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EDITORIAL Technology holds the key to competing with Amazon and each other

As IRX comes to a close at the NEC, attention has been well and truly focussed on how retailers can compete in such a tough market. While it is easy to believe that it is just a battle between online and High Street, the reality is very different: the competition is within all facets of retail – and much of it against non-traditional players.

Top of every retailer’s competition list is Amazon: everyone from packaging manufacturers to high-end fashion retailers competes with Amazon. Amazon is everyone’s nemesis – if we let it be.

While everyone in retail is fighting off Amazon, each retailer is also fighting against all other retailers to be the one (or perhaps two) that can offer something Amazon can’t. It is this that has made retail so tricky.

Similarly, there are other non-traditional players seeking to be retail platforms: Instagram, we are looking at you. Social and mobile search– which also often points to social – are where traffic is coming from these days.

Meanwhile mobile technology is also making how people shop – and what they demand from that experience – different again. Amazon and Instagram are successful because they tap into this and give people what they want. High Street shops, largely, don’t.

It is simple – and as complicated – as that.

But things are shifting as retailers get what it happening. While the hordes descended on the NEC for IRX, was all over BBC TV showing off just how the web, mobile and stores can work together.

Similarly, Co-op was launching its foray into online retailat the same time, making the most of showing off its mobile-first approach to grocery ordering, but also showing that mobile is no longer the battle ground, but rather two-hour delivery is.

These two retailers show just what competitive retail is now all about. For Made, it is about using technology to smooth shopping journey that is now taken to be across channels regardless. Co-op, meanwhile, brings home how technology is now the base line; delivery is the new battle ground.

Bringing all this together – the technology, the new channels and understanding of the need for physical stores as part of the process – is key to a new retail future. As we have said before, retail isn’t failing, it just needs to move on. Many of the speakers at IRX alluded to as much and the technology vendors are selling on the back of this idea, but in essence retail needs a small correction rather than a re think.

As we may yet see at SuperDry, a slight change in strategy – one that uses online and stores in a more complimentary way – could well be the way to turn those losses into profits. It will be interesting to see how that goes as it may well offer a vital insight for the rest of the retail industry as to how things need to change to succeed.

And, you never know, we may even sort this Brexit thing out too at some point.

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