Initiative Retail Future ‘Zukunft Handel’

An introduction to the services and tools that ‘Zukunft Handel’ (Retail Future), an initiative launched by Google and the German Retail Federation (HDE), offers to support smaller German retailers in digitising their business.

An Unlikely Couple

When talking about digitising the economy, let alone retail, Germany is not usually the first country that comes to mind. Instead, in typical German fashion, most would moan about the lack of digitisation in the country. It is therefore a noteworthy exception when two heavyweights team up with the objective to help digitise small German retailers.

On the one hand, Germany’s powerhouse of trade associations, the German Retail Federation (HDE), represents Germany’s third largest industry and consists of 410,000 small and medium-sized enterprises with an estimated €500 billion of annual turnover. And as its partner, the US technology behemoth Google, with no further need for introduction. They make an unlikely couple for sure, but perhaps in this case also a smart combination of knowledge and tech-connections from Google, combined with great access to the target group (smaller German retailers) from HDE. So, if you are asking yourself, “how can I digitise my business?,” this might be a good place to start your research.

The Couple’s First Child: Initiative ‘Zukunft Handel’ (Retail Future Initiative)

Compared to the rollout speed of other large endeavours in Germany, like building an international airport in its capital city Berlin, the birth of the initiative ‘Zukunft Handel’ can be considered lightning fast. The launch was in September 2020, with a first award ceremony a mere two months later. Too fast for some to even get a chance to notice that there was an award to potentially apply for.

Google & HDE how can I digitise my business


Isn’t It Beautiful, Honey?

Despite the speed of its delivery, this baby can be considered beautiful. The initiative offers a wide spectrum of content and training for all business owners who are interested in learning how to digitise their (retail) business. With an array of 46 courses provided by Google and select list of partners, businesses can cover topics like  the basics of online marketing, how to build a webshop, and of course an introduction to the GDPR, Europe’s data protection act.

While I have not yet been able to look more in-depth at all the content this initiative makes available, a very inspiring and helpful feature are the case studies they provide. These success stories help with learning what it takes for a small business to really move the needle. They show how to approach a task that may otherwise seem overwhelming for many small business owners.

Are the services of Google and other partners promoted as part of the whole deal? Of course they are. But is that an issue? It’s a fact that many business-critical tools belong to some of the largest global players. Let’s take this initiative as what it is: a well-curated starting point for business owners with little prior knowledge and a desire to digitise their business.

Nurturing your child

While many technical aspects are well-covered, I think it would be great to include more content about the less technical aspects of being successful in times of digital distribution. On this blog, we often discuss the wide range of side-effects a digital economy can have. A useful training for small businesses who look to digitise could, for instance, focus on how to make sure you have a well-curated assortment that stands out in times of instant online comparability and price fights. Or on best practices on how to wow your shoppers with great experiences and service.

Have you had any experiences with the ‘Zukunft Handel’ initiative of HDE and Google? I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss how to make this even better and more useful to retailers.

About the Author:

Christoph Berendes is a consultant in strategy development and process optimisation for fashion brands and retailers. He has more than 15 years of experience as a consultant, line manager in the sportswear industry and in e-commerce marketplace distribution. Read more of his work here or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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