“If the traders do well, we do well too”
Media companies operating at local level today are no longer offering only news, but extending their radius of action. The Nordkurier media group, together with the “Lokalfuchs” local traders initiative, has shown a pioneering spirit: The accompanying app, launched in early 2017, is used already by 225 retail traders in Neubrandenburg.
Project manager Claudia Schneider tells in an interview how Medienhaus Nordkurier, in cooperation with our exhibitor ppi as technology partner, succeeded in setting up the project as well as capturing and retaining the loyalty of traders.
Ms Schneider, what exactly is behind the Lokalfuchs Project?
Lokalfuchs is a business initiative aimed at strengthening local trade. The continuing growth of eCommerce is making life difficult for local businesses. As a media company with regional roots, we want to keep trade in the inner cities and thus naturally also strengthen the position of our customers. If our advertising customers are doing well, then we will also do well. We want to help ensure that people continue to buy locally.
Our approach does not consist of condemning eCommerce, but rather using it to link local offerings with an app, selling products online to local customers and getting them into the shops. Even small-scale traders can avail of this approach to boost their business. We focused initially on local trade, but then extended our scope to other sectors such as gastronomy, services and craft businesses. The campaign has been running successfully for two-and-a-half years in Neubrandenburg. We started out with a classical media package and since one year the accompanying app that we developed together with ppi has been available.
Why is that attractive for people in the region?
The retail customers also have an interest in seeing that their region remains lively and attractive. Buying becomes even simpler and more comfortable. I know what special offers are available in the city such as are not presented by the classical print media. I download the app, go downtown and discover which offerings the traders have for me today. Once inside the shop, I can see, check or test the product. By means of a simple scan I can then avail of the offering via a QR code.
How can traders become part of the business initiative?
We have tested several access methods. Firstly we approached retailers here in the region that we wanted to win back as customers. We got them to join the initiative by selling them classical media packages. But organisations such as public utility companies are typical “Lokalfüchse”. Though we cannot approach them with such an introductory package, we were able to sign them up as partners with our company via a cooperation agreement. We reconsidered the criteria several times. It was a case of constantly monitoring how which approach influenced the level of acceptance. Our objective is to convince traders to abandon their existence as “lone wolves” and utilise the technical platform of our initiative.
How many traders have signed up to date or how did the level of response develop during the project?
The Nordkurier media group initiative started in autumn 2015 and has in the meantime attracted about 500 Lokalfuchs partners in the major regional centre, therefore in Neubrandenburg and in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as well as in a smaller regional centre in Prenzlau in Berlin-Brandenburg. The app that we introduced in early 2017 is used by 225 retail traders for their offerings. The free-of-charge app has been downloaded 6000 times to date. The number of downloads jumped in summer 2017 as a result of the free, open access Lokalfuchs WLAN in the Neubrandenburg city centre, also an initiative of the Nordkurier media group with currently 20,000 registered and on average 1500 logged-on users daily.
Did all this take off by itself, or what was your experience during the course of the project?
We established that it is essential to take care of the customers at all times, as otherwise they quit the initiative. It is not enough to sell packages. Instead it is a matter of constantly keeping in contact with the traders, to network, and to offer events where they can meet up. The events offer an opportunity to share experiences and discuss matters of interest, e.g. “how do I protect myself from theft, how do I attract trainees, or how do I word my job ads?” Such added-value topics are important to ensure that it is not just an advertising initiative. Therefore what is needed is an ongoing campaign into which we incorporate the region's multipliers. Important are offerings that can be realised very easily for the traders and that they can simply latch on to. If these initiative are not forthcoming, the traders relatively quickly find other priorities in their daily business, which is how to bring their products to as many customers as possible.
And how do you make money with this?
To begin with, there are the media packages and the app that the traders book. But that is above all an initiative aimed at ensuring customer loyalty towards us in the medium and long-term – e.g. in relation to logistical services, so that we can also offer them dispatch and courier services. Our future aim is to incorporate the customers into eCommerce and as a partner dispatch their letters and packages. Seen in this light, besides a constant income from packages and events, this is above all an investment. But whoever looks after customer relations as a diligent media consultant will also generate turnover in other projects because he will repeatedly have a door-opener.
How did the cooperation with ppi come about?
We knew ppi as the technical provider of the location-based online service, thanks, that opened up new digital income sources to publishers through the integration of events and “push” messages. That matched our idea perfectly and the cooperation has proven successful. This was backed by the right communication and service, such as a map function, address management and the necessary interfaces.
To what extent can this model be applied to other publishing houses?
This is suitable naturally also for other media companies and, besides our technology partner ppi, we provide information on how to set about such a project. We give tips concerning the mistakes we made and that should not be repeated. In addition to project organisation and control, media companies must also, for example, review the internal communication at their own operation. It is important for editors, the logistics division and branch offices know the initiative and present it positively to the outside. We monitored these three cornerstones for a year and took corresponding measures where weaknesses became apparent.
Have other publishing companies become aware of the topic and developed their own projects?
Several have expressed interest in our concept. We offer the complete service, but it is also possible to incorporate individual service modules into a separate concept, e.g. telephone-based customer service. We provide support from planning to realisation. Ideally, we all get together in a workshop so that we obtain a better picture of the operation for which it is intended to develop the initiative.
Stefanie Hornung conducted the interview.
Meet ppi at the DCX Digital Content Expo from 9 to 11 October at Messe Berlin: on Stand B.05, Hall 21b.