In the 18 months since I joined the National Retail Federation, I’ve been struck repeatedly by how rapidly our industry continues to evolve. As we all know, retail has always changed and adapted — and in just the past 20 years we’ve advanced from then-radical game changer Amazon.com to more recent models like Hointer, which boasts what amounts to online shopping in a store.
There is a distinct theme emerging around all of this evolution. In an increasingly competitive market, it’s no longer just about new technology. Instead, retailers are now looking across the enterprise at all their assets with a keen eye to leveraging the full range of infrastructure, human talent, and, yes, technology, in their arsenal. And it’s not just the sum of those assets that counts — it’s how retailers are using and adapting them to create even greater value.
Think, for example, how innovative retailers are leveraging their store design and operations to increase the role and value of the traditional store. Especially when building new stores, retailers are paying attention to the relative size of the shipping and receiving areas and how to retool “back of the house” store operations, thereby forming a network of store-level “fulfillment centers.” This infrastructure also makes it possible for local customers to place orders online and either pick up those orders in-store or have the items delivered within just hours, potentially from the store inventory.
The urgency behind all of this, of course, is keeping up with the radically changing customer — from how they adopt and use technology to the products and service they expect, with zero regard for our industry’s notions of “channels” or other traditional ways of doing things. The good news: this rapid rate of customer change is pushing us as retailers to deliver products and services so much faster and more creatively than we would otherwise. For any retailer to be truly competitive today, the pressure to continuously reinvent oneself is absolutely vital.
All of this tells me that we’re already in the midst of the next chapter in retailing, and that the next several new chapters likely lie just ahead. Retailing feels distinctly different than it did e