modern retailRemember grade school when you would walk into the massive office supply store for annual back to school shopping? List in hand, mom at your side, you searched through the aisles determining what items can make learning as fun (and hopefully organized) as possible.  Nothing like that nice, neat backpack on the first day right?

Well hold on to those memories because it looks like the big box retail stores are going the way of the slide rule. Staples, Walmart and Radio Shack are major examples of legacy brick-and-mortar stores retreating from physical locations and cutting traditional retail roles, leaving local community groups to fill up the empty real estate.

With eCommerce growing at four times the rate of overall retail, shock waves are being sent across the entire industry and driving seismic shifts in everything from staffing to real estate footprint. Big changes are happening right now, especially in IT and personnel investment. It’s an “evolve or die” atmosphere where small but meaningful strategy shifts are separating the retail winners from the losers.

It’s easy to get lost in this strange, new landscape where customers are pulling brands in every direction, and not everyone can afford their own think tanks like Amazon and Walmart Labs. In the midst of this chaos, here are a few key pieces of advice for the rest of us:

Authentic Brand

  • As you evolve, stay grounded on who your customer is and what your brand stands for. It’s more important than ever for brands to distinguish themselves from competitors and remain authentic. As you evolve, make sure the projects you select support your core values and are meaningful to your customer.

Seamless eCommerce Experience

  • Use your eCommerce site to power all paths to purchase.  Your brand isn’t broken into channels in buyers’ minds so presenting a seamless experience across every buyer touch point is critical.

Understand Your Organizational Growth

  • Write new job descriptions and hire from outside your industry. To meet the demands of shoppers today retailers have to add new skills and the people to match them. Data scientists, talented programmers and marketing technologists are roles not usually paired with retail, but are now in high demand by retailers that understand how important they are to the growth of their organizations.

Incremental change is still change. Try new things.  Instead of extensive rounds of product testing for promising apps, Walmart just releases them into app markets to see who uses them and how. Technology moves fast, and agile retailers are benefiting the most from initiatives where there is no such thing as failure, only learning.