Why Technology Is the Linchpin of the Omni-Channel Strategy

The retail sector is no stranger to change and transformation. In the early days, the average consumer was shopping from 'mom and pop' stores in communities. As retail evolved, first to arrive were the department stores in the bigger cities. Then came the mega shopping centers in suburbs, where everything can be found under one roof, causing smaller local stores to bow out to the success of giant, one-stop shops.

But the impact of technology may be the greatest game-changer of all. Fundamental shifts and shocks, like the power of distribution technology, the impact of advertising and branding, the sea change the web unleashed and the ability for anyone to ultimately sell to anyone, anywhere, have changed the way we shop, forever. Consumers don't even need to leave their houses to shop or can buy things on their daily commute, putting convenience at the heart of the shopping experience.

The latest wave of emerging technology is affecting both smaller, local shops as well as the retail giants. One underlying theme for each wave of change is that the incumbents of all sizes have either adopted or died. Retailers which have been unprepared for new ways of doing things have found themselves in a graveyard of 'has-beens' and joined a list of those which have suffered, such as Circuit City, Borders, Blockbusters ... to name just three.

What is apparent is that easier access to information is pushing the retail sector closer to what 18th century economist Adam Smith described as 'perfect information' -- the idea of having equal information from all providers in order to make a choice. In effect, this is creating equal pressures for all retailers. As a result, it is no longer sufficient to solely compete on price; retailers that are one step ahead think of the entire...

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