Agiles Arbeiten

The 5 most important questions on the way to an agile business

“Being able to adapt quickly, flexibly, and proactively to new situations” – the significance of agility is not disputed. But how to achieve an agile digital agency definitely is. In the middle of the transformation of hmmh, we take a break and look back: what are the most valuable experiences from our change process with 300 employees up to this point and what questions should agencies ask when they move in the direction of agility?

Independent of industry, many employees today expect being able to realize themselves in the company and being able to show off their skills in interdisciplinary and exciting projects. Questions like “Why do we go to work in the morning” and “What is our mission?” demand clear answers. The objectives of companies are also clearly defined: finding creative solutions for the ever-changing needs of customers quickly, to keep up, and thus growing the company’s success and consequently their own. Achieving this while staying competitive requires more autonomous working methods and an agile structure. In addition to the will to change something, one must also raise internal awareness for the subject in order to be able to get all employees on board. And it requires a company structure with as few hierarchies as possible. However, the whole thing will only work within predefined boundaries for the entire team which leave enough room for creativity and autonomy for each individual and provide mutual trust. Once the change has been decided and the general direction laid out, the right strategy for the agile transformation must be found.

1. What is the right strategy for the transformation?

First of all: There is no “one right” strategy. Depending on industry, business size, and the willingness of the team, we decide whether the culture and structure should change gradually or in a short time. For companies with different service areas, only partially agile customers, and employees who are not yet completely convinced we recommend putting together a small group of promotors. As representatives of the different departments, they collect requirements, wishes, and concerns of the entire company, take care of the framework conditions, and accompany the process. The more varied the opinions, the better. Routines are deconstructed and then new paths found together. In 2015, after interviews and open spaces and after finding a strategy task force consisting of elected representatives for each area who accompanied the process, at hmmh this meant saying goodbye to functional pillar structures and “departments”. As the word already indicates, it is derived from parts (“de-part-ment”), the exact opposite of the objective. In this phase, hmmh formed agile customer teams in order to be able to address customer wishes faster and more flexible.

2. Creating initiative – How does one do that?

The developer, creative conceptioner, consultant, graphic designer, copywriter, HR, or management: each person in the company has different responsibilities and roles which require different skills. Breaking up all structures and redistributing responsibilities requires large-scale T-shaping in the company. This means that for instance developers also need to take on leadership roles for customer projects and internal tasks: either as member of a temporary SIG (Special Interest Group) created for a specific question or of a COP (Community of Practice) which tackles specialized topics across the company. Most of all, one must get adapted to the new spirit in order to focus on the positive aspects of an autonomous working method. Transparency and the involvement of each employee is the main point here in order to achieve the needed acceptance. This also includes education concerning the new possibilities and duties that come with such a change. The management must lead by example, delegate responsibility, and trust in its team and give them space to work. However, this also means that the management should initiate this process, guide it positively, and sometimes provide additional impetus. Courage to change serves as a role model and is contagious. The main foundation and guarantee for a successful transformation is a team that knows the objective.

3. Do the internal systems still fit the structure?

While the type of organization, the thinking, and working methods change it is important to check the internal systems for their fitness. How agile are the tools and programs which are a part of everyday work? Be it for internal information exchange, scheduling, or budgeting. The tools have to fit the organizational structure and permit agile work. No matter whether you use Confluence, Rocket Chat, or Bit Bucket – the decision for or against a tool should be based on the opinions of the internal experts and a reconciliation of all important requirements. One must also consider that compatibility with customers is also important. Tools may vary, but the focus should not: one must always ensure that the customer gets the best solution, the best service, or both. This means that agile work requires the transparent use of software, tools, and systems. Internal working methods can and must be adjusted: whether open spaces, lean coffees, or Kanban boards, the implementation must fit the structure. This also applies to the management.

4. How can you convince less agile customers?

At the moment, digital agencies usually are a lot more agile than its customers. This poses a great challenge in working together, since rigid structures and routines are often firmly anchored in the customer’s procedures. These customers want security and a perfect solution at a fixed price. When dealing with less agile customers it is important to let them know that they not only receive a tailor-made result but also tailor-made service which adapts to all their requirements in order to achieve the best possible result without compromises. Ideally, the price moves within a target range. Transparent processes, a sometimes cheaper but always better solution, and measurably better productivity as well as enjoying your work often also makes customers think twice. Agility is contagious.

5. When is the agile process completed?

Once the strategy and the roles have been found, the first agile projects implemented successfully, and new agile projects are added continually, then the acceptance of those who were not quite convinced of the model also increases. Employees who are unhappy with the new environment will leave, but make room for new ones. This is normal. It is important to reflect, verify, and adjust – as part of everyday work – internally and externally. This path is a permanent process that is never completed. And that is a good thing, since stagnation is boring.


Agile working is not just a method that makes businesses more efficient and flexible in order to achieve better results. Agility is a business philosophy. It requires clear and transparent communication, both with colleagues and with customers. It requires a great deal of initiative, mutual trust, and space for development. A complex process that not only need to be initiated well, but also continually supported, reflected, and adjusted. It is essential to find the right strategy for the respective business, give employees space to develop their own responsibility, adjust internal processes and roles, and get customers excited about the method. Only then can the entire company react flexibly to new challenges. There is no path to becoming an agile business without a change in culture. This piece of wisdom is well-established: “Structure follows strategy but culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

How agile a business really is does not depend on the management but every team member. Agility is not an end in itself and also no cure-all. But it is necessary today and even more in the future in order to be able to act successfully in the market in disruptive times.

Why PIM-less e-commerce is too expensive and does not make anyone happy

Any online-shop project without a decent PIM system poses a huge risk, because excellent product data and flawless interface function are the keys to success.

In e-commerce projects, we are constantly faced with the issue of customers not having a PIM system (Product Information Management System). Product data often only exists in fragments – in different systems and in various formats. And when, at the start of a project, it’s time to plan project expenses and duration, the result is usually a feeling of astonishment. Many customers are surprised by the large figure for system interfaces and data integration. But it is precisely this investment that is of crucial importance, because excellent, well-managed product data and flawlessly functioning interfaces are the key to any online shop’s success.

Say goodbye to unnecessary risks when managing product data

As a service provider, we enter uncharted territory when dealing with companies which do not have a PIM system. This is the riskiest part of the e-commerce project. The customers themselves often have no clue what lies in the abysses of their systems. Whether it be an ERP system dotted with special fields or diverse Excel marketing spreadsheets managing numerous product texts for the web, it is only when the customer and service provider start searching together that they discover the great depths of data management and handling. At this point, every customer should realise that it is worth investing a decent buck in integrating product data, and thus tackling the root of the problem, in order to ultimately carry out a faster, cheaper, more streamlined e-commerce project.

The PIM system as the ideal aggregator for all product data

What is the difference between PIM-less and PIM-based e-commerce projects? The biggest difference lies in the number of interfaces to the online shop. Without a decent PIM system, data is often fed into the shop from various sources, usually without sorting, cleaning or filtering. Collating extensive data from many different systems in the online shop is very time-consuming and susceptible to error in itself. A PIM system prevents this problem, as the online shop is assisted by a strong partner who feeds it all product data through just one interface. This minimises the process, rather than the previous rigmarole of hunting high and low for the latest product data and identifying the responsible managers, who then had to laboriously gather all the relevant product data. The PIM system is the “Single Point of Truth”, doing away with the need to waste time and effort looking for and collecting product data (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Product data flow for PIM-less and PIM-based e-commerce

Another important aspect of PIM-based e-commerce is the fact that the online shop is separate from the product management processes. The platform for product management, translations, texts, photography and much more is located in the PIM system, taking a great strain off the online shop, which is not optimised for these processes. A customised PIM system provides standardised interfaces, data mapping, matching and merging functions, and workflow functions to adjust data and plugins for shop systems to access all available product data. In a PIM system such as the one offered by Contentserv, the product data can be provided to an e-commerce system like Shopware using a standardised plugin following successful data integration. Faster, more streamlined product data management is thus a clear aspect in favour of PIM-based e-commerce (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Characterisation of PIM-less and PIM-based e-commerce

Reducing all project costs by introducing the PIM system

Any customer yet to adopt a PIM system but who wants to get started in e-commerce initially needs to tackle the challenge of managing their own data – whether it be for their own online shop or for sales via online marketplaces. In addition to significantly reduced expense, a customised PIM system enables a fast time-to-market and saves costs through flexible options for publication on all online and offline touchpoints. If I, as a customer, find a service provider who not only offers me a new or optimised e-commerce platform, but also sets up my PIM system beforehand, at least 50% of the costs for this will be paid using the savings from the e-commerce project; in other words, half can be refinanced (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Diagram of the proportionate saving potential achieved by having a PIM system in an e-commerce project

A suitable PIM system means satisfaction for all stakeholders

A customised solution not only makes end customers happy (since they can enjoy extensive, personalised product information), but also the staff who are constantly working with all kinds of product information and the challenges of data integration. Once the suitable PIM system has been set up, product and e-commerce managers can each offer specialised software which maximises their strengths precisely where these are needed: the PIM system to manage product lifecycles and the e-commerce platform for all marketing and sales activities.

PIM-based e-commerce is faster and more streamlined

A PIM system can help tremendously to reduce expense and risk by acting as the ideal aggregator for all of the online shop’s interfaces. PIM-less e-commerce often overloads the shop system with product data from all kinds of systems and functions which would be better handled by a PIM system. E-commerce operators without PIM systems end up wasting both money and time over the long term, and also increase the risk of all their e-commerce activities. While the first launch of the e-commerce activities may be faster, these activities will lack a reliable basis if they do not have solid systems and processes in the background, because inefficient, error-prone processes impede the desired rapid growth. PIM-based e-commerce is essential for anyone wanting to be successfully equipped for the digital future. Only by correctly managing product information using a PIM system is it possible to lay a solid basis and optimum foundation to unlock all digital sales channels and successfully pursue Connected Commerce at all touchpoints over the long term.

Innovation at the point of sale – a journey around the world

By Björn Portillo, Managing Partner at hmmh

Several years ago, experts predicted the end of over-the-counter trade. That is to say, it would not be able to exist alongside online trade in this new digital world. However, this viewpoint has once again shifted as connected commerce concepts are slowly but surely taking hold. Previous online “pure players” such as or mymuesli have even set up stationary concept stores, and now find themselves in the product ranges of large retail chains. But what are the reasons behind this change, and which innovations are bringing retail back into the game?

In order to understand the “how” and “why” of this paradigm shift, we are embarking on an economic and cultural journey that will take us to the USA and China, before returning to Germany.

Packing our bags in Germany

Many companies and agencies have worked hard to promote technical development and harness innovations to simplify our day-to-day lives. Concepts for interactive consultancy solutions, as well as mobile consulting via smartphone, mobile payment or augmented and virtual reality, are well-developed enough for implementation in stores. But these opportunities are often not exploited in this country. Why is this? Is it down to retailers who ignore the potential due to traditional reasons? Or perhaps it is a scepticism of all things new and a distrust of technology itself? Are German store owners, their customers, or even both, wary of innovation?

The risk-averse, conventional German likes to carry out research and product comparisons, particularly online. The product and the context then determine where they make purchases – sometimes online, sometimes offline. A decisive factor is that they feel well-advised and well-informed, and that they are able to closely examine their desired product.

Technical hurdles and a lack of acceptance

Not only do traditional retailers need to offer a range of products that is varied and constantly available – they must also provide the right setting for brands and products in order to present these to each customer. However, attempts to implement connected commerce concepts often fall at the first hurdle – Internet access for the customers. Furthermore, the use of different systems that cannot be easily combined is another reason why retailers are often faced with such great challenges. That makes it difficult for retailers to recognise their customers, and impossible to collect relevant data, offer comprehensive advice or provide a quick and simple payment process. Except for a few individual examples.

A further challenge: although German consumers place great importance on being able to test their desired product – ideally even trying it out in a private setting – and also expect comprehensive individual consultation, they are often not willing to share their personal information.

Off to the USA

The land of opportunity – is this also the case when it comes to store innovations? If so, which developments have already taken hold? With a significantly higher population across a land area 25 times the size of Germany, it is difficult for us to sum up the average US citizen. What we can say, however, is that the average citizen is open to new things, thinks practically and is always on the lookout for a bargain. They like to use their credit card at the small business around the corner, and their thick coupon booklet is the most valuable companion when it comes to the weekly shop. Perhaps the most important drivers of innovation are the thriftiness and desire for convenience of the American people.

Ideas are tested and optimised

Every day, new concepts emerge that are aimed at giving US citizens the shopping experience that they want. At the end of 2016, Internet giant Amazon opened its Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle, where customers do not need to wait in queues or make physical payments. All thanks to a motion detection system installed in the store – the so-called “Just walk out technology”. Payments are via PayPal and the account. However, the store is closed for the time being due to technical issues with the motion detection and tracking of more than 20 customers at the same time.

Amazon Go

Amazon Go – Shopping without having to queue up at the checkout: just walk into the store, put the item in your bag and then leave. Source: Amazon

This example shows that not everything needs to go to plan first time round for innovative companies. Whereas in Germany it is frowned upon to make mistakes – which means that attempts are not even made to try and establish new concepts – the successful principle of “trial and error” applies over in the USA. Courage is rewarded.

US retailers know what their customers need

In contrast to the cautious mentality of German offline retailers, the US market offers numerous examples of its digital transformation. For example, the retail giant Walmart is buying up online shops and start-ups, and in doing so is making strides towards e-commerce. The other big player in the stationary retail sector, Target, offers its customers a practical app that not only allows them to manage coupons easily using their smartphone, but also provides them with in-store navigation to show the direct route to the desired product. Other concepts are already being tested. Unrestricted data allowances in mobile phone contracts are making it much easier to use these services.

“Whether it be artificial intelligence in the form of multiple interfaces, robots in the store, speech assistance through in-ear consultants or delivery to your front door without you even needing to be in: these trends in the US market are not necessarily compatible with the German market due to the differing mentality of consumers”, explains Nicolas Roemer, Chief Business Development Officer at Serviceplan US.

Moving onto China

Anyone who has visited China will be aware of the people’s affinity for technology, and their group-oriented way of thinking. They will also have an image of the typical urban landscape before their eyes: millions of people on the streets with their smartphones out enjoying unlimited data volumes. Driven by progress and further development, new concepts catch on quickly in this society.

A step ahead when it comes to innovations

For years, retailers that have also enjoyed success with e-commerce have been looking for ways to combine the online and offline worlds with one another. Pioneers on the market such as recognised the unfolding “mobile boom” in China, and came up with concepts to match the mentality and the new purchasing behaviour of the Chinese people. The result was futuristic stores with sophisticated technology. For example, a self-service store called “BingoBox” was opened in China’s Guangdong province. Although nowhere near as complex and extensive as the Amazon Go store, it was adapted to the demand for mobile shopping. As the Amazon Go store was being trialled in the USA, was already introducing a sophisticated variant of the fully-automated store concept in China: the “Tao Cafe”. Here, customers can log in with their smartphones and pay at the checkout cash-free thanks to facial recognition.

Tao Cafe

Tao Cafe – purchasing through facial recognition: The cash-free café combines automatic optical sensors and facial recognition for quick payment. Source: VCG Photo or CNR

The era of staff-free shopping

Cash-free stores and automated services have become part of everyday life in Chinese shopping centres, as quick payment via smartphone continues to boom: 6 in 10 customers now pay for their shopping using their phone. This represents great potential for Chinese retailers. Payment service providers have a good understanding of Chinese social interaction, and combine the popular payment method with social media functions. For example, users of WeChat Pay can follow the official WeChat account of the respective retailer in order to get advice or ask questions. Users can also exchange information with one another and provide recommendations. The way we see it, the retailers there seem to act like private individuals. They know that customers identify much more strongly with brands and connect a lot more emotion to them than people in Germany.

The hype surrounding mobile payment in China has been a strong driver behind the development towards connected commerce. For retailers, this method of payment not only drives revenue, but is also a new form of communication and interaction – both online and offline. A prime example of an optimal, integrated user journey.

Back to Germany with our bags full

When it comes to implementing connected commerce concepts, the Americans and Chinese in particular show us how it’s done. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are essential for this, as are large mobile data packages at low rates, which allow 360°retailers to offer integrated services in the store via smartphone. However, German retailers still find it difficult to take this step. The seamless customer journey still has clear barriers, and customers themselves have played a part in creating these. The cautiousness of the German people, the data protection barriers and the inhibitions regarding the use of existing technology need to be dismantled. “Many German retailers feel that their hands are tied and that they are trying to perform a difficult balancing act”, reveals Björn Portillo, Managing Partner at hmmh. Here, it is important that they have the right partner by their side. They can then develop options and methods that offer consumers added value, and in return consumers will be happy to make their data available.

Whereas Germans still worry about making mistakes and therefore often act too late, a different error culture dominates in the USA. “Test, optimise, then test again – these steps are part of the innovation process and are ingrained in the mentality there”, says Nicolas Roemer, Chief Business Development Officer at Serviceplan US. “Even if a concept doesn’t quite work out and needs to be scrapped, it doesn’t mean the brand is doomed. Quite the opposite – bravery pays off.”

In China, it is the urge for progress that drives the digitalisation of over-the-counter retail. However, it does not make sense to simply copy innovations and force ourselves to apply them. “Together with retailers, we must first determine which problems of the target group we want to solve. Only then should we look at which innovations we use and how we use them, so that they actually catch on”, says Björn Portillo.

We are aware of the needs and fears of German customers, as well as the technical challenges faced by retailers, and already have approaches for individual solutions. Experienced international agencies are just waiting to be given the go-ahead.

Fundamentals for programming Amazon Echo Show

The new Echo Show is a result from Amazon’s learnings, designed to overcome the problems and obstacles faced by all voice interfaces when it comes to communicating information. Echo Show compensates for the limitations of communicating information via a voice Interface with a classic display. A no-interface device is thus transformed into a full service touchpoint in the digital ecosystem, opening up hitherto undreamt-of possibilities. In this article we will examine how we can approach this new component, the screen with delegation via the Amazon endpoint. Reverse engineering is the key.

Echo Show does not look particularly exciting, and reminds you of something from a 1970s sci-fi movie. At the front the surface is sloped, with the display at the centre, a camera at the top and the speaker grille at the bottom. The device won’t look out of place in your living room. We had to use an address in the United States to buy our Echo Show, as it is not yet available in Germany. Amazon has yet to announce a release date for the German market.

Currently no developer guidelines

Also lacking is information for developers and the development of skills on Echo Show. However, the Amazon Developer Portal provides information on how JSON communication between the skill and endpoint must look for the new functionality. Parameters are described, templates are shown and callbacks are explained. However, all of this information exists solely in the form of communication protocols and not as guidelines. As traditional users of the Alexa Skills Kit framework for Java, we feel left out in the cold. A note in the latest framework version in GitHub tells us that Version 1.4 was prepared for Echo Show, but there are neither documents nor code examples available.

What display options does Echo Show offer?

We have an Echo Show, and we want to develop a skill for it. So, let’s take a deep breath and dive into the framework code, which was committed in the last release. We must begin by asking ourselves what our actual expectations are. Echo Show can present information in a variety of ways. It must therefore be possible to transmit information on layouts and send this as a response to the Alexa endpoint. If we take a look at the response object, we see that virtually nothing has changed since the last release. The only point at which we could transmit dynamic data are the so-called directives. If we search a little in the framework, we will find the RenderTemplateDirective instance, and it is here where we can transfer a template.

We already have access to templates on the Amazon Developer pages ( At present there are six fixed templates: two for displaying content lists and four for displaying single content. The difference between the two content list templates is that one is intended for horizontal lists, while the other is for vertical lists. The four templates for single content differ in their display options as follows (see Fig. 1):

  • BodyTemplate1
  • Title (optional)
  • Skill icon (provided in developer portal)
  • Rich or Plain text
  • Background image (optional)
  • BodyTemplate2
  • Title (optional)
  • Skill icon (provided by developer portal)
  • Image (optional – can be a rectangle or square)
  • Rich or Plain text
  • Background image (optional)
  • BodyTemplate3
  • Title (optional)
  • Skill icon
  • Image (optional – can be a rectangle or square)
  • Rich or Plain text
  • Background image (optional)
  • BodyTemplate4
  • No title
  • Skill icon
  • One full-screen image (1024 x 600 for background)
  • Rich or Plain text

Fig. 1: Differences between templates for single content

If we want to display information on Amazon Show, we must first be aware of which template is suitable for which required information. A creative conceptioner must plan precisely to ensure that the user experience meets expectations and is above all intuitive. Even the cleanest of programming is of no use if the user cannot use the displayed information. Qualitative user surveys are a useful means of obtaining initial indicators and feedback.

How do I create image and text content?

From a technical perspective, we simply instantiate one of the templates that we find under For corresponding properties such as Title, Icon, Background, etc. there are getters and setters. For images there is an Image and an ImageInstance class. Images are transmitted in the form of URLs for the corresponding image source. Text content can be transferred as plain or rich text. In the latter case, there is the option of using markup tags for formatting, which we are also familiar with from HTML. For example, there is <br/>,<b>,<i>,<u> and <font size=”n”>. There are also different areas for content within the text content. Now that we have defined the images and text and entered them in the properties of the corresponding template, the next step is to transfer this template to the RenderTemplateDirective instance. All we have to do now is add our new directive to the list of directives and transfer this to the response object. When we now call the skill, we can see the newly created content.

How do I define content for the touchscreen?

The Echo Show display is a 7-inch touchscreen. This means that you can select elements of a content list or single content. Each single content template and each element of a list template has a token. From the point of view of the framework, this token is a property of type “String” and is used to identify the touched element for callback. If we look at the way in which we previously developed skills, we can see that we only received a callback for a recognised intent: in other words, only when the user said something. This is adequate for the voice interface, but not for the display. However, the SpeechletV2 interface exclusively supports voice callbacks.

If we take a closer look at the SpeechletRequestDispatcher in the framework, we see that the dispatcher can respond to a wide variety of requests. For example, we have AudioPlayerRequest, PlaybackController, SystemRequests, as well as DisplayRequests. When a DisplayRequest is recognised, the dispatcher attempts to call the onElementSelected method from the Display interface. To receive this callback, we need to not only implement SpeechletV2 in our Speechlet class, but also the display interface. Once we have done this, we can overwrite with the following method:


public SpeechletResponseonElementSelected(SpeechletRequestEnvelope<ElementSelectedRequest> requestEnvelope)

 Fig. 2: Overwriting the callback

This callback method is then always called when an element is selected on the display. When the callback is called, we can have the token – in other words, the identifier of the element that was pressed – returned from the requestEnvelope withrequestEnvelope.getRequest().getToken() and respond accordingly. We are completely free to select the identifier.

The response to an ElementSelectedRequest is a normal SpeechletResponse. We can therefore return both speech and an additional display template. It is thus also possible to implement the Master/Detail views commonly used for mobile devices. It is precisely for these mechanisms that the Back button, which can be activated by default for every template, is intended. However, it is up to the developer to implement the functionality for a “go back”.


At present, it is somewhat difficult for Java developers to get to grips with Echo Show. Google and Stack Overflow provide neither links to examples nor documentation. Apart from the small amount of information provided directly by Amazon, there isn’t much else available. If you don’t want to spend your time analysing the framework, you will have to wait until the developer community or Amazon provide more information. However, with expansion of the framework, the development of skills for Echo Show is impressive and well thought out.

There are only a few minor negative points. The pre-loading of images in content lists doesn’t work very well. It is not good to see images of list elements appear gradually. In this case, you must consider the access time for content servers when designing skills or hope that Amazon improves the corresponding mechanisms. It remains to be seen what kind of enhancements Amazon will come up with.

It will be interesting to see what developers can do with the combination of voice interface and touchscreen. Close cooperation between design, creation and development is crucial. In summary, Amazon Echo Show will without doubt bring about big changes in the market.


Performance-Tracking meets User Journey

On the topic of web analytics, we hear time and time again how complicated it still is to collect usable data and findings for website performance analysis across multiple devices and once URLs have been opened, so that the user’s journey can be optimised. The criticism is that the standard features of Google Analytics do not provide the desired data for this. This is certainly not true! Very often, ‘connected commerce’ is even simpler than one might imagine.

Google Analytics tracks many things, but nowhere near everything

For Web Tracking, many website operators fall back exclusively on the standard implementation of Google Analytics as their tool of analysis. In some cases, this can even be quite sufficient; after all, Google Analytics provides information about a whole range of important indicators (KPIs), such as the number of users, sessions and sites accessed, or the bounce rate within a defined period. Furthermore, together with demographic features, the tool provides a whole range of device information; for example, identifying the sub-sites that many mobile device users, in particular, bounce onto – in this way, you can discover problems in using your site on mobile devices.

However, how do you proceed, if you wish to evaluate how often a very specific button has been clicked on in a site? Or from which site a user has interacted with your Chat Support? And how do the scroll depth, file downloads or access to external links appear to me? Google Analytics alone cannot answer all these questions. There is, however, both a simple and powerful solution that is firmly integrated into Google Analytics: Event-Tracking, namely capturing all types of Events.

Up until now, these Events have already needed to be carefully planned during their preliminary stages and embedded when programming a website, so that they are also sent to Google Analytics for tracking. With Google Tag Manager, even set-up is more agile and clearly easier. It requires no knowledge of programming and can be launched immediately, as soon as the Google Tag Manager is integrated into your site. For many CMS and shop systems, plugins are already provided, so that you never need a developer for installation.

Never heard of Google Tag Manager before? Christoph Küpfer, from ad agents very pointedly describes the tool as follows in the article, ‘All-singing, all-dancing Google Tag Manager’ on, “Web analytics without Tag Manager is like washing without a washing machine. It works, but it’s a waste of time and resources”.

Capturing and analysing Events using Google Tag Manager – here are three examples of how to do it

1. Do you want to know how often a button/graphic has been clicked on?

Websites generally use several formulas or teaser-graphics, which request visitors to perform an action. With Google Tag Manager, you can easily register how often visitors actually interact with these ‘Calls to Action’ (CTAs). In each case, you will also set up a trigger (the ‘WHEN’) and a tag (the ‘THEN’) – WHEN, for example, a button labelled ‘Send Message’ is clicked, THEN an Event shall be sent to Google Analytics on a corresponding day. An Event always consists of four dimensions, which you can populate with random values in Google Tag Manager: the Event Category, Event Action, Event Label and optional Event Value.

Let us take, for example, a contact form: First of all, you determine an Event Category. This might contain the static text ‘Contact Form’. In the Event Action, the action will read ‘Sent’ in this category, if the form is dispatched. As Event Labels, we mostly capture the current page path during our current implementation. For this, there is a function installed in Google Tag Manager, which you can apply while you insert {{Page Path}} in the corresponding place. If you have installed your contact form on several sites or in a side tab, you can ascertain in this way, where the contact form was sent from and how often. The Event Value can then re-assess the Event’s weighting. You would consign a higher value to a sent contact request than to a teaser that has been clicked on.

2. Qualifying bounce rates through scroll depth

A bounce is not always a bad thing. Blog operators are familiar with the phenomenon of visitors finding a solution to their problem and then leaving the blog again, without any further interaction. Here, the dwell time will already give an initial indication of whether the visitor has read your text or left immediately. However, since more and more people open several sites in tabs, the dwell time in several tabs can run parallel, even in inactive tabs.

One of many ready-made scripts can be the remedy for this. These can be integrated using Google Tag Manager and can register the scroll depth in 10 or 25 per cent intervals. Corresponding Events will show you later in the analysis, how many of the visitors reading your text on the site in question have also read it to the end, or at least scrolled through it.

3. Capturing data downloads and outbound links

Google Analytics is not actually designed to track file downloads. Here again, functions installed in Google Tag Manager can help test link click conditions.

The link destination is contained within the installed function {{Click URL}} and can correspondingly be tested. Does the link contain a specific file extension, for example, ‘.pdf’? Then trigger an Event, which the current page ({{Page Path}}) and the link destination ({{Click URL}}) will capture. Therefore, you can later evaluate in Google Analytics which files were downloaded from which pages and how often. For outbound links, you will only test whether the destination domain differs from the current domain. If this is the case, then this is an outbound link and you will again capture the current and target pages in an Event.


While the standard functions of Google Analytics allow for more of an overview of user groups, you can obtain detailed insights by Event-Tracking with Google Tag Manager. You can even break down to user level, which Events a specific user has triggered. At the very least, this is therefore helpful, if you receive paid traffic from search engines or social networks. Through Events, you can very precisely establish, whether these visitors you have paid for then actually perform as you wish and generate a corresponding Return on Investment (ROI) for you. The subject is all the more interesting, if we place Web Tracking in the overriding context of connected commerce. For some unexplained reason, Google Tag Manager is only installed on around 14 per cent of all websites (according to a usage statistic from the Internet service, BuiltWith), despite the fact that it offers a robust and especially simple base with valuable functions that can help you get to know your customers and place them centre field. It will thereby contribute to you offering a seamless and user-centred customer journey.

This article was also published at Internet World Business.

Connected Retail – Customer Centricity Meets Store

If large-scale investor Warren Buffet no longer believes in the stationary trade, then this is really spectacular. How else can we call it, when his holding company “Berkshire Hathaway” sells Walmart shares amounting to 900 million US-Dollars and instead prefers to invest in Airlines? The industrial portal Business Insider even asks, whether this would be a death knell for the entire industry.

PCs, laptops, smart phones, tablets, wearables: Whether for shopping, getting adviced or simply browsing, their options are limitless. Sophisticated product presentations and descriptions, chat bots and live chats replace more and more the seller in the stationary trade. Increasingly free and faster deliveries save time and favour the nerves. In addition, Big Data does not only help to personalize the online shop and find merchandise faster but even provides precise suggestions for something that you didn’t know you were searching for it. The online shop wins the set, one might assume.

However, for some time also an opposite trend can be observed: Going for shopping in the local store has gained again a certain importance to the customer. This, of course, only applies if they can expect an added value. For consumers it is no longer a matter of “Either / Or”. They want both – online shopping as well as shopping in the stationary trade, preferably connected in an intelligent way. This brings the stationary trade back into the game.

In doing so, the famous “Seamless Customer Journey” is, however, still not yet achieved even if the sellers in the store are equipped with tablets, or digital consulting terminals are set up to ensure the extension to the online shop. Options such as beacon installations in the shop, tracking of mobile devices or voice services such as Amazon Alexa enable to pick up the end customer where he most recently did start, pause or finish his/her journey – to wit online.

Via the intelligent evaluation of data, dealers can also finally solve another decisive disadvantage: Up to now, a retailer did not know very much about his/her customers, except for maybe the particularly good ones. Neither did he/she know what the interest of the customer was before, after or during the store visit, or whether he/she compared prices of competitors in parallel with the visit to the store. The holistic collection and recording of behaviour patterns, preferences and needs of customers in the store and in the online shop makes it possible to practically summarize this information to create a personal profile and return it to the customer in the form of real added value.

The prerequisite for this is asking the right questions. The information on the hair colour is of less importance for the multi-media store than the music taste of the customer. Not all data are relevant – all the more important is the right data strategy. In doing so, not only shop owners have the possibility to adapt themselves to the visitors, but also the stationary furniture dealer, the Hifi shop or the supermarkets down the road.

The collected data can already be read in real time and be converted into an interaction at the POS. However, all too often there is a lack of an intelligent data strategy and it fails due to outdated structures, which now need to be broken. If you then also bear in mind that in the future the shopping experience at the point of sale as well as the efficiency of a perfect advice can be raised to a whole new level thanks to Virtual and Augmented Reality, it is better not to write off the stationary trade too early. The digital transformation opens up the opportunity for future-oriented retailers to catch up and compensate one-to-one. They only have to seize their opportunity.

So why do we not finally bring together the best of Online and Offline in the interests of the end customer? If the focus is really on the customer, it is important to stop thinking one-way and to take new steps. However, this will only be possible if you exactly know both the consumer’s behaviour and where you want to go. The POS is forced to take action, and it only has chance in the future, if they do adjust their services to the needs of the customers, just as online retailers do.

Connected Retail for Real

Here is a supermarket with no queues at the checkout; no need to line up your items at the till. So you just go into the store, stick whatever you want into a shopping bag and go? With Amazon Go at the end of last year, Amazon transformed what stressed-out shoppers the world over dream of into a reality… Shopping just as it should be – simple and painless.

With this option, Amazon has in fact managed to overcome a major weakness in fixed retail shops. If the concept proves reliable, Amazon will have thus created a promising scenario for truly optimising the payment process in fixed retail trade. At present, however, there are still many questions about the practical implementation of Amazon Go. For example, there is no information to date on how reliable item-recognition is for articles selected from the display, or how well the technology performs in randomly setting aside products at points in the store. Furthermore, current reports make it clear that the tracking technology is still facing problems in its practical application, which postpones the start-up of further stores until further notice.

The above example therefore clearly shows that integrated solutions for fixed shop retail are only possible via complex systems, which must be personalised, smart and target-oriented, but also planned for the real world. Even for an industry giant like Amazon, this is not child’s play.

Complexity equals difficulty?

Customer centricity therefore plays a decisive role, because it is only if we fully understand customer requirements and behaviour patterns, placing them at the centre of our strategic efforts, that points of contact can be built with them. Offering them the urgently required added value to help them with their purchasing decisions and to enable distributors to generate revenue. This surely means that suppliers need to be aware of their opportunities for connecting with customers and more especially, how to steer them.

Various points of contact, such as fixed retail outlets, online shops and apps, amongst others, therefore require different approaches and technical concepts, in order to be able to provide, gather and meaningfully consolidate information. Moreover, in order for this to be effective, sophisticated interfaces must also be provided to bring these together.

Over recent years, various distributors have already built systems that provide their online shops, apps and fixed retail outlets with price, customer and product data. Although these systems all fulfil their respective purpose to an excellent degree and are constantly expanding in terms of their functionality and data volume, they frequently fail to offer any straightforward smart options for meaningful information exchange. However, it really does depend.

In order to take the first steps towards complex scenarios of this kind, with relatively low infrastructural investment, so-called Middleware solutions are appropriate. Their implementation ensures the existence and successive renewal of old systems, without affecting ongoing business processes. Furthermore, they permit flexibility in existing systems, so that they can expand and bring together further points of contact. However, without a comprehensive strategy for off-setting offers and content against each other through different points of contact, such solutions achieve relatively little.

How will we get it, unless we steal it?

In fact, there are already approaches to such comprehensive strategies, although there is absolutely no point whatsoever in simply seizing hold of them and imitating them. A strategy which is not individually tailored to the company or to customer expectations will not work. For this reason, it is essential to develop a vision to clarify what should actually be created. In addition, it must be defined what is technically feasible, what is not (yet) possible, and how existing versions can be deployed in an appropriate form for one’s own company.

Nevertheless, without drawing upon real practical experience, such conclusions are not possible. It rather requires an experimental approach, using prototypes or MVP tests amongst customers. How do augmented reality, location-based service approaches and voice activation work? How can these be used in one’s own retail outlet? Moreover, do they provide any added value for customers? Questions like this would thus be explored in such practical tests. Small workshops to test and understand the most diverse technical systems and applications, as well as any ideas for scenarios that may be deduced from these, form the basis of the strategic process, whereby one’s own connected retail concept is the aim.

The time is now

Technical development has already reached a point where meaningful retail scenarios can be created, which no longer differentiate between retail trade and online activities. Ultimately, Amazon Go does not represent an example of this. What are still lacking are clearly defined concepts, such as how to combine this technology with various information about products and customer preferences accumulated over time and at various touchpoints, and how to use an integrated strategy. It is also high time that physical contact points with customers were re-evaluated and a particular experience created. Therefore, anyone who has not given much thought to this had better start doing so as soon as possible.

Four tips for successful product content

Many e-commerce strategies focus on excellence in design and optimum tailoring of shops for the mobile world, exciting campaigns as well as media planning that will attract a great deal of attention and ensure extensive coverage. There is no doubting that all of this is important. Yet even the best planned marketing euro is wasted if the product detail page that customers eventually reach at the end of their journey throws up more questions than answers. What are the product features? What does the material look like exactly? Are the details correct?

The user is often just presented with the most basic information: height, width, depth, size, material. Such information would not be adequate to sell a product in brick-and-mortar retailing. We want to experience products and grasp them in the truest sense of the word. And this is precisely where a large gap exists all too often – despite all connected commerce efforts – between store-based and digital retail or between aspiration and reality. Carelessly designed product detail pages – and we are not referring here to usability or design, rather the main product information – are the final blow to the successful outcome of the user journey. No purchase is made, because the customer simply does not find adequate information about the particular product. An even more bitter pill for the online retailer is if the customer decides to purchase – despite poor or inadequate information – but then is not satisfied on receiving the goods. Expensive returns, negative reviews and dissatisfied customers are the result. We therefore recommend following the four steps outlined below to optimise the product content and thus prevent precisely these negative consequences.

1.    Address the topic of content early on

Preparing high-quality and unique product content takes time: time for coordinating internal processes, time for consulting with manufacturers and time for preparing, enriching or refining the content. Texts have to be written, attributes maintained and photos taken as well as edited. These processes have to be done and dusted before good content can be produced quickly in large quantities. In the meantime, you avoid the error of relying on a service provider just before the go-live that, despite not knowing your product range, promises to caption 100,000 products virtually overnight and enrich them with attributes. This cannot go well. You should therefore place the topic of product content among the top items on your agenda.

2.    Do not rely on the manufacturer

“We will get the product details from the manufacturer” is a widely held belief. Yet many manufacturers only have very basic product content at their disposal and sometimes not even any product photos as yet. Moreover, you have to transfer the information from the manufacturer to your system. Non-standardised interfaces and different formats often require laborious manual reworking and end up costing you time. And don’t forget: the same manufacturer will be supplying its product details to different retailers – your competitors. This is far removed from unique content.

3.    Invest in unique content

Product content is primarily intended for the visitors to your shop. It should inform and encourage the visitor to make a purchase. But getting to the product detail page is a long journey. That’s why good editorial product content has to be prepared optimally for the search engine. Search engine-optimised content promotes the right keywords, is detectable by bots and above all is unique. Duplicate content is penalised in the rankings by Google and others. An investment in unique content is therefore an investment in the performance of your shop. Regardless of whether you have product texts created in-house or by an agency, you invest time in sensible briefings, engage authors who are competent in the most important SEO requirements and familiarise the authors with your product range.

4.    Think user-centred – not in channels

The mantra of “media-neutral content” applied for years. The same product content should work in all channels. However, the quest for the smallest common denominator results in content that is then suboptimal in all channels. Print content has to be prepared differently than web content. Product detail pages accessed on mobile phones have to look different to detail pages opened on tablets or on the desktop PC. While customers perform extensive searches on the desktop at home and check every detail, they primarily want to see all key details at first glance on their smartphone when on the move. At the end of the day, what is important is to generate the ideal content in each case for the user to suit their respective usage situation. Therefore, take on board the views of your customers and answer the question as to when which product information is interesting for whom and where. “Media-neutral” content on the other hand patronises your customers.

Top-class product content is not rocket science and – admittedly – not exactly the topic the CDO or Digital Manager will tackle first. But experience shows that it is what concerns your customers. The topic has therefore deserved more attention.

This article was also published on

Trends 2017

The old year is drawing to a close. It’s time, therefore, to take a look at the coming year.  The experts of the Serviceplan Group have summarised their personal communication trends for the year 2017.

Dr Peter Haller, Founder and Managing Director of the Serviceplan Group

Public discussion has adapted itself to a good dozen mega trends. They trigger business trends and these lead to consumer and communication trends. Those who want to develop faster than the economy as a whole have no choice but to follow the growth trends. But which ones?

There are hundreds of trends and counter-trends. All of this against the backdrop of an accelerating change in digitalisation. But which of these trends are relevant to which industries? Which can I embrace for my brand? And which of these in this confusing process is the reliable guidance for my brand management?

This is the theme of our 2017 Brand Roadshow together with GfK, which is once again sponsored by the German Trade Mark Association. “Dynamic brand management through the jungle of consumer and communication trends” will take place on 7 March in Munich, 9 March in Berlin, 22 March in Frankfurt, 28 March in Cologne, 30 March in Hamburg, 9 May in Vienna and 11 May in Zurich.

Jens Barczewski, Deputy Managing Director Mediaplus Strategic Insights

2017 will be the year inflationary KPIs become the measurement of success for campaign and media performance. In 2017 there will be an agreement between AGF (the television research working group in Germany) and Google/Youtube over the designation of a common video currency. The ‘Quality Initiative for Research into the Effect of Advertising’, driven by the Organisation of Brand Advertisers (OWM) in cooperation with Facebook and Google, will deepen its work and define the first indicators. The AGOF will firstly designate reach on a daily basis and therefore facilitate a continuous improvement of the booking units.

With the associations’ initiatives the individual publishers will open up their own measurement and success indicators to customers and agencies in order to obtain greater transparency in the market. The commotion over the erroneous increase in video viewing times on Facebook showed that not every KPI should be accepted without deep understanding from the customers and agencies.

Winfried Bergmann, Head of Human Resources, Serviceplan Group

Political correctness is on the retreat

Overly cautious political correctness has definitively disqualified itself as being the spiritual leader towards populism. The US presidential election was marked by dishonesty – from both sides. You did not know what was worse – the evident lies from the one side or the awkward, fearful avoidance and concealment of highly relevant issues from the other. Someone who conceals topics, about which large portions of the public worry, because of an alleged sense of decency and misunderstood consideration, must not be surprised when the sovereignty of interpretation is lost in societal discourse. This is even more so in Europe.

Therefore, dear reputable conservatives, break free from political correctness and in the coming year engage strongly in your issues. Let us argue about all of that – from the centre of society, which would then have found the courage for free debate once more. For when we do it like this, there will be nothing more for populists to do other than peep out from the right side of the screen. And it will be lonesome again and they will go back to their crossword.

Stephan Enders, Head of Mobile Marketing of the Plan.Net Group


With the first bot shops among messengers the subject flared up in 2016. And, as it often happens when a new trend emerges, a euphoric, partly activist test phase was swiftly launched, sometimes even when the worth and meaning of a certain discovery could not be estimated. However, chatbots are merely the cherry on top of an older idea, whose impact stretches far wider than it looks at first sight. It’s all about the perfect customer dialogue.

Chatbots, together with artificial intelligence, are (or, rather, will be) a valuable instrument, perhaps the most valuable of them all. Because the trend of 2016 will be the mega trend of 2017, meaning that it will pool together different mechanics, half trends and instruments:

01 CRM: Customer service with a chatbot, whose reaction is always quick and precise.

02 BIG DATA: Only learning chatbots, with all customer data at hand, will be able to unfold their power. The evolution of chatbots will enforce Big Data processes.

03 MOBILE FIRST: Chatbots are perfect for mobile use and, therefore, ideally fit for the future – wherever the user might decide to roll: Facebook, (mobile) web, you name it.

04 SERVICELAYER: In a world of information overload, it will be vital to deliver the right information, at the right time, in the right place. Nothing more, nothing less. A chatbot will be able to do just that.

Gerd Güldenast & Marcus Person, Managing Directors at hmmh

Voice control
Google Home and Amazon Echo open up new possibilities, however still clearly show us their limits . 2017 is the year the merits of the products and services will be demonstrated convincingly without a graphical user interface. Creative individuals and developers are asked to smarten these systems and to further develop companions for everyday life or for an intelligent touchpoint in connected commerce.

Big data aids human customer service
The topic of customer service in the online world stands to change in 2017. Today chatbots are being used more commonly. They show however shortcomings where subjective feelings and emotions play a crucial role. With new customer intelligence systems and smart chatbots based on big data analysis, customers will receive a completely new quality of service in 2017.

Oliver Grüttemeier, Managing Director of  Serviceplan Cologne

Digitalisation only succeeds with empathy.

For years, we have experienced dramatic changes in the workplace through technological developments. Although companies attempt to increasingly fuse their processes along the supply chain, the digitalisation often only comes along sluggishly. 2017 will change that, because the top management currently recognises that leadership through ‘command and control’ no longer works. In the future, executives managers of successful companies will therefore be measured less by their accomplished goals, but rather much more by their social competence—the foundation for every form of cross-departmental collaboration.

In this area, Google is already 10 years ahead. Since 2007, Google already offers its employees the opportunity for personal growth and the development of business empathy with the program ‘Search Inside Yourself’. The success of Google is not only based on the accumulation of more data, but on the knowledge that the best search engine is our spirit.

Stefanie Krebs, Managing Director of Plan.Net Technology

In 2017 a creative thinker requires analytically and technically broad shoulders. While the mega trend digitalisation advances rapidly, the majority of companies have reacted and digitalised their structures. Now, together with their associates, they are facing the challenge of building an integrated business model from the emerging digital island which can also exist in a future shaped by big data, machine learning, the internet of things and perpetual digital innovation.

Those who want to deliver creative responses and celebrate communicative success must be able to develop organisationally and technically complex systems in a short amount of time. 2017 will therefore be the year of the creative team player, where it pays to deliver elegant solutions to complex questions using the input from your multi-faceted team with specialists for tools, technology, processes and people. It is no longer about the colourful façade, but the whole package.

Andrea Malgara, Managing Director of the Mediaplus Group

TV works

According to the ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) TV is still the most important advertising medium when it comes to building a broad reach and increasing return on investment. E-commerce companies are investing more and more in TV advertising. In 2015 almost every third TV advertising spot was occupied by an e-commerce product. TV advertising is strongly increasing online shopping traffic. Digital business models require a wide reach, however, to generate significant turnover.

If the appropriate special interest channels are chosen and screen planning is optimal for an advertising campaign, the advertising recall, brand awareness and the conversion rate all significantly increase. Through brand-unique and innovative media strategy, we can achieve a 20 percent increase in turnover with a targeted media mix.

Kevin Proesel, Managing Director of Saint Elmo’s Berlin

In 2017, IOT (Internet of Things) and clever ideas are changing retail marketing.

We have observed that the classic sales funnel of companies is changing: through the technology shift and the increase in use of smartphones, customers themselves are becoming points of sales and points of information, because they are networked everywhere and can obtain information as well as provide information at any time. As a result of this, personalised and networked campaigns that are implemented close to consumers will be the most convincing in the future. In 2017, we will be seeing the first campaigns which will use networked Smart Buttons as marketing incentives in the Internet of Things.

‘Smart Button’? It sounds smart, and it is smart: in advanced retail campaigns, a branded button acts as a pivot point. It is not like the dash buttons on Amazon, which act purely as facilitators of a networked ordering process, but it is a starting point for a networked campaign storytelling, which unfolds once the customer connects their button to their smartphone—and once they press the Smart Button. Predefined processes now tell a story, which, through several chapters, leads the customer to more and more touch points of a company: always through the simple push of a button. In this way, a guided tour takes place from home to the retail department, which constantly further qualifies the customer and allows campaigns to be experienced fully networked. It is virtually engagement marketing par excellence, since it goes beyond only displaying content and includes the user directly: ‘2017? Press the button and see what happens.’

Dominik Schütte, Managing Director of Serviceplan Content Marketing

Content quality instead of quantity

In 2017, people will ultimately comprehend that the purpose of content marketing goes beyond simply selling. Therefore, companies will be more confident in finding narrative niches outside their brand. In the process, they will be astonished to find out that people actually have their own interests and that it is exactly through these interests that they can be reached and turned into customers. A win-win situation, for both companies and the people out there. Storytelling for the masses – yes, thank you. But make it qualitative, relevant and, please, don’t be annoying.

Klaus Schwab, Managing Director of the Plan.Net Group

I believe that 2017 will bring along two highlights:

First of all, it will be the year when voice command becomes widely adopted, meaning that digital services will be triggered through speech. And this will be the collapse of technical interfaces, such as displays and keyboards.

Secondly, we will witness companies developing platform strategies inside different branches. Namely, they will be more open to start-ups and work together, in order to facilitate their clients’ access to specific services within their own ecosystem.

Julian Simons, Managing Director of mediascale and PREX Programmatic Exchange

With the progressing digitalisation of the use of media, and even in most areas of life, the long known types of borders between offline and online advertising channels are beginning to blur. More and more advertising spaces are being digitalised, are therefore accessible via IP, and are going ‘online’. Subsequently, this also means that programmatic advertising will lead to an increased distribution and control of channels such as radio, out-of-home, and in the end, television. This will lead to big changes for the advertising market.

The tremendous opportunities of comprehensive control and of addressing someone individually are not without great challenges. Business models change and become more complex. Strategies and management logics that make it possible for the new complexity to be meaningful to use, have to be found to prevent campaigns from losing impact in an aimless atomisation. This change must always keep the interests of the user and their data protection concerns in mind, otherwise it will not be successful.

Klaus Weise, Managing Director of Serviceplan Public Relations

Digital enraged citizens are changing the world

Great Britain is to exit the EU, Donald Trump is moving into the White House. Who would have believed, last year, that any of it would happen? The two results are neither coincidences, nor singular political accidents. They are the beacon of a world quake that has just begun. The triggering force of that quake is the fear caused by a change in the world, brought along by digitalisation and globalisation. Similar fears have always existed, but today they are a million times amplified and multiplied through social media. Fuelled by shady hate speeches and sparkled by social bots and opinion robots, whose sole purpose is to rile up the crowds. In 2017, dealing with digital enraged citizens will be the main challenge of political parties, unions, companies and brands.

For what reason a prototype is better than the “perfect” solution

Seamless commerce, connected retail, customer centricity: these are only some of the catch phrases, which these days bombard participants uninhibited, at conferences, trade shows and in workshops. They all should explain, how a relevant, added value can actually be created. And yet, I wonder occasionally, if the concept “connected commerce” is not sometimes misunderstood.

The goal of “connected commerce” is namely not, to find solutions for imaginary problems, in order to be able to create a case of application for the latest “hot shit”. In fact, technology, services, and applications should be intertwined in a way, that smart approaches are created, to solve the actual and real (!) customer problems. With everything that you do, the following question must remain central: What do my customers really need in their specific situation, in order to be perfectly happy? If the latest trends can help with that, all the better. If not, we simply have to develop other ideas.

Know your customers like you know yourself

Therefore, the challenge is to gain a comprehensive knowledge about the own target audience, which goes beyond simple sociodemographic characteristics. Tracking and sophisticated data analysis tools are a good start for this. Often, you learn about the attitudes and needs of the customers best through a direct confrontation with them – for example through interviews, observations, or user tests.

The provided results can also be potentially surprising and present a new, completely unthought-of challenge. But that is exactly how it works with transformations and disruptive processes. They wake us up and open our eyes to the needs and requirements, which the customers actually have.


When the wishes, expectations, and concrete problems of customers become known, you can begin to work out concrete solutions for them. The best way to do so, is to test the first prototypes in a few stores.

The advantage of prototypes is obvious: short development and release periods. Furthermore, they are cheaper than extensive solutions and are still sufficient for testing approaches. They can consist of graphic click dummies or first application versions, in which the idea is implemented with basic functions. The form, as a start, does not completely matter yet. It is essential that contact with customers takes place and the first experiences with exposure to the solution are collected. For this, it is naturally important, to establish processes for the continual improvement of the solution, in which user feedback loops and corrections to the prototype are planned for.

Setbacks and a perceived failure are, incidentally, effective for work on prototypes. Even if it sounds trite: you learn more from mistakes than from successes. And with every critique, the solution is improved! Whether the prototype is expanded in the end, elaborated as a real project, or discontinued and replaced by a new solution approach – and whether the newest hot shit is actually called into action, doesn’t have to be definite at this point of time. What is important: little by little you get closer to the needs of your customers.

With the technology that is already available to us today, many actual customer problems are solvable. For that, concentrating on the hurdles in the Customer Journey is necessary, as well as the rigorous involvement of the customer.

This article was also published at