New technologies are constantly changing the way people buy and sell online – a fact that makes it difficult to predict what e-commerce will look like in the future. But at this year’s Bits & Pretzels, an annual founders festival held in Germany and proudly sponsored by Rakuten Europe, a host of talented entrepreneurs were on hand to highlight some likely trends. We caught up with one of them, Roman Kirsch, the founder of e-commerce disruptor Lesara.
A pioneer of so-called “agile retail” that is attracting attention in the fashion sector, Lesara determines the clothes and accessories it will sell based on an analysis of big data, meaning it is able to provide consumers with the latest items at the very moment they are looking for them.
You took part in a future commerce panel at Bits & Pretzels. What trends did you discuss?
Many more than I’d be able to repeat! They ranged from AI to VR, and many interesting platform ideas connecting consumers and sellers in innovative ways. It will be interesting to see which of them are here to stay. Trends nowadays accelerate much faster, but also fade out faster than before, a development that has a lot of potential for agile retail companies like ours. The cycle of trends becomes shorter and shorter – this goes in line with a generation that has grown up in the online world, multitasking along the way across phones, laptops and tablets, and trying out things way faster while also losing interest just as fast. This development can be used to an advantage as people nowadays have a higher purchase frequency than before, and also faster reaction times and higher demand for the trends of the moment.
Speaking of advantages, where do you see the biggest potential for online retailers at the moment?
The main competitive edge of online shops was and is data. Relying more and more on smart data offers almost unlimited possibilities in expanding the online market further and further. While offline stores are only able to offer one store front and one shopping experience to each customer that enters the store, online leaves many more opportunities in terms of personalized content and advertising.
In the years to come, companies will increasingly utilize data-based research to reach a whole new level of understanding of their consumers. Relevancy and levels of personalization will also increase due to constantly improving machine-learning algorithms. Tech-driven retailers will therefore be able to curate better products and have them available online before consumers even know that they need and want them.
Will people still go shopping at the mall or in the inner cities?
That really depends on the products and how the cities cope with the changes. As for fashion, classic offline retail will most likely stay flat or slightly decline. There are valid reasons to keep brick and mortar stores, but their purpose will change to branding or promotion of new collections or features. Online retail just offers so many more advantages. And there are even greater developments to come, like VR and AI, that will not only match the offline experience, but take it further.
And who will be delivering our parcels?
That’s going to be another exciting part of the retail journey in future! It might be drones, it might be electric cars or maybe the same mailman who delivers your parcels today. At this point, we can’t say who will be in charge of shipping in future, but we are focused on optimizing existing channels. And we will definitely be monitoring all trends closely and, as usual, back up any important decisions with data.