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So, The Big Show is over for 2014.
What are the key takeaways?
First, retail is healthy. Not everybody is, that’s for sure, but the industry as a whole is healthy. I was reminded by a longtime colleague yesterday of the mood five years ago, when the financial crisis had hit, and the recession was full-on hammering everybody’s top lines. Next to financial services, retail was next in line in the eye of the recession’s impact. But, by in large, the industry is healthy again.
But, retail is much different and is changing rapidly. Who is the big dog? Remember Walmart? Amazon is on the tip of everyone’s tongues now in the same way Walmart had been. What categories are they going after next? How do we out-Amazon Amazon? When will the drone fleet be available?
The changes are mostly good, as the consumer is winning like never before. And, technology and new ways of using technology are driving a lot of the change.
But, the age-old dilemmas remain – what technology should I, as a retailer focus on? Where will I achieve the most impact for my spending? Do I focus on cloud, social, mobile and forget the rest as some would suggest? What is real, and valuable, versus “vapor” and a waste of money? And, most importantly, how can I combine existing technology, new technology, and people change, in new ways of doing things that make a difference for our customers?
Likely no one got all of the answers to these questions from the show, as it takes understanding, thinking and hard work to really make technology and people change work as seamlessly as many suggest. The analogy of the duck comes to mind – on top of the water, the duck appears to calmly move along in the water, but look underneath the water, and the duck is paddling like crazy.
So, perhaps the real questions to ask and answer are more basic:
What are our strategic advantages in the market?
How can we use technology to enable, enhance, and perhaps change the game with our customers?
And, what will our business look like if we make those changes?
Once, those questions are asked, and answered, then the hard work starts to apply technology intelligently within the context of the business and how people do their jobs, versus for the sake of the new promise of technology itself.
So, lets continue the great thinking, and more importantly, the hard work.