Bricks, Clicks and Boxes of Tricks

I head up the Tech sector for our firm and I often get asked by clients outside of that sector about how and when I think technology will disrupt their businesses.

Retail is one such sector – traditional retail businesses have been going online with multi-channel propositions for a long time to compete with eCommerce.  eCommerce is evolving and even businesses at the bleeding edge of that industry such as Birchbox with its subscription commerce model have begun to open up real stores to compete in that same multi-channel environment.


It seems to me that pure high street businesses will be squeezed out of the market at some stage unless they are super niche or super local. But even then, no-one can do super-niche on the ground on a level that truly competes with the internet.  In a recent interview, José Neves, the founder of Farfetch , an online marketplace that connects consumers with fashion boutiques, stated that “bridging the divide between e-commerce and the bricks and mortar business” is the industry’s most significant challenge.

People are paying attention to José, as Farfetch is one of the few European “Unicorns” (a Tech start up valued at over $1 Billion). His vision of a super-niche eCommerce business has been incredibly successful, stating:  “I’m a believer in physical retail experiences.” I get it – eCommerce saves us all a huge amount of time and energy but it does somewhat suck the life out of the experience.

It has been estimated that, in 2013, business to consumer eCommerce sales amounted to more than $1.2 Trillion dollars worldwide and that 40% of world’s internet users have bought something online in their life. The top five countries globally for eCommerce spend per capita are, in order: US, UK, Sweden, France and Germany. Much has been written about the rise of the Asian eCommerce buyer also and it’s highly likely that that this list will see a significant shift Eastwards over the next 10 years.

So if the true winners are multi-channel retail businesses, what next for them? In my view, it will be a further blurring of the lines between the real world and digital world.

High-end brands such as Burberry and Rebecca Minkoff are two examples of brands that are now focussing on combining strong digital presences with interactive technology in their stores (such as touch-screen mirrors, RFID-enabled tags and 3D body mapping).

Businesses such as NOMI have been popping up in recent years where their whole business model is built around helping retail companies adapt to this real world < > digital world blur. NOMI helps businesses optimise their brick and mortar stores just like their website by measuring, analysing and optimising the ROI of offline marketing and store operations initiatives.

It’s guaranteed that more Tech will be appearing in a store near to you sometime soon and retailers are going to be hunting down your additional spend by getting you more engaged through your mobile device, on your desktop and in person.


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