E-Commerce is still on the advance: According to a forecast by the German Retail Association (Handelsverband Deutschland, HDE), online trade (+11 percent) will grow significantly faster than the retail trade as a whole in 2017. (+ 2 percent) and thus claim an even larger share of the turnover cake for themselves. The sufferers of this development are in particular small and medium-sized stationary retailers, whose turnover is at risk in view of ever smaller customer flows in city centres. Regional online marketplaces such as "Online-City Wuppertal" or "Mönchengladbach bei eBay", which are intended to strengthen local trade, appear to be a possible way out in this situation.

 

Such pilot projects, however, do not have it easy to gain the necessary attention from customers in the diversity of the World Wide Web. According to a report in the "Westdeutsche Zeitung", the total monthly turnover of the "Online-City Wuppertal" is only 1,000 to 1,300 euros - distributed among 60 dealers and over 880,000 products. Even though Wuppertal traders and the local economic development agency rightly point out that these figures do not take into account the clientele who use the "Online-City" for research before strolling through the city and then spend their money as stationary customers, the report clearly shows one thing: the establishment of a commercially successful local online marketplace is not a matter of course.

Nevertheless, some lessons can be learned from the experiences Rolf Volmerig, Chairman of the Wuppertal Economic Development Board, and Ulrich Schückhaus, Managing Director of the Mönchengladbach counterpart, shared with the magazine "etailment" in October.

 

1 At the beginning of a local commerce project, the basis often has to be laid first.

Digitisation is on everyone's lips, but many local retailers are still very traditional - for example, they do not yet have a digital merchandise management system. However, these are a necessary prerequisite for having products from technical service providers such as Atalanda listed in the local marketplace. The respective traders must therefore be accompanied intensively in the initial phase.

2. from time to time there must also be persuasion.

Platform operators such as Atalanda and eBay receive a commission for their services which is fixed at 8 percent of the turnover generated via the marketplace in Wuppertal and Mönchengladbach. However, this is too expensive for some dealers. From Ulrich Schückhaus's point of view, it is above all facts that help at this point: "When you shop, all the relevant expenses such as rent, personnel and operating costs must be included in the sales price. If the product is sold online, it is not part of the store, but is shipped directly from the warehouse. There are other, but no additional costs, such as shipping and returns."

3. the awareness of the local market place is of central importance.

In order to make the marketplace a success, local people in particular must first learn about this offer. However, this reputation was at least not present in Wuppertal for a long time: According to the "Westdeutsche Zeitung", Rolf Volmerig admitted in May that the level of awareness in the city was only 3 percent. As a result, the economic development agency tries to counteract this by means of larger advertising measures.

4 The acquisition of chain stores is difficult, but not impossible.

The integration of chain stores can increase the attractiveness of the marketplace. Often, however, these companies rely on their own - mostly Germany-wide - channels. Therefore, also at this point, persuasion work often has to be done. According to Kenny Weißgerber, project coordinator of "Online-City Wuppertal", a possible starting point for this are regionally specific products, which the furniture group Ikea, for example, sold at a new opening. In addition, the Mönchengladbach Economic Development Corporation was able to win over the Saturn electronics chain for its own marketplace.

5. the sympathy tour is not promising.

Even with a local commerce offer, the local customers must be convinced by an attractive offer. Only then is there a chance that they will change their purchasing behaviour sustainably. According to Volmerig, appeals alone are not enough. "We must not lure consumers with a sympathy tour according to the motto 'Please buy locally'", explains the business promoter in an interview with "etailment".

6. it is important to set up several delivery windows.

Due to the proximity to their customers, the dealers of the "Online-City Wuppertal" can make same-day delivery possible. However, this alone is not a sales-decisive USP. "More important are several, time-defined delivery periods in the daily routine. These have since been introduced," reports Rolf Volmerig. On the other hand, a central stationary pick-up store, which the Wuppertal Economic Development Agency had temporarily rented, was not profitable.