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Standing at a retail crossroads: looking back to when stores ruled and forward to an age of blockchain

The way we shop has changed – and is set to change – enormously

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter there’s news of another retail closure, just as we report on the significant changes the retail industry – and the high street – have gone through over the last five to 10 years, and look ahead to more change to come, thanks to emerging blockchain technologies.

Up to 2016 BHS was a stalwart of town centres across the land. When it failed, new owners decided to relaunch it online, capitalising on awareness of the brand. But this week, those owners said they’d decide to concentrate on its international stores instead – and closing down signs are up in its virtual windows. It seems that its heritage just wasn’t enough in a competitive market. When shoppers have infinite choice, and when many searches for an item start on Amazon or Google rather than by browsing a particular website, it takes something extra to convince visitors to buy from a particular website or store. 

Other department stores are still working out what that ’extra’ thing might be, and they’re focusing on the store as they do so. Debenhams is majoring on the social experience that comes with shopping, while John Lewis is investing in customer service and experiences. In fashion, Zara is focusing on bringing online into the store and today we have interesting analysis of that move from SimilarWeb. Meanwhile, new technology from iStaging promises to help retailers build  AR models of their floorpans using just an iPhone.

All this comes alongside a structural change in the way that people now shop, as documented in a Centre for Retail Research study, Retail at Bay 2018, out this week, and as Mothercare says it’s won approval for its plans for a CVA – with accompanying store closures – from creditors.

But no-one can rest on their laurels just yet. A new Deloitte study is looking ahead to how retail may change in coming years under the influence of blockchain, assessing the opportunities that can be drawn from a technology it predicts will be mainstream within five years.

Today’s guest comment comes from Omri Benayoun and Bruno Crémel, general partners at Partech Ventures, as they take an investor’s eye view of ecommerce.



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