Stephan Schambach is the founder and chief executive officer of NewStore, a platform designed to make mobile shopping easier, smarter and more intuitive on both the customer and store’s sides. But that’s probably not why you’re familiar with his name — the serial entrepreneur is one of the earliest pioneers of e-commerce, introducing the first standard software for online shopping in 1995 with Intershop.
One startup truism claims that good founders create companies to solve problems. What problem were you trying to solve in founding the NewStore?
It’s very difficult for retailers to make omnichannel really work. They’re under pressure to offer the store experience of Apple and the convenience of Amazon. If they don’t do that, they lose customers. We simply offer all that as a cloud solution with mobile interfaces, mobiles apps actually, so it’s easy for retailers to implement and provide a compelling mobile-based store and online experience.
First there was desktop, then came mobile. What’s next in e-commerce?
I would say mobile still has a long way to go. It’s just beginning in-store and there will be at least five more years of innovation in mobile with retail. Beyond that, I could imagine augmented reality being used. This said, augmented reality is more challenging than virtual reality because it requires all the technology of virtual reality plus precision tracking and image processing on top of it to make objects appear exactly where they’re supposed to be. So I think it will be a while until we see practical applications of augmented reality in retail, but that’ll definitely be the next thing. You’ll watch a magic mirror and it will dress you in clothes you don’t have to [physically] put on, so it’ll make for a much more efficient fitting room.
What are you most looking forward to in terms of new technology for mobile shopping?
The proliferation of Apple Pay. Apple Pay is not in all European countries, it’s not in Germany or the Netherlands yet. It is a key ingredient to what we do in the store around payment to make it more convenient, completely frictionless, to eliminate any form filling, passwords, usernames and so forth.
What’s the one mistake you think most retail brands are guilty of?
I don’t want to say mistake. One of the hardest things for retailers is when they grow, they try to solve individual problems with individual IT systems which then stands in the way of providing a frictionless omnichannel experience. Traditionally there’s not been a good way to do anything about this and that’s the biggest challenge. I don’t want to call it a mistake because in many cases retailers can’t do much about this. In some instances if retailers had a strong software development team they could try and create their own but most retailers tend to have more traditional IT departments, they have to stitch [the omnichannel experience] together from products they can buy off the shelf.
What is the one thing nobody knows about Stephan Schambach?
At the University of Applied Sciences in Jena, they have an e-commerce department that is largely financed by a foundation that I launched with friends and partners.
What is the one thing you have recurring nightmares about?
US politics. Also, to some degree, European privacy laws. They are totally unnecessary and they don’t take into account the reality that we live in. It’s a problem for every retailer, it’s a problem for every technology company, it’s just causing unnecessary cost and bureaucracy and isn’t doing anybody any good. It is impossible. The internet does not work with these rules. The attempt to get it back is impossible. Data is being collected everywhere just because it can and to force businesses to remove the data causes a lot of IT costs, costs that are completely unnecessary, it often puts European companies at a competitive disadvantage to US or Chinese companies. It’ll never work.
What are you obsessed with right now?
I’ve been sailing since I was twenty years old and I love the opportunity it provides to be surrounded by nature. I enjoy the challenge of moving a boat purely by wind and it’s very technical but also requires intuition. It completely takes my mind off the everyday things I’d usually be preoccupied by like business. I’m completely focused on the task at hand when I sail.
Schambach will be delivering the speech “ Learning from the e-Commerce Visionary: How retail has evolved and its new mobile reality” at Savant eCommerce Berlin (1–2 March 2018) where he’ll be sharing his insights on how eCommerce has evolved over the last two decades; and will be discussing why retailers need to pay attention to the mobile reality that eCommerce is heading towards. Catch Schambach— and a whole host of other sharp business minds from the likes of Coca-Cola, John Lewis and Google — there.