In order to thrive and not simply survive, retailers must keep a laser-sharp focus on the basics of retailing in their innovation and technology developments.

We live in a highly digital and connected world, where technology and innovation are key to survival. While I completely agree with this, I also think that we must remember the basics of retailing.

The big question is: has retailing really changed?

My answer is yes and no. We are all well aware that the way we retail now is significantly different, but the reason for retail and the success factors for retailers remain unchanged.

Methods of deployment have changed

The way we retail is very different. In the 1920s we had the physical store, governed and controlled by rules and regulations.

Today, still have the bricks-and-mortar store, but we have much, much more.

The customer journey is varied and complex, with many different interaction points in the retail journey, whereas in the 1920s we just had one – the physical store.

Here are just a few of the interaction points we have now:

  • Website
  • Mobile site
  • Voice control
  • Apps
  • Search engines
  • Digital marketing
  • TV/radio
  • Posters
  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Home delivery/collect in store
  • Games/gamification
  • Loyalty cards
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Blockchain technology
  • The Internet of Things

The list goes on, but what this now means for retailers is much more complexity and a more challenging customer journey.

When you had one shop and a high street there was a captive market. Now you are competing worldwide with physical and online stores open 24 hours a day.

The second big difference is the culture and lifestyles we now lead. We have progressed through the Industrial Revolution and are well into the technological revolution.

This has changed our retail world in many ways, from travel and internationalisation to quality standards and economics.

But, fundamentally, the retail principles remain the same:

  • Customer first – personalisation is key
  • Location, location, location – be everywhere
  • Competition – it’s vast and global
  • Branding – must be controlled online
  • Retailing quality standards – still of vital importance
  • Service – the ultimate online differentiator
  • Be seen – advertising and marketing are constantly evolving
  • Visibility – listings are now search engines
  • Community – plays a vital role
  • Sourcing and the supply chain – underpins everything
  • Payments and digital currency – navigating a constantly shifting landscape

I strongly believe that learning from the past has benefits for both the present and the future, and we need to remember the basics of retailing in all our innovation and technology developments.

Have a look at my book The Retail Handbook for more of my thoughts on how retailing has developed from my family’s own shop and my lifetime of retail experience.

Antony Welfare

Antony Welfare is innovation strategy director at Oracle