Sink or Swim – The Voltile Landscape of Retail

The retail industry has seen some major changes in recent years. Many had to revamp or implement new business models or be taken out by their competitors.

At the Wavefront 2017 IoT Summit, we gathered Canada’s top retailers, Holt Renfrew and Compass Digital, for their insights on challenges that retailers are facing as well as their plans for digital transformation.

Gale Blank, Vice President of IT at Holt Renfrew shared that for a while, Canada’s only high-end department store was not affected by the disruption of technology. Since 1837, Holt Renfrew had a monopoly throughout the nation. But with competitors such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue coming up north, they now must improve their customer experience to maintain and regain brand loyalty.

The answer to their problem is technology.

As consumers expect live updates on inventory and an overall better customer experience, retailers now need to adopt technologies that can help foster and exceed these expectations. Competition amongst retailers are also driving new experience for customers. Technology where consumers can catch time-sensitive deals based on their location is in the works, which create a sense of “urgency and playfulness,” instead of being lost amongst the crowd.

Although technology is very important to survive in the industry, Gale believes that the “handshake is not through the app but the infrastructure.” Without a stable infrastructure that is able to keep your customer coming back for more, then all is moot. This infrastructure includes training store associates to be a beacon of knowledge and be able to build relationships with customers. Data such as their last purchase, browsing history, and shopping preferences should be available to the sales associate in order to create a better shopping experience.

This year, 14 retailers have already declared bankruptcy which is almost the same amount for the overall number of retailers closing shop in 2016. As retailers fail to adapt to the changing technological landscape, we will most likely see more names added to the list as the year comes to an end.

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