“Shopper-centric means that before anything, the retailer starts with the customers and what they would like to see differently.” As the term “cross-channel retailing” implies, this often means combining different channels: consumers want to be able to buy through the channel they prefer, depending of the product and the occasion.


The illusion of mobile

Van Ossel therefore warns retailers to be careful with the mobile hype: “Often, retailers join the hype and adopt mobile for mobile's sake. Statistics like 'mobile commerce has doubled' can be read everywhere, but this does not reflect correctly the consumer reality.”


Van Ossel even opposes the term 'mobile commerce', as in his opinion smartphones and tablets are completely different from a retailer's point of view, as to how, and where, consumers use them. “Retailers should not forget that most consumers do not choose a world of as much e-commerce as possible”, as Van Ossel points out: even 'pure player' Amazon has begun to discover the path of physical stores, as the company realised their importance for its Kindle tablets. Online retailers have their disadvantages as well, he thinks: “They might be more performant in logistics, but physical retailers have the advantage when it comes to visibility and trust.”


Seen through the eyes of retailers

Retailing 2020 will feature two captains of industry, Frank De Moor (Macintosh) and Erwin van Osta (Hubo), to demonstrate how they see this evolution and how they adapt to it. Though completely different as retailers, both still believe in the importance of 'bricks'. They will therefore tackle questions like “How can a physical store adapt to this new cross-channel reality” and “how can a retailer, that often followed the same direction for decades, now suddenly choose another course?”


Logistics is the most difficult problem to cope with for traditional retailers: the continuing flow of goods is a real challenge - and especially the flow back from the customers is new to many chains. Both return logistics and the adoption of a performant delivery system can be quite the headache for retailers: in a recent study almost half of them indicated to be afraid of the complexity of deliveries.


Which channel to choose?

Only the retailer himself can choose which channel is the best for him, depending on which product he sells... but even more so his customers' desire defines which channel – or mix of channels – the retailer should adopt.


The road to achieving that ideal result also is different for everyone: “Companies should make the distinction between where they want to go, and how to get there”, says Van Ossel. “On 26 April, inspired by professor Nicholas' theories and testimonies by Frank De Moor and Erwin Van Osta, we will engage in an interesting discussion about what retail will bring us in 2020.


The complete interview with professor Gino Van Ossel will appear in this month's edition of the RetailDetail Magazine, which is available in Dutch and French.


To join the RetailDetail Congress on 26 April, please use the registration form at, to guarantee your seat next to over 600 leading retailers.