Smaller Retailers Find Opportunity In “Retail Apocalypse”

Joerg Koesters

For over a year, retailers have been in the spotlight of an endless stream of bad news: Brick-and-mortar retailers are on life support! Tech giants are swallowing up traditional industry players! The mall experience is irrelevant by today’s standards!

The news may sound grim, but is it possible that the analysts are reading these trends all wrong? For anyone who experienced the energy at NRF 2018, known as Retail’s Big Show, it seems that the so-called inevitable retail apocalypse may be really the great retail renaissance.

Welcome to the retail renaissance

During NRF 2018, I met several small and midsize retailers that are cutting through a massive wave of continuous change. They are overcoming the domino effect of over 8,000 store closings in 2017. They are answering the growing preference for personalized, digital experiences. And, more importantly, they are facing the threat of nontraditional competitors that are capturing consumers’ hearts, minds, and wallets.

Over and over again, I was awestruck by how these retailers – despite having limited financial resources – are carving a distinct niche for themselves by tackling three fundamental pillars of today’s economy:

  • Reaching consumers halfway around the world by using the Internet and e- commerce solutions
  • Delivering seamless, omnichannel experiences with a unified ERP platform
  • Keeping pace with an ever-evolving marketplace by advancing their analytics sophistication

According to the latest findings from the Oxford Economics report, “The Digital Transformation Executive Study: The Transformation Imperative for Small and Midsize Retailers,” these stories are quickly becoming the norm for smaller retailers that are looking to remain competitive. Over half of the surveyed executives from small and midsize retailers are investing heavily in mobile, cloud, Big Data and analytics, and the Internet of Things to set a digital foundational for every aspect of their business – from supply chain operations to customer interactions.

However, implementing these technologies is not enough for smaller retailers to innovate their engagement with today’s consumers. They must also change how their employees work and how processes operate to fully understand and accurately predict individual consumer behavior, upgrade online and in-store experiences to meet expectations, and connect separate supply chains to serve growing omnichannel demands.

Missguided competes as a big brand in the mold of a small business

One retail story that caught my attention at NRF is that of Missguided. The rising star in the U.K. fashion retail world is taking advantage of its double-digit growth to quickly move from its niche online status to a global fashion label.

To ensure that it can handle meteoric growth, the brand invested in a digital foundation that enables it to:

  • Deliver an engaging online and mobile experience for every customer across every region that can handle high volumes of e-commerce traffic and transactions – without disruption
  • Engage the consumer audience in meaningful ways by marketing itself on social media with the help of a lineup of Instagram celebrities who are evangelizing the brand
  • Capture and analyze real-time retail data to improve merchandise planning and optimize inventory availability
  • Support omnichannel functions – such as cross-channel consumer interactions and inventory management and segmentation – to create a foundation for customer engagement, loyalty, and promotions
  • Consolidate retail, wholesale, and e-commerce functions onto a single platform to identify opportunities for future growth, adjust inventory levels, and engage dynamic pricing across its omnichannel operation

Missguided’s achievements are particularly fascinating because of its smaller size – it generated £200 million in revenue last year. By investing in a digital foundation and building up its capabilities, the retailer is competing on par with long-established, much larger rivals.

It’s time to get your (digital) house in order

As Missguided proves, small and midsize retailers have a distinct opportunity to take on entire industries while growing quickly and developing into an internationally recognizable brand.

But first, businesses must also accept the responsibility to evolve business operations, processes, and workforce management to respond to customer needs and market shift with speed, agility, and reliability. Doing so helps ensure that the brand reputation remains blemish-free as consumers consistently receive the quality of service and products that they expect.

With mobile, cloud, Big Data and analytics, and the Internet of Things, small and midsize retailers can compete on par with their much-larger competitors. Change the face of retail with insights from the Oxford Economics report “The Digital Transformation Executive Study: The Transformation Imperative for Small and Midsize Retailers.

About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a technology marketing executive with 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products, having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.