The future of retail – survival of the biggest?

Image credit: William Potter /

It is not easy to see where the future of retail lies. There is a massive shake up going on right now, as Jouko Ahvenainen points out. Obviously, the one thing that retailers must get right is the digital presence but this does not mean it will be easy and we are already seeing retailers fall by the wayside, be bought or go bust.

It also does not mean that it can’t be done. Walmart is a fascinating example of a gigantic company that is proving a lot more nimble than many of its smaller competitors. Even in the face of Amazon buying Whole Foods (and as predicted they have dropped prices by 20%), Walmart continues to innovate.

Business Insider follows Walmart and just some of the headlines over the years tell a compelling story. ‘Walmart is 2016 mobile retailer of the year; Walmart looks to dominate overseas; Walmart transaction volume jumps 45%’.

For a company the immense size of Walmart, this is an impressive record and speaks volumes about the executives at the top.

In any arena at the moment, leadership is the key. It simply will not work to maintain the status quo and companies that are trying to do that are suffering. Already we are seeing a trend for executives to be recruited by companies in completely different arenas. Executives from digital based companies such as Apple are now appearing in charge of healthcare companies. Not very long ago, that would have been just plain weird.

And, of course, it is not just a question of playing catch up because companies at the forefront like Amazon just keep raising the bar. Their latest trick is to launch same day delivery, proving how essential the company views logistics.

If the questions of how to succeed in retail seem too complex then the first and fundamental strategy must be to focus on customer service above anything else. And, to use an overused word, it must be omni-channel. If your customers want to write you a letter with a quill pen, then you should support that. If they want to tweet you a message then the same applies.

Customer service combined with leadership and the ability to learn from others’ mistakes not your own, will stand you in good stead. And if a Goliath like Walmart can do it, then any company can.

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