My name is Thomas Mey. I have been earning my bread and butter in the trade since completing my apprenticeship as an electrician. That was a good 30 years ago. When I started in retail, all the big retail chains were expanding into the new federal states. Consumer electronics stores like EP Expert, Media Markt or computer discounters like Vobis and Escom entered the market. Aldi created a kind of non-brand brand with the Aldi PC and brought the personal computer into all households. Initially as a salesman, then in various positions with personnel and budget responsibility, I was entrusted with a wide variety of tasks. I later moved into management and was responsible for optimizing and opening new Media Markt stores in Germany. The constant changes within the product world meant that we were always facing new challenges at the POS. But this is also where I see my strengths, and fortunately I was able to turn this into my profession: Department Manager Store Design.
You have been in Channel Marketing for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your career to today: What has changed most positively in retail, what needs to happen in the next years for retail to be able to thrive?
How I look at it, retail trade is not a means to an end in itself. Retail – or rather the way we trade – reflects a piece of our society. The technical possibilities are being used without restriction, by customers and retailers alike.
Retail will undoubtedly continue to succeed. The structure will adapt to the needs.
Retailers must increasingly see themselves as a platform for those who have needs (customers) and those who satisfy the needs (manufacturers). Dealers will therefore become demanders vis-à-vis the industry and must be put more in the position of acting. Knowing that it will rain tomorrow is not enough. Knowing that tomorrow 1000 customers will need an umbrella is the capital of the retailer.
Let’s talk about Brand Ambassadors: In the past, any Retail Salespeople were not the best experts, that is why many leading players were relying on Brand Ambassadors in the stores. Now, with Covid 19 and even after Covid 19, what is the future of Brand Ambassadors from your point of view?
Boutiques, stores, specialist markets or large shopping and experience temples will still have a strong appeal in the future. The common hunt is deeply rooted in us. There are also many objective reasons for wanting to look at, touch or try out the products. So, it is correct and important to invest in brand ambassadors. But it’s not enough to just put on a sweater and recite the contents of all the instruction manuals to the customers. I want a qualified retailer employee who responds to the customer’s needs and offers solutions, across all brands. This creates trust in the retail brand and makes the platform all the more attractive for manufacturers.
Modern technology would allow to really have an omnichannel experience. For example, looking at products in AR at home, video calling a sales consultant, and to get the product delivered within a very short timeframe from a store next door. What are your thoughts on these options?
These technologies are certainly interesting for the Generation Zero, which is practically growing up with them. As long as it takes more time to explain how the technology works than to fulfill the purpose of looking at the product, trying it out and buying it, it will have no relevance.
Will physical retail turn from best price into best experience? Will stores change to brand experience centers? And how would you foresee such a change / evolution of retail?
That’s actually a scenario that I think is realistic. In the future, the digital possibilities will quite quickly ensure relative price equality. The large retail chains will no longer write price tags. There will simply be a switch. So, preferences will be created with the same assortment in the service, the same processes, and with the employee.
How is social media and social selling affecting offline retail in your opinion?
Positively. One more channel. One more motor for growth.
Do you think, video salespeople would be a solution during or even after Covid 19, or virtual chatbots, where consumers speak to for example a robot/animated character?
That is conceivable. However, there is still some technical work to be done here. The processes behind this are also complex and always depend on the individual process.
Service and installs are more and more important. For example, when buying a complex smart home setup, consumers do not just need an install service to mount a TV to the wall, but also a complete setup service until the products are connected, programmed, and 100% functional, why does nobody offer these kinds of services? What is your take on this? Should retail stores offer that or the manufacturers? Would consumers pay extra for that or should that be part of an excellent service?
Hmm. We already do. Sometimes well and sometimes less well. In the land of DIY stores, it is certainly a challenge to convey added value to our customers, but unfortunately, we sometimes fail to deliver on our promises. Yes, our customers are willing to pay for it. But they also expect craftsmen who are clean, not sweaty, knowledgeable and experts in their field, with shoe covers, and who can answer every question about the appliance in question. We are working on it.
Which project / topic in your job were you particularly proud of?
Every Media Markt now has something of me in it 😉.
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