BrainTrust throwdown: Is it inevitable that tech companies will dominate retail?

Source: Amazon Go
Apr 05, 2017
Rick Moss

From its origins with the Dutch West India Company through numerous evolutions, commerce is the engine that has driven the global prominence of the U.S. economy. Still, the e-commerce revolution that caught on in the late 1990’s is so fundamentally different that the prior 400 years of traditional retail can be viewed as a prelude to the empowered, connected consumer age we exist in. We’re in the midst of a hi-tech revolution with no limits in sight.

We asked two of our BrainTrust panelists, Ken Lonyai and Ryan Mathews, to argue for and against the following premise: 

The new model for retail, as exemplified by Amazon, is built on mastery of data, AI and IT services. Legacy retail companies can’t possibly make a transition to this type of data-first company. Therefore, possibly within the next decade, big retail will be entirely dominated by tech companies.

[For the purpose of this exercise, Mr. Lonyai will take the pro position and Mr. Mathews the con. The views expressed herein are not necessarily their own.]

Ken Lonyai

Ken Lonyai
Amazon is the pinnacle of retail technology domination. Everything the company does is supported by data and technology and it’s working splendidly. Apple’s retail success is strongly attributed to changing the shopping experience by incorporating digital tools for checkout, fulfillment and support. Other tech-driven commerce leaders are emerging too. uses algorithms to aggregate savings. Starbucks’ mobile apps/payments fuel its growth. Warby Parker, Bonobos, Rent the Runway, BirchBox, Casper and others leverage big data and technology to upend their respective markets.

None of these accomplishments would have come about simply with better trained sales associates on a sales floor. Even associates need to be well equipped with data and the means to access and utilize it immediately or today’s enabled consumer will walk. As important as human factors are, software and hardware drive user interactions, inventory, logistics, package tracking/returns, etc. It’s the absolute differentiator that will continue to distance retail winners from also-rans.

Ryan Mathews

Ryan Mathews
Arguing that tech companies are the future of retail is like saying power saws are the future of carpentry. Do they have a place in carpentry? Of course! Are they carpenters? Not even close.

We are so besotted by technology that we are blind to its essential role. At its most innovative, technology is a tool. Once it gains mass acceptance, it becomes a utility — invisible — freeing us to focus on real change drivers, like people.

Electricity allows stores to stay open later, keep products at proper temperature, illuminates the consumer’s shopping experience, fuels computing systems, etc. But it’s people that make or break retailing, not electricity or utility providers.

Technologists love process and systems. Merchants help people escape boxes. AI solves for the best choice. Retailers know the power of surprise. The future belongs to retailers that can exploit technology, not the other way around.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which argument rings truest with you? Will the tech giants (think: Amazon, Google, Apple) soon rule retail? Can traditional retailers make the transition and compete effectively in this new environment?

"The winner? Tech. The loser? Everyone who is afraid to cannibalize their existing model."
"Technology certainly plays a critical and enabling supporting role but does not define the actual experience."
"Retail is a business based on people, for people, by people. I remain aghast that the digerati seem unable to stop and ponder that reality."

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42 Comments on "BrainTrust throwdown: Is it inevitable that tech companies will dominate retail?"

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Paula Rosenblum

Gosh, everyone on both sides seem to forget the “X factor” (beyond Ryan’s passing mention) — the products being sold and the skill of the merchant in selecting and/or designing the things consumers want to buy.

Of course technology is a tool. It helps us determine “how much,” “where” and in the case of apparel “which sizes and colors?” But retailers must never forget that commodities are great for — commodities.

So many specialty retailers are having trouble now because they’ve lost their merchandising touch. That’s not a technology issue.

Now, having said that, the store itself is an entirely different story. There are only so many ways we can say, beg, plead and scream that the store is desperately in need of reinvention to stay relevant in the digital age. It’s just true. And all our data tells us retailers are moving too slowly.

But stores without “cool stuff” or “great services” are boxes that can easily be replaced by Amazon or some other commodity seller.

Tom Dougherty

Can traditional retailers make the transition? Certainly. Will they? Nah.

They are too busy trying to make the old models profitable and interesting again. They won’t change until it’s too late and new shopping habits will already be formed.

The winner? Tech. The loser? Everyone who is afraid to cannibalize their existing model.

Many of the barriers for change are found in shareholders who notoriously hold onto quarterly profits and resist long-term investment. So how long would a Macy’s C-suite survive if they closed and reduced the brick-and-mortar retail space in favor of a REAL and dominant online experience? That management would get bounced out on their ears. The current model MUST defend real estate investments.

Mark Ryski

Both arguments are strong, but I believe Ken Lonyai’s rings most true today. While the role of store personnel to impact customer experience and store results has never be greater, the impact that technology has had in all aspects of retailing is undeniable. Clearly Amazon is the ruler of online retailing, but I’m not convinced that they will dominate all retailing. I do believe that traditional retailers can make the transition to effectively compete in the new environment – in fact, I’d argue that technology without a solid foundational base of brand/execution will not lead to success either.

Sterling Hawkins

The way retailers have historically gone to market is fundamentally changing and consumers now hold the power in the supply chain. I’m in agreement with Mark here that what the brand stands for and how they create experiences (online or off) becomes the basis for success. Technology is only a supporting factor.

Max Goldberg

Technology can enhance the shopping experience but rarely will it succeed at being the experience, and experience is what retail is all about. Traditional retailers can compete based on experience, but they need technological tools to do it efficiently.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Ryan for President! The enabling effect of technology is its strength and value. Without application, tech is a tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it.

Gib Bassett

I think they are both correct. The problem with technology is that it’s often positioned as the difference-maker by itself (remember the history of the CRM market and the challenges companies have with their Big Data projects). Instead, it takes the logical use of technology along with people and processes to make a difference in retail. From what I’ve observed, I think part of the challenge traditional retailers face is the distinction between the cultures of their e-commerce/analytics operations and their brick-and-mortar stores. The staffing of the groups, the pay scales and general work environments are so different that it’s hard to achieve the omnichannel benefits everyone is shooting for. I’d expect retailers who survive the current storm to do a good job of resolving these differences to create one face for the market. It will start with some combination of people and technology.

Kate Munro

I agree, Gib. Both Ken and Ryan make good points — human creativity and innovation are important to a retailer’s success, but modern technology has evolved in a way that drives logistics and user interactions both for the consumer and on the backend. Technology should be more than just another tool and retailers need to fully embrace it to survive. With the right technology, retailers can leverage their entire community from all over the world in almost an instant to take advantage of data and provide an on-trend end product faster. Retailers who don’t adapt to the new retail economy and implement technology that encourages co-creation will fall behind.

Nir Manor

E-commerce pure players created — until now — more successful e-commerce businesses than traditional retailers. Look at Amazon, eBay, Alibaba (Tmall, Taobao) Tencent, Rakuten, Flipkart and Etsy to name a few. These are not technology companies. These are online retailers that mastered all aspects of online retailing — data science, customers analysis, UI, customer journey, payment systems, assortment, promotion, pricing, traffic generation, conversion and more. Until now no brick-and-mortar retailer has managed to transform to an e-commerce player that can match the success of these companies. However, brick-and-mortar is in the process of digital transformation, and I believe that in the coming years more and more brick-and-mortar retailers will improve their online operations and gain a stronger foothold within the e-commerce space.

Ricardo Belmar

We are already seeing the effects of technology and digital transformation on retail’s biggest well-known brands — and it’s not a success story. While the fundamentals of retail around having the right product, building relationships with customers and delivering great service haven’t changed, what has changed is the execution in light of new technologies helping to redefine the experience. I have said here and elsewhere that retail is now a data business more than it is a merchandise business — the fact is the modern masters, e.g. Amazon and Apple, have shown us how to meld data and technology with great service, informed associates and a single view of the customer across channels in ways no legacy retailer has been able to follow. Traditional retailers have a long road ahead to break free of the legacy systems and processes that bind them, but the ones that see this challenge and react quickly and innovate will survive. The ones that don’t … they won’t last. The future of retail lies in finding the right melding of data, technology, merchandise and service to deliver a great customer experience.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

While I tend to lean toward Ryan’s position that people make the difference in any business, I am not so sanguine that traditional retailers are able to make the change in their models and thinking to compete effectively in this new environment. King Kullen introduced the first supermarket in 1930 and the first Walmart Supercenter did not arrive on the scene until 1988. Supermarkets were basically unchanged for almost 60 years adding SKUs and featuring low prices. Eventually, traditional supermarkets realized that they could compete with the Supercenters on strategic issues other than price. However, under this scenario they realized that by being better merchants they could compete with the Walmart crowd.

It’s not the same since Amazon was founded in 1994. Amazon and others represent a real paradigm shift in which all players, including the veterans, go back to zero. If traditional retailers do not realize and act on this, Ken’s view of the retailing world of the future will prevail.

Charles Dimov

Ken, as much as I am a tech fanatic too — I have to agree with Ryan. The technology is to retailers like water is to fish. It is the medium in which they exist, yet it is not the core of their existence.

Retailers definitely have to keep pushing the boundaries of using retail technology or Amazon will do so and leave everyone behind. However, to Ryan’s point, the key factors in retail are the people, the products and connection with the customer (brand, etc).

Technology is key to this engagement — but ultimately retail is about people buying things — online, in-store or otherwise.

Ian Percy

If the universal mantra is “Give me data or give me death!” … I’m about to choose death.

It seems we long to return to the Newtonian mind set where the world is simply a collection of metrics and algorithms. Why would we do that? I suggest it’s because we can’t deal with the “noumenon,” it’s just too powerful and we aren’t up to it. This reciprocal world, the world of possibilities, of sensing and knowing is the space from which everything has come and from which our future is waiting to come. We are afraid and so reject the joy of that power like a child afraid of the rollercoaster who because of that fear stands while others ride. The book of Genesis does not begin with “And God said let there be data,” it starts with “And God said let there be light.” So many still don’t see it.

Jon Polin

Technology is critical to all industries, but that does not mean that all industries must become technologists. First and foremost, retail will continue to be about products consumers want at prices those consumers are willing to pay. Second, smart retailers will figure out how to use technology as an enabler of improved business, whether that means marketing or operations or pricing or something else. But technology as an enabler can be outsourced — it does not need to convert retailers into technologists.

Dave Nixon

I have to agree with both, but technology is an enabler and not a replacement. Done well it becomes seamless and invisible … but let’s not forget personal customer experience will still drive deeper loyalty and advocacy. One-to-one retailing is NOT DEAD!

Ben Zifkin
3 months 17 days ago
Yes. Of course I am not arguing that retail will disappear and be replaced by tech companies. However, I think the main point is, are decisions made by humans backed by tech tools or are decision made by tools back by retail gut instinct? It will be the latter. Although I see where Ryan is headed with the power saw analogy, I am not sure it is a complete analogy in this situation. If a power saw were just a power saw, then yes. But with the technology available today, that wouldn’t be the case. Imagine if the power saw remembered all of the movements it made on every single project it ever completed. Now imagine that the power saw had access to the billions of other projects around the world and throughout all of time. Imagine that the power saw had all of the reactions from the people who commissioned the work to know how well they did. Imagine, as you start a new project, that your power saw knows everything about what you like. Then imagine that it knows what millions of other people like that fit a similar profile to yours. And finally imagine that the power… Read more »
Ian Percy

I totally get your point Ben and you put it excellently. All metaphors and analogies break down at some point, but stretch your thinking to the arts. Can we already use AI to paint us another Mona Lisa or carve us a statue of David? Absolutely. We could do that by the thousands. But what would we have? They’d be all lined up with seashell lamps and black velvet Elvis paintings in retail shacks along the beach boardwalk.

I guess I come down on my interpretation of Ryan’s point … are we sacrificing soul for automation? I think yes. Like the Blues Brothers — I’m a soul man!

Adrian Weidmann

The art of both retailing and shopping cannot, and will not, be derived, resolved or created by computer programs and high-resolution screens. Technology has and will continue to amplify and accelerate shoppers’ expectations. We live in a nanosecond world in which we expect instant gratification yet Jeffery Sears and his three partners created PIRCH — a brick-and-mortar store experience which completely turned the shopping and purchasing of kitchen and bath fixtures and appliances on its head. You can actually test 13 to 15 different shower heads in an actual shower — a truly immersive sensory experience.

Technology certainly plays a critical and enabling supporting role but does not define the actual experience. With more than $3,000 in revenue per square foot, PIRCH is second highest in retail revenue in its category. This model will dominate the retail landscape. The winner of the battle this round is Ryan.

Steve Montgomery

Retail therapy does not happen when buying online. To have it occur you have to get out of the house, go to a store and touch and feel the merchandise. The issue for brick-and-mortar retailers is if they can continue to provide an environment where people want to go. This involves not only the physical place, but having the right merchandise whether it is clothing or major appliances.

Susan O'Neal
3 months 17 days ago

I love this question! Ryan and Ken are both right. Both technology and data are only as good as the objective they are applied against. Amazon uses technology to capture the value of efficiency (time and money). Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers use people to capture the value of human relationships (trust and loyalty). Can technology replace relationships? Yes, sometimes. Can relationships trump technology? Yes, sometimes. At the end of the day the entities that best respond to what the consumer needs and wants will thrive — just like always.

Brandon Rael

While the lines between technology and the retail experience are blurring, the old fundamentals remain the same — having the right product, the right location and at the right price. However, the tech giants are already ruling retail as Amazon is already the biggest seller of apparel online. For Amazon, Apple and Google to fully dominate the industry, they will need to leverage their ability to know, anticipate and be on top of the fashion trends by leveraging AI.

Yet I have to go with Ryan’s argument, as the traditional retailers still have the advantage of an experience-based brick-and-mortar location. If they have the capabilities and executive sponsorship they have the potential to develop a strategy around leveraging the best technology and infrastructure to be far more agile, innovative and competitive. This is a painful transition, as evidenced by the fate of thousands of retail store locations.

Cate Trotter

I think there’s a lot that tech can do (and is doing) for retail but it is only effective if it’s addressing a human need. Technology develops far more rapidly than we do as people — the things we want haven’t really changed that much over time! I think the future is about using technology as a tool to deliver those needs in better and better ways. It’s the retailers who can get their heads around that, rather just implementing technology in a haphazard and expensive way for the sake of it, that will succeed.

Shep Hyken

The short answer is YES and YES. Tech retailers are traditional retailers that have taken advantage of technology. Traditional retailers are slowly finding their way to a balance of in-store and online. Tech is the more modern play. Traditional retail will have to adapt. There are some retailers (boutiques) that may choose to stay small and not go tech. As a specialty retailer who doesn’t want to scale, that may work. But to grow will take a balance of traditional and tech.

Larry Negrich

Both opinions have merit. Technology can assist smart retailers to facilitate a new way of shopping but products and the delight of a good shopping experience are required. Shoppers are still out there continuing to frequent retail, online and offline, and purchase things they need and desire. Good merchants with keen selection capabilities, aided by technology, can influence shoppers and make the process of securing the product easier for the shopper and more profitable for the retailer.

Kenneth Leung

Walmart was the first retailer to demonstrate that tech investments work in retail with its mastery of supply chain logistics and data when selling commodity products in stores using technology. Amazon is the second demonstrator, showing that the same approach works on the web, and both are now racing to see who can win in the omnichannel race. For everyone else there is a decision to make; win by technology or win by product assortment, and decide how much investment in customer experience is technology- or human-based.

Sky Rota
3 months 17 days ago

Yes, and I believe they already are ruling retail. But they must watch out because even Amazon is trying to hit us over the head with their crazy prices. So this gives Walmart and whomever a chance to show they have many lower prices. Remember, older generations just shop at Amazon, younger Generation Zers are not loyal to Amazon or any other retailer and will shop around to get the best prices. I do not shop at Amazon, way to pricey.

If traditional retailers aren’t taking up internet real estate by now they are way late to the game and can almost never catch up to online stores that have been up and running for a decade.

Brian Kelly
3 months 17 days ago

I agree with Ryan. Tech is a tactic and an enabler. Today, Ulta is a more impressive retailer than Apple. Is Amazon the preferred search engine for shoppers? Amazon is powerful, but it’s too early to declare victory in fashion or grocery and profitability remains to be proven.

I think what’s missing is acknowledgment of the human factor. People change, retailers react. Eventually the mighty fall. Ralph just closed the 5th Avenue Polo store. What is a “traditional” retailer? By definition, they will fail as they are unable to adjust. Looking at last year’s data is fatal. Cognitive data offers promise, but let’s see.

There will be new selling models that are more relevant for a while and then they too will succumb to the whims of the market. Nothing lasts forever.

(Read “The Silk Roads”. The Dutch were a couple millennia behind the Egyptians/Chinese.)

Tom Erskine
3 months 17 days ago

Technology disruption has a tendency to accelerate industry change in a way that is very disorienting, just ask Kodak and Blockbuster. With that in mind, retailers have far less time than they think to embrace technology and streamline their operations, make better merchandising decisions and improve the customer experience.

Technology is just a tool, but it is a tool that requires special attention. Retailers must be far more aggressive in finding ways to use technology to change the way they operate today.

Herb Sorensen
I have quite a series of reports on this issue, just from the past couple of weeks. But will begin my comments with my long-term observation that “As long as people live in brick-and-mortar houses, they WILL be shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.” Here are the most relevant links I have to this discussion: “Amazon Wants Cheerios, Oreos and Other Brands to Bypass Wal-Mart.” “Amazon and Walmart are in an all-out price war that is terrifying America’s biggest brands.” “Walmart’s e-commerce binge is one big Silicon Valley bailout.” I heartily endorse the view in this third link, which I believe supports Ryan’s side of the discussion. The fundamental problem is that brick-and-mortar retailers are clueless as to what the PROBLEM is, as are their techie adjuncts. It’s not unnatural that merchant warehousemen relying on unpaid stock-pickers (shoppers) to sell themselves would be oblivious to true salesmanship. THAT is the secret sauce of Bezos, not all the brilliant execution. It is the selling PROCESS that really distinguishes Amazon! (See: Selling Like Amazon… in Bricks & Mortar Stores!) In sad defense of the struggling/dying brick-and-mortar retailers, their magnificent service over the past century is recognized. But sorry — THIS is the 21st century.… Read more »
Herb Sorensen

And here’s another current link:

Amazon is worth almost twice as much as Walmart.

Ben Ball

Wow! Looks like everyone wanted in on this one! Great idea, arguments and comments — kudo’s all ’round!

Here’s the thing that struck me. “The future belongs to retailers that can exploit technology, not the other way around.”
I completely agree with that statement. But within it lies the great danger, the implication being that pure play “e-tailers” aren’t real “retailers.” I doubt that Ryan actually meant it that way. Or perhaps it was included as part of his “assigned position.” (My favorite National Forensics League event was Extemporaneous Argument — no one here surprised by that I suppose … ha!)

But I think the comment does give voice to a grave misconception running through our industry, analogous to the thinking that led us to call retailer owned brands “private label” instead of the more appropriate “proprietary brands.” We didn’t want to think of those retailers as true brand owners like the manufacturers and we were wrong. We are equally wrong not to think of online retailers as “true retailers.”

Dan Raftery

I’m with Ryan on this one. Grocery retailers have traditionally been slow to adopt new technology systems, especially ones that seem to simply replace legacy systems that have not been fully amortized. Which explains how a transportation company with evolving, state-of-the-art IT (Amazon) could swoop in from the perimeter and threaten the survival of physical stores.

Amazon has been pushing GM manufacturers to ship in “consumer-ready” packaging for a couple of years. Now they are talking with CPGs about this. I’m pretty sure Amazon isn’t paying for the extra packaging.

“Enabled consumers” are the rage, but not the majority now and may never be. The future will still have a place for stores because they make life easier for everyone.

Sure, the Anderson Consulting Store of the Future would be great and the IoT leans in that direction. But after all the VC money is burned, who will pay for the additional inefficiencies inherent in a direct to consumer supply chain?

Adrien Nussenbaum

It is really about business models. Amazon’s marketplace business model is a driving factor in its success. It has created a platform business — and that platform is supported by technology. Technology will be critical because customers shop for experiences. Certainly, products are a part of the experience, but so are many other factors — price, array of choice, availability of information, availability of value-add products or services, and trust of service quality. Technology that can make sure the experience is top notch will be critical. Therefore, technology providers can win big by enabling retailers to become platform businesses.

Jeff Miller

I always get a kick about the technology vs people argument for any industry because it is always overlooked that it is the people who use technology as a tool who make the impact and not the technology itself. I don’t think that tech giants will rule retail, but all retailers need to use technology and data to help them make better long-term business decisions. Old school traditional large-scale retail, based on sales promotions and who frankly are more real estate management companies than retailers, will need to evolve or will be disrupted not just by tech giants, but also by smarter more nimble retailers who mix technology with passion and connect with people in real and meaningful ways.

Doug Garnett

Retail is a business based on people, for people, by people. I remain aghast that the digerati seem unable to stop and ponder that reality. Some days I find arguments like these from tech are fueled with a Utopianism found in science fiction — the kind that ignores humanity.

Tech is a tool. A powerful tool sometimes. But a tool.

Yet too many fall prey to an incredible misunderstanding of the Apple Store.

Apple stores succeed because of their products — outstanding, high demand, innovative products. All their tech trappings are nice and are good brand support. But Apple stores don’t succeed because of their tech — they succeed because of Apple products. And Apple products uniquely (among tech products) appeal to that which is human. They work because they are designed for people and not technologists.

Yes. Retailers must stay focused on good applications of tech tools. But the only future for retail is a human future.

Ralph Jacobson

It’s interesting what we call “tech companies” these days. What is precluding ANY retailer from leveraging literally the same technologies that [a company that started as an online book retailer] leverages? If you look at what this company has done over the years, you’ll find their primary drivers are to overcome perennial retail challenges (E.g., real time shopper journey personalization, warehouse/distribution cost extraction, supply chain visibility, etc.). There is nothing stopping retailers of all types, both online and offline from innovating in their segment to drive shopper loyalty and reduce operating expense. Let’s not complicate things here too much. If not enough retailers step up to the plate, then, yes, existing retailing giants that leverage tech may indeed dominate in the future. I don’t think this will happen, though … anytime soon.

Julie Bernard

Blame for the weakening of consumers’ attraction to in-store experiences can’t be wholly assigned to Amazon and the Internet. There’s more to the equation than those factors alone. No shopper wants mounds of inventory or insultingly complex pricing gimmicks, for example. Instead, brick-and-mortar needs to reimagine the retail location as a clean, clear, aspirational, elegant space — competing with technology and online forces by leveraging consumer data and mobile-powered, location-powered experiences to bring shoppers back to better in-store experiences. Get inside the shopper’s context, predict what they want, and reach them at the right place and time, and brands can ultimately turn to smaller format, easier to maintain, easier to refresh, and less-capital-intense environments.

Bringing these elements into focus for the consumer is a strong reason for shoppers to revisit in-store retail’s value, learning and comparing online and then traveling to the physical location for premium experiences.

Lee Kent

Wow, what a conversation! And even though I’m late to the game, it makes me want to jump in. Back in the day of my great grandfather’s Mercantile, he was indeed a merchant. He carefully selected what he thought his customers would want and/or find useful. His job was more than simply turnover of merchandise, it was also educator, expediter, delivery man and finally friend.

Boy how times have changed. Or have they? Can all of that be replaced with tech? Nope, but a lot of it can. And, that is what makes me lean with Ken. Not to mention having been a retail tech person all my life. But, and this is a big but … the parts that can’t be replaced by tech are crucial, especially today, because I think we have lost sight of them over recent times.

Retail is both and the retailers who “get” it will win! That is my 2 cents.

Harley Feldman

The premise that technology has fundamentally changed the retail industry, and it is very different now than in the past, is incorrect. Retail trade occurs when a buyer wants a product that a producer creates and the terms of exchange can be agreed to. While technology has changed the way the transaction might occur, the retail transaction is still people buying products from other people. What is more important than the technology used is the trust that the buyer has with the seller that causes the transaction to occur. All of the technology in existence or that is created in the future, will not change this fact.

Vahe Katros

Let’s start with this from Walter Isaacson on Steve Jobs:

“What is Apple at heart: a software company, or a hardware company? This is a perennial question. The truth, of course, is that Apple is neither. Apple is an experience company. That they create both hardware and software is part of creating the entire product experience.”

The same can be said about Google (and their single square entry screen) or Amazon with one-click.

How about Snapchat? Disappearing messages — it’s the byproduct of a cultural observation, like Instagram. It’s about design. Technology is a tool.

It’s not about product focus, it’s not about customer focus, it’s about the experience and at that moment of experience, it’s always been about the intersection of product, customer and technology.

It is inevitable that creativity and innovation at the intersection of the business, the customer, and technology will dominate and the winners will be those who know how to build and lead companies that take advantage of what’s new.

Akhilesh Srivastava
3 months 16 days ago

I strongly believe that success in Retail commerce is a combination of variety of things. When Walmart created the supercenters and launched the ease of convenience and price, it flipped retail on its head. Amazon, Etsy and eBay did it again by innovating new business models for retail leveraging technology, big data and AI.

Technology has proven to be a great equalizer for sellers/retailers of all sizes. The handicraft items which were being sold in Neiman Marcus stores for thousands of dollars, while only a small percentage was being passed onto the actual artist of the manufacturer, can now take the advantage of technology and hence cuts down the middle man. However, to stay competitive and win in retail, will require the retailers to provide the same level of technology convenience as Amazon, but differentiate themselves in terms of great merchandise and customer service. Nike, Apple, and Starbucks are among a few great examples of brands which have done a phenomenal job of leveraging technology to provide superior experience to their customers.

david salisbury

We have to remember with evolving artificial intelligence, tech companies will increasingly be able to empower retail, e-tailers, VR-retail and all the new modes of shopping and access to services that we are seeing with the likes of Amazon Echo skills. Ultimately this provides new experiences for the consumer and new ways to personalize the customer experience both in-store for mobile natives and most importantly: what’s coming in the future of retail and the future store.

It’s not just IoT, it’s also how retail optimizes human relationships and targeting high-value customers that impacts brand loyalty, customer retention and aspects of the customer journey most relevant to that particular shopper.

Amazon has the capability of doing trial and error on another scale, and easily seeing what the new consumer leans towards and developing that to a next-gen level. So far as they do that better than anyone else, they are becoming a global soft monopoly in the making connecting tech and retail in new ways.

Oblivious traditional retailers can’t compete with the best tech companies in the world, not just in terms of innovation, but in terms of the tech talent they possess, the budgets and the partnerships.

"The winner? Tech. The loser? Everyone who is afraid to cannibalize their existing model."
"Technology certainly plays a critical and enabling supporting role but does not define the actual experience."
"Retail is a business based on people, for people, by people. I remain aghast that the digerati seem unable to stop and ponder that reality."

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