Retail’s Needed Change


I’m sitting on the patio of my hotel in Palm Desert, California. I’m in the sun this week (thankfully) to meet and talk with leading retailers at the Etail West conference – a gathering of around 2,000 professionals and their teams looking to transform their business and stay ahead of the inevitable guillotine that waiting for businesses that don’t evolve fast enough.

“Retail” is an extremely broad classification that crosses industries – one thing is clear, consumers need to believe that your product or service is in someway enhancing their life, thus they part with their money. The problem is trends and people’s behaviors change faster than most retailers (or any businesses, really) can adapt often times. Leaving a few to succeed, while the majority slowly (or quickly in some cases) slide into irrelevance.

The old model for “retail” as we know it is dead. Physical stores, if not managed properly, become a huge liability. Wholesalers are now competing with the likes of Amazon. And, brands that once only manufactured goods (mostly) and distributed through traditional retailers are now creating their own relationships with end consumers. Where does that leave the department store? Hopefully, that department store is investing aggressively to offer the best selection, with the best service, wherever the consumer wants it: online or off.

I may do a quick recap focused around the attitudes and topics that come up this week…but I’m very interested in learning from leaders who are feeling the pressure to change. What do they see as the big issues and opportunities vs. what they feel they are doing well, and should do more of.

My sense is, there is very little groundbreaking news and completely fresh ideas. I think companies probably fall into one of a few different buckets: those that have made significant changes and are leading their respective industries (by far the minority), those that are working on making improvements but don’t feel they are moving fast enough, and finally those that know what to do but feel like they are stuck and not making anywhere close to enough progress to “keep up” for one reason or another (lack of organizational support, resources, and other investment). Perhaps it’s an over-simplification, but I’m interested to hear what people have to say.

One thing I think is clear, we need broad embrace of “what’s possible” and less attention to status-quo, the way things have always been done, and traditional offline metrics like catalog circulation applied to digital channels, where frankly there is little relevance. With the state of mobile today (push, geolocation, beacons, etc.), the focus on overall customer experience (online and offline – everywhere and anywhere), and the amount of data available retailers who are willing to take risks, think beyond the immediate future, and push their teams to do the same will be well positioned for success probably, regardless of industry.

The question is: why do we always talk about the same companies such as Apple and Nordstrom?  Lets find out this week in the desert…a retail vision quest if you’ll forgive the analogy. More to come.

no comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *