A Letter From the Editor

By Jeanie Hendrie

No one will argue that technology has taken the world of retail by storm – but couldn’t we have said that to be the case 10 years ago? It’s 2016 and the storm has settled. Gone are the gale force winds that rocked retailers hard in the early 2000s and left is something of a high-tech sludge, seeping into every possible crevasse of the industry, end to end through the entire supply chain.

Since the dawn of time, retailers have strived to be ‘better, faster, cheaper’ and while that objective hasn’t changed, its definition undoubtedly has:

Better: Digital-first companies like Etsy and Pinterest have enhanced the shopping experience by translating product discovery into purchase conversion in just one click. Traditional retailers are in on the game as well. HBC’s recent acquisition of Gilt.com, an online luxury apparel retailer, demonstrates its commitment to enhancing its own shopping experience for customers (not to mention the distribution network gained as part of the package deal).

Faster: Amazon has long been the bar for ‘faster’ in the world of retail, but ‘faster’ needn’t only apply to shipping. Amazon has been nimble and first to market with a bevy of products and services since inception. This year’s line-up includes its first ever bricks-and-mortar location (just in case it hasn’t done enough to ravage bookstores across the globe) and the launch of Echo, a hands-free voice-controlled speaker that answers to the name Alexa. What’s next on Amazon’s innovation agenda? Let’s hope Alexa doesn’t have loose lips.

Cheaper: Access to an unlimited aisle of products has made it easier for shoppers to find a deal; while access to an unlimited database of email addresses has made it easier for retailers to blast shoppers with discounts. Customers won’t come knocking for 25% off anymore? Give ‘em 50% off and throw in free shipping! Retailers have become hooked on a sweet supply of promotional cocaine. Some can manage their addiction but for others, the look ain’t good. Can’t sustain on a diet of 50% off and free shipping? Then don’t offer it. Pottery Barn, we’re looking at you.

As in all times of change, there are winners, there are losers and there are lessons to be learned. Our friend (and frequent blog subject matter) Justin Bieber, learned the hard way when he put his tour location to a crowd-sourced fan vote which nearly landed him on stage in Kim Jong-Un’s homeland.

Oops!

“Oops” is a phrase applied daily in the fast-paced world of retail. But for those that move quickly, mistakes aren’t the enemy. Quite the opposite – mistakes demonstrate an understanding that change is required, a knowing that the status quo just won’t cut it and, ultimately, a step towards ‘better, faster, cheaper.’