A storeowner and his vision: Cologne’s virtual shopping street
Werner Mason is a native of Cologne, through and through. His birthplace is less than a kilometer away from his current passion project, the vintage interior and design shop, »Blickwerke«. Leisurely, he drinks a beer with the neighboring shop-owners – Kölsch, of course – to celebrate the start of this hot summer weekend.
Cologne is an emotion, a city full of great people and a wonderful place to call home. But you can’t just sit back and take it for granted. You‘ve got to work for it; co-create the urban area. That’s why I launched veedel-shopping.com.
The Corona-Crisis Calls for Creative Solutions
A qualified computer scientist, Werner worked in TV production for most of his career, before opening his shop just last year. He sells all kinds of interior decorations and things that he loves, from unique articles he finds at antique markets to artsy products from small European manufacturers or handmade baskets from a social project in Senegal. His motto: local to global.
The corona crisis hit Werner hard, so he thought of ways to use his skills to support himself and the other store-owners in his street; the colorful Merowingerstrasse in Cologne’s south. Just a couple of months later, their website went live.
When Online Shopping Becomes an Experience
»It’s like a virtual shopping experience, but with a connection to the real store. First, I gathered all the shops in this street, then in this part of the city and currently we are talking to shop-owners all over town. The website will function as a local alternative to big online retailers. Anything you need, you can actually get it right here in Cologne from small businesses – but nobody likes to search through all the shops and websites available. If all the products from all the small shops in the city are available on one platform, online shopping is simple and sustainable with no need for long shipment processes.«
Every store on the website still gets its own virtual shopping window though. So the connection to the real shop within the city isn’t lost. Delivery is next-day via e-bike. If you need it fast, a same-day delivery can be arranged at an additional cost. So the concept is actually eco-friendly. And in case you need to return an item, or change color or size, customers can visit the particular store directly and see if there is anything else they might like instead.
Werner Mason has already thought of ways to reduce returns anyway. »There are great technological ways to give customers a very good impression of the product before actually ordering it. We use augmented reality, for example, like a 3D scan of the product. Virtually, with your smartphone, you can place the new pillow on your couch, to check if the color and size match what you want. «
Werner’s ideas are endless. The mission – to get the local shop-owner community online – has found plenty of supporters. »We are working with lots of awesome creatives to make this happen«. For Werner Mason, the digital world is not a threat that is replacing the boutique shops from the city, but rather a way to bring retail stores back to the people of Cologne instead. He lifts his drink for a toast and says:
I’d like to make digitalization human. To be precise, I want to provide an opportunity for the people of Cologne to shop online locally, to help preserve the shopping streets we all so love. This way, living and walking around this beautiful city will always feel like being on vacation, thanks to all the colorful and cool little stores.
More information about the project https://www.veedel-shopping.de. (Note: The project and website are still in progress and are happy to welcome new store-owners!)