What are the new ideas and technologies for e-commerce and brick and mortar retail? And which ideas make sense for whom? In an unusual open atmosphere, experts from IT, retail and industry have been discussing the future of retail at the Internet World fair in Munich, which was held from March 24-25. It closed again with a new record attendance: 14,700 visitors from 37 countries made their way to Munich's Exhibition Grounds to inform themselves and exchange information, which is a plus of 13 percent. Besides almost 350 exhibitors and sponsors, the fair offered numerous top-class international Speakers, accompanied by the Internet World Congress.

There is no doubt: digital technologies will change the shopping experience in retail stores radically and will bring
Impression of a stand at the Internet World fair
Impression of a stand at the Internet World fair
together the different sales channels more closely than ever before. But still it’s hard to imagine how the digitalization of retail really looks like. "There's hardly another topic in the world of trade that's been more discussed than the digitalization of stationary trade”, explains Nicole Rüdlin, Head of Internet World Trade Fair. "After so much theoretics, we felt it necessary to finally present future retail in practice.” That’s why the fair added a new section to their program, the "Future Technology – Hands-on" section. Visitors were invited to visit the "Internet World Shop", developed specially for the fair in conjunction with exhibitors as a showroom to present stationary retail outlets of the future with innovative technology to try out and test. The shop presented e.g. intelligent shelves that automatically register which product has been selected and what the customer is most interested in. This technique is aimed to deliver the same quality of data about customer behavior as e-commerce shops have since many years. It helps to optimize the product range and display arrangement of goods in stores. Displays in the cabins allow the customers to get an overview of the product range without leaving the cubicle and contact a member of the sales staff. In addition, mobile payment terminals, QR-Code Shopping or Click & Collect solutions were presented.

Also the Beacon technology has been introduced, a technique, which was at peak at the last fair in 2014. Now, several retailers such as Sport Scheck have been testing it. “It is a promising new tool”, said Florian Hermsdorf, Senior Project Manager E-Commerce Competence Center of the Otto Group, to whom Sport Scheck belongs. Beacons are sensors which are placed in the store to connect with a customer’s smartphone to help with navigation through the store, find special articles or show personalized offers or discounts. Critics, however, doubt the customer will really activate the technology on an app. This does not mean the end of the idea of ​​in-store tracking, it just means the search for new solutions will continue. Also, different data glasses were available for visitors for testing.

Quite prevalent was the new realism about the financial risks of opening an online shop for brick and mortar stores. Years after the first stores went online, it becomes more and more clear, that the business is way harder than expected. Many e-shops became insolvent and are now under reconstruction. The expectations have been too high and the investments too expensive, experts say. “Today, competing with Zalando doesn’t make sense at all,” sums up Markus Diekmann, author of the German book “E-Commerce lohnt sich nicht”. “You have to be smart and develop your own online-shop profile”, he explains.