Prof. Dr. Erik Maier
Today’s retail environment has changed considerably: the majority of retailers now renounce their former conviction that either on- or offline retail would eventually substitute the other. Online retailers open offline stores to address new target segments; traditional retailers react to e-commerce competition with their online stores. Thus, the proliferation and integration of retail channels – the so-called “omni-channeling” – is the new standard.
The purchase process, therefore, is not restricted to a single channel any more. While customers could formerly be attracted by opening high-street stores, and revenue be increased through a multiplication of these stores, customers now often have to be acquired as expensive online “traffic”. At the same time, retailers that used to operate purely offline have to digitize to avoid the “death of the high street”. Consequently, the tools of digital marketing are vital for new and established retailers alike. Digital customer data and A/B-tests enable an increase in the marketing optimization frequency, which was unknown in the days of focus groups and quarterly reports. But surging online marketing costs and increased strategic dependence on certain marketing channels constitute difficulties that companies have to handle.
The Chair of Marketing and Retail explores the consequences of digitalization for producers and retailers of consumer goods. We especially focus on teaching and further developing tools for the digital economy, particularly in online marketing. These emphases are visible in multiple areas: Our teaching discusses different digital business models or enables students to analyze customer data (e.g., course „Online Marketing and Customer Analytics“). Our research investigates retail topics with higher complexity than could be handled in day-to-day business (e.g., assessment of consumer migration patterns in on-, offline and mobile shops) and that are of societal relevance (e.g., the energy effects of e-commerce or the role of data privacy). At the same time, we cooperate with companies, and municipal and regional stakeholders to address challenges in the present digital marketing (e.g., adblocking) and retailing system (e.g., the death of the high street). Our blog sets managerial impulses and discussions (www.handels.blog – in German only).
Digitalization extends the possibilities in retail: New retail and marketing channels, granular information about current and future customers, and high-frequency measurement of marketing performance are only a few examples. However, digital retailing is now more challenging than ever, as companies have to handle the higher complexity of the new possibilities. My work at HHL targets helping to simplify this complexity – for our students, but also managers and other researchers. Digital marketing helps in this endeavor: its analytical tools help to disentangle numerous sources of information, and its solutions and frameworks enable better communication with consumers. Digital retailing needs digital marketing. My work as a consultant with McKinsey & Company provided me with an understanding of traditional retail, which my doctoral research on point-of-sale optimization at ESCP Europe extended. During my subsequent work in e-commerce, online marketing became an increasingly important work and interest field.
In 2015, I joined HHL as Junior Professor in Retail and Multi-Channel Management, focusing on the topics of digital retailing and marketing. After serving as deputy chairholder for Marketing at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, I was promoted in 2021 to full professor and chairholder at HHL. I cooperate with companies and societal and political stakeholders in addressing challenges in the present retail and marketing environment. Besides my managerially-oriented work, I research e-commerce and online marketing topics, publish in international journals, engage as a reviewer, and discuss current topics on my blog.
The digitalization of retail and marketing is an opportunity. But each opportunity comes with risks and the need to develop. My goal at HHL is to support this development process.