AMY SEWELL - DIGITAL RETAILING

 

Since 1997, I have researched and followed shopping trends and served as a television spokesperson for retailers and consumer product companies.  When I started in the industry, retail was dominated by brick-and-mortar stores, with print catalogs in a supporting role.  Over the years, it has been completely transformed by digital commerce.  From books to mattresses to apparel to grocery, industry after industry is being disrupted.

Even the nomenclature of the industry has changed.  Retail went from being referred to by its individual silos - stores, catalogs, and e-commerce - to being known as multichannel, which acknowledged that retailers were operating in more than one channel.  It is now known as omnichannel retailing, in which traditional divisions between marketing channels are disappearing, and retailers are starting to view all channels as a single business and stop viewing their customers as being associated with a single marketing channel.

There is no shortage of research and news stories on this topic.  This page draws from business, consumer, and scholarly media to explore three current dominant trends in retail:

  • The evolution of retail from single channel to omnichannel;
  • The acceleration of store closures; and
  • The growth of online-only retailers opening brick-and-mortar stores.
Read more about the author

Read more about the author


Single Channel to Omnichannel: The Retail Future is Here

Retailers need to use their data to get a single view of a customer across all shopping channels, reports WWD, rather than viewing each channel and its shoppers as existing in individual silos.  Experts assert that retailers who can re-engineer their businesses to provide the personalization and complete channel convergence that consumers demand are the ones who will survive and thrive in the years ahead.  4/13/17

In an interview on CNBC, longtime retail analyst Dana Telsey says that retailers must adapt to what she calls "the harmonization of physical and digital.  That multichannel shopper spends two to three times more than the single channel shopper," making an understanding of how they shop critical to the retail bottom line.  1/5/17

Retailers used to try to drive sales to specific channels, often providing different offers for stores and websites.  But as my segment on Black Friday deals on "FOX & Friends" shows, retailers now generally offer the same deals both in-store and online.  11/25/16

The Washington Post reports how Walmart, the largest grocer in the U.S., aims to grow its online grocery business and by offering store pick-up of online orders.  The story acknowledges that Walmart may be better positioned for success in the online grocery business than Amazon, an interesting point since Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.  10/8/16

Research published in Strategy & Leadership shows that retailers who use technology first to increase customer value succeed in growing shareholder value as a result.  9/16

The co-founder of audience, brand, and consumer measurement company comScore, Inc. writes that the “Holy Grail of market research” is “the accurate attribution of all marketing efforts – both digital and non-digital – to their impact on consumer buying across all channels.”  Certainly, the pursuit of such knowledge benefits the author’s company and those of his competitors.  However, with billions of advertising dollars at stake each year, smart marketers need insight into the role that each marketing channel plays in driving engagement and sales.  12/1/14


Store Closures Accelerate

Since the 2016 holiday season, retail headlines have been dominated by announcements of store closings, with stores closing at a record pace. From department stores to specialty stores to discount chains, one Wall Street Journal article attributes this trend to the overbuilding of stores, a decline in mall traffic, the growth of fast-fashion and off-price chains, and the rise in online shopping.  4/21/17

WWD reports on the record number of store closings this year, noting that retailers must figure out how to adapt as online shopping continues to increase while in-store foot traffic declines. 4/6/17

From mall specialty chains to department stores, a report from Business Insider breaks down where the closures are happening .  3/21/17

Citing competition from e-commerce giant Amazon and discount retailers like T.J.Maxx, the The New York Times reports that department stores are shuttering at a record pace and leaving mall properties with large vacancies.  1/5/17


Photo courtesy of Casper

Photo courtesy of Casper

Photo by Amy Sewell

Photo by Amy Sewell

 

From Clicks to Bricks

While store closings dominate headlines about the retail industry, several formerly online-only retailers are seeking to increase visibility and sales by building their own stores or partnering with established brick-and-mortar retailers.  The Wall Street Journal reports that mattress industry disrupter Casper is the latest e-retailer to move from clicks to bricks, announcing a partnership with Target to sell its mattresses in-store.  5/16/17

Men's digital retailer Bonobos continues its retail expansion, with plans to open as many as 20 new stores this year, reports WWD.  4/27/17

The Wall Street Journal reports that former e-commerce pure-play Warby Parker is scheduled to open 25 new stores this year.  The company that sells eyeglasses opened its first store in 2013, and has used the data from its online business to locate its more than 40 existing stores and customize the shopping experience for customers who visit.  Co-founder and co-chief executive Neil Blumenthal says that while other retailers are closing stores, “the majority of retail still happens within four walls.”  1/23/17

Explaining why the conventional wisdom that says store retailing is dead is wrong, DMN breaks down the reasons that online retailers are rushing to open stores.  1/8/17

A study published in Harvard Business Review makes a powerful case for retailers to focus on getting their online customers into stores.  7/16

Since opening several physical bookstores, The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is now testing several grocery store formats.  12/5/16

From e-commerce pure-plays opening stores or all retailers seeking to understand how shoppers are using technology to change how they shop, "the best retailers combine bricks and clicks," say the authors of this Harvard Business Review article.  5/30/16