Welcome to the thrilling world of future commerce!
This article was written in French and translated into English and German. The French version prevails.
The “Future of Commerce” conference, organized by the Luxembourg Confederation together with the Direction des Classes Moyennes du Ministère de l’Ecconomie, was a whirlwind of innovative ideas and stimulating perspectives.
The warm and relaxed atmosphere among the attendees, all passionate about commerce, foreshadowed an extraordinary day. Many of us were aware that the current complexities are not mere transient obstacles but rather the foundations of a metamorphosis towards new forms of commercial exchange.
The excitement and anticipation were almost palpable. Some attendees may have wondered if this day off was really worth it and if this conference would provide them with a long-term vision to ensure the survival and prosperity of their businesses. And the answer is a resounding YES!
The organizers delivered on their promises by providing us with a dynamic and exhilarating day, filled with diverse, concise, and impactful presentations.
Charting the Path to the Future
Minister Lex Delles and Director-General of the Chamber of Commerce Carlo Thelen kicked off the event by providing us with a sharp analysis of the overall economic situation and the challenges faced by commerce. They emphasized the urgency of considering these challenges as opportunities and the need to adapt, even reinvent ourselves. The numbers speak for themselves: in 2022, commerce contributed 9% to the GDP but experienced an 8% decline in activity. Despite this realization, a quarter of the sector has no plans for investment in 2023/2024, further exacerbating the competitiveness gap on an international level. As the philosopher Maurice Blondel so aptly stated, “The future is not to be foreseen, but to be prepared for.”
The Era of E-commerce and New Trends
We were then captivated by brilliant speeches, starting with Mr. Wijnand Jongen, an expert in online commerce and president of Ecommerce Europe. His book, translated into 10 languages and distributed in over 20 countries, titled “The End of Online Shopping: the future of retail in an always connected world,” opened the doors to an ever-evolving world. Despite what the title may suggest, e-commerce is not on the verge of disappearing. On the contrary, e-commerce is also rapidly evolving. Recent disruptions have led to radical changes in consumer behavior and expectations.
Merchants will place customers at the centre of their concerns – customers who are increasingly demanding, less concerned about data protection, and seeking immediate and complete satisfaction, from quality to fair prices. Today’s customers rightly expect to be at the centre of attention, facing empathetic merchants who master the art of selection, service, and adaptation.
Mr. Jongen introduced us to the unique consumer behaviours of each generation, from millennials to “zoomers” to “silver surfers.” He also highlighted the innovative concept of “Phygital,” which harmoniously combines the digital experience with the physical experience of stores. According to him, the future belongs to stores that offer more than just a purchase: a physical experience focused on customer well-being combined with an immersive digital experience. He emphasized the importance of commerce as a meeting place, click & collect, sensory and unusual experiences, human interactions, and fully personalized service. The customer expects the unexpected. The digitization of services, through live-streaming, the creation of captivating content, powerful applications, and access to artificial intelligence, will be an essential additional path. Digital and physical are no longer contradictory but mutually enriching.
Moreover, today’s consumer, and even more so tomorrow’s, will focus on smarter resource utilization, sustainability, environmental responsibility, and the circular economy. Smart, empathetic merchants who are always attentive to humans and their needs will embrace these inevitable trends while ensuring attractive prices. The “second-hand” market, for example, has experienced a growth of +38%, while players promoting rapid and ephemeral overconsumption in traditional stores are experiencing some stagnation.
An Orchestra of Collaborations and Agility
To achieve these goals, Mr. Jongen emphasized the importance for merchants to form clusters, establish collaborations, and seek synergies. Indeed, those who will succeed are those capable of creating a seamless customer experience through the integration of all available channels. He also stressed the importance of boldness, agility, enhancing the experience and service to the customer, and a constant willingness to reinvent oneself, explore possibilities, and embrace creativity. Thinking outside the box, experimenting, learning, and adapting are the keys to thriving in a constantly evolving environment.
Highlights of a Promising Future
The conference then introduced us to a concrete example: the revolutionary concept of “Auchan Le Lab”, a futuristic shopping experience that eliminates traditional cash registers. With a sophisticated system of cameras and product weighing, customers can shop without any time constraints. The emphasis was on patience, learning to avoid mistakes, and training staff to adapt to these new professional realities. The ultimate goal is not to replace personnel but to create new jobs and value training to prepare employees for emerging roles.
The Power of Artificial Intelligence in Service of Humanity
Mr. Michel Wozniak, an expert in artificial intelligence, dazzled us with his admirably human perspective. Rather than frightening us with the limitless potential of AI, he emphasized the increasing importance of humans, ethical and social considerations, as well as the opportunities offered by this technology when used in service of humanity. Smart merchants will ensure that AI is not used to replace humans, but rather to support them. They will focus on training and developing employees, placing humans at the center of their concerns, and embracing the emergence of new professions.
New Professions and Consumer Preferences
Presentations by ABBL and EY illuminated our understanding of future consumer behaviours and preferences. New professions are emerging, such as “influencers” and communication experts, who will serve as interfaces between merchants and ever-smarter tools. Will smart cities based on the 15-minute concept, like “The line,” be the cities of the future? Experts François Honoré and Dylan Baras from GeoConsulting provided potential answers revolving around our ability to create cities that foster social connections and provide immediate accessibility to offerings and services. One fascinating example is Wasbar, an idea conceived by a few students that quickly transformed into a successful venture, with many cozy and charming locations—a café/bar where you can enjoy light refreshments while doing your laundry!
Valuable Tools for Unparalleled Market Analysis
At the “Future of Commerce” conference, the organisers themselves, the Luxembourg Confederation, revealed a treasure trove of information. The Luxembourg Confederation unveiled an invaluable market analysis and field tools graciously made available to its members.
Imagine a world where you have access to in-depth data and knowledge about the local market, where you can explore emerging trends, availabilities, demographic information, consumer preferences, and business opportunities. With these valuable tools, the Luxembourg Confederation offers you a powerful compass to navigate the complex and ever-evolving commercial landscape.
Awakening a Bold Vision
The speakers immersed us in the exciting world of future commerce, where possibilities are endless and opportunities abound. The conference was a veritable fireworks display of inspiring ideas and perspectives that instilled an immediate desire to act, echoing the final words presented by Mr. Robert Goeres, President of the LRF.
By embracing the evolution of e-commerce, creating unique experiences, and leveraging intelligent technology, open-minded, creative, and courageous merchants can not only survive but thrive in an ever-changing commercial landscape.
The unanimous conclusion from the speakers: it will be humanity, with its values, that will prevail.
Dive into a future brimming with surprises, innovations, and success. Seize all the opportunities that come your way With curiosity, boldness, creativity and your passion for your client.