In a recent presentation at the Goldman Sachs Global Retail Conference in New York, Walmart CEO Bill Simon talked about the massive investment the company is making in Omni-Channel retailing, or what he called “the convergence of the digital and physical worlds.” He talked about an array of technology initiatives including ship from store, ship to store, mobile payments with self-checkout, and mobile applications. Retailers like Amazon, Saks, and Walgreens are also making headlines with their investments in Omni-Channel and store transformation.
Now, contrast this with what we heard from one of our customers, a midsized mall retailer of apparel and footwear:
“EarthLink I think you fit in a unique position because there aren’t a lot of people out there who are focusing on small box retailers. As an example we were meeting with an industry analyst and he asked me what my issues were. I said I’m trying to navigate through the architecture shift to Omni-Channel and yet preserve the value of my systems. His advice was to look to Walmart, saying ‘They’re building their own applications and they’re going to compete with Silicon Valley and that’s what you need to do.’ ”
This was followed by laughter from everyone in the room.
Retailers like Walmart and Amazon are investing in technology because consumer buying behavior is changing: according to JiWire, over 80% of consumers use mobile devices in-store to enhance the shopping experience. What’s more, these retail giants are setting the bar for retailers of all sizes. To quote Leslie Hand of IDC, “No matter where they’re shopping, today’s consumers want to experience brands wherever, whatever, and however they desire, be it in a store itself, on a mobile phone, through social media. Small store or large, omnichannel is the way to fulfill that promise.”
Not too many years ago, e-commerce drove a similar transformation. Today, consumers expect every retailer to have an online presence, whether it’s a single location restaurant or clothing retailer or a nationwide chain. If you don’t have one, they’ll find someone else who does.
So what’s a small to midsize retailer with limited budget and resources to do? Many of EarthLink’s small to midsize retail customers are working through these issues. Many, but not all, realize they need to have a digital strategy and are in various stages of planning and implementation. Forward-thinking CIOs are assessing consumer buying behavior, engaging their marketing departments, and researching or piloting applications. Many of these CIOs are also realizing that they need to offload day-to-day “keeping the lights on” activities to trusted providers, so they can focus on strategic initiatives that drive the business forward.
With hundreds of small to midsize retailers that include GNC, The Sleep Train, HoneyBaked Ham, and California Pizza Kitchen, EarthLink can help you through the process of assessing options and getting your stores ready to support the next generation consumer. Our retail solutions include networking, Wi-Fi, and managed security and PCI compliance to support store transformation as well as cloud and managed services for running day-to-day operations.
The “Millennial Generation” is already the #1 retail employee demographic, and will soon be the #1 customer demographic. Will you be ready?