Dawn of a New Era in eCommerce
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Dawn of a New Era in eCommerce

By Chris Brook-Carter, Managing Director of RWRC (Ascential)

Chris Brook-Carter, Managing Director of RWRC (Ascential)

The retail landscape of today looks radically different from that of ten years, even five years ago. Digital disruption and the adoption of technology has reduced barriers to entry for brands and new retailers and put unprecedented pressure on legacy retailers who are having to adapt quickly or risk becoming obsolete.

"A foot race is on for retailers and brands to join up the dots around their data as they seek to control an understanding of their customers"

Despite the constantly shifting landscape, the DNA of a retail business that is match-fit, competitive and even winning on the new playing fields of retail is emerging. And the make-up of today’s winners is profoundly different from that which defined retail only two to three years ago – it is evolving that fast.

Perhaps the concept of evolution is misleading because it suggests the stronger sense of a continuum between what has gone before and what is coming.

The building blocks of retail are disintegrating and reforming around new consumer relationships with brands and the products they buy that transcend the traditional distribution models of stores and eCommerce.

Labels that have defined the boundaries of “retailers”, “manufacturers”, media groups, and service providers, the links in the value chains of our industry for a century are obsolete.

Meanwhile, even more, modern phrases such as multichannel or omnichannel seem increasingly out-dated because they define the world from the inside out.

This is a post-channel age, whose rules are defined not by retailers, but by consumers. Consumers that refuse to be led down a set of simple customer journeys are defined for them by retailers.

Instead, customers live their days simultaneously between the digital and physical worlds, where they can access an array of products and services, networks and experiences any time they want, from anywhere, moving seamlessly from one to another in a connected world.

The result is the creation of new value chains, built around giant consumer ecosystems, made of multiple data points that show not only how people shop, but how they live.

These ecosystems present extraordinary opportunities for those brands fleet of foot enough to navigate them.

But they are also redefining how the disruptive and competitive landscapes look and behave. New businesses with little or any strategic desire to be viewed as retailers themselves are leveraging new technologies and taking hold of the customer relationship and customer journeys that used to be the sole domain of the big retail brands.

And in this new environment, a clear picture of what it takes to survive this retail Darwinism is emerging – where the fittest are data-powered, where they are collaborative as much as competitive, innovative, digitally native, with an ability to invest in new technologies and driven by a purpose that inspires customers and employees alike.

The question is now how you win the foot race to reach those goals, ensuring your business is one that can continue to outpace the disruptive forces that have already preyed on the weaker in the sector.

A foot race is on for retailers and brands to join up the dots around their data as they seek to control an understanding of their customers.

Leaders of these businesses must now make the right choices around which technologies to back and invest in to power the transformation. And there is a fight to win the right talent to underpin and execute on this hectic, fast-paced but exhilarating future.

Significantly, though, this future will also be defined by creating the right partnerships. Few retail businesses can claim to have the technology capabilities needed to operate in the digital economy. And, forming partnerships around the right capabilities will be critical. Our event Tech. In October this year was created to solve this need. And this year we will welcome 300 companies from across the global retail ecosystem including retailers, brands, start-ups, investors and technology giants to create the connections that will be essential to success going forward.

We’ve seen some huge partnerships be announced recently in the sector. Marks and Spencer in the UK alone vehave tied up with Microsoft to work on their AI capabilities, and in the US, Walmart announced a similar partnership with Microsoft.

Partnerships are becoming the new norm in retail. We’ve always seen them between retailers and brands, but the collaborations are increasingly related to tech and delivering for the customer.

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