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A retail Game of Thrones

August 2, 2017

Winter is coming. Who will survive?

If there’s one thing the retail industry and HBO’s gratuitous hit series have in common, staying alive is hard. But when the going gets tough, brute strength and political power can only get you so far. If you want to make it to the next episode of GOT, it’s essential to find a chink in your competitors’ armor and be cunning enough to outsmart them before they see it coming. The retail industry is no different.

While the industry headlines can be morbidly Shakespearean, retailers don’t have to roll over and die just because retail’s royal class seems to be gaining more power at every turn. If they want to beat the behemoths, today's retailers have to start playing smarter—rethinking and reimagining all the ways they can use their position to outwit their enemies.

These are the battles that will ultimately determine the victors of the retail war:

Brick-and-mortar vs. e-commerce

The showdown between physical and online real estate is a war of attrition, and at present there’s no clear winner. That’s likely because those who will come out on top are finding a happy medium in mobile.

For example, lots of retailers are invested in hardware, but every customer has her own device in hand. So, if a retailer’s brand experience depends on the hardware in store, when the customer leaves the premises, she leaves the experience, too. Retailers who invest in Converged Commerce and the experiences that go wherever their customers do will be the ones holding court in 2020.

Experience vs. product

It’s no secret that stores who understand the power of experience are set to declare victory in The Golden Age of Retail. But providing those experiences means Instagram-worthy brick-and-mortar stores, sales associates who are subject matter experts, and a staff of brand ambassadors—all of which means hiring the best people.

So how do you get the best of the best to join your brand army? Simple: Outsmart the competition with scientific recruiting and HCM software that ensures you’ll attract and hire the cream of the crop.

Personalization vs. customization

These days, customer expectations are not hopes or nice to haves—they are absolute demands. When shoppers open a retail app, they believe it should already know everything about them, from their favorite styles and colors to their perfect size.

While personalized "filters" like these are certainly essential for omni-channel shopping, a personalized experience can make a product or brand feel best in market.

True personalization is impossible to scale (today), but personalized experiences (what we call customization), are within every retailer's reach—giving shoppers the feeling that a one-of-a-kind item that was designed, selected, and packaged just for them. Victory.

Automation vs. differentiation

This is the big one. With so much pressure to embrace "digital transformation", retailers must take the time to identify the processes, business procedures, and activities that drive business, and invest in either automating or differentiating those areas first.

Automation is digitizing a process or experience to make it more effective and impactful for the connected business age. A great example of meaningful automation is Starbucks' mobile ordering, which allows customers to place orders remotely, pay seamlessly within the Starbucks app, skip the line in store, and pick up their drinks at a pre-determined time. Bottom line, automation done right improves the customer experience.

Differentiation means rethinking approaches and creating new data-driven ways to deliver an elevated experience, service, or product. In our minds, Domino's takes the cake (or pie?) on this one. By transforming its assortment, supply chain, and distribution strategies to differentiate in what is inarguably a saturated market, Domino's has propelled its brand to one of the hottest stocks on the market. Bottom line, differentiation done right sets an enterprise apart from the rest.

For retailers and fashion brands, winter is coming. If you want to stay alive, the time to nail your colors to the mast is nigh.

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  • Fashion
  • Retail
  • Worldwide
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