Speaking at the British Retail Consortium’s annual retail industry lecture, Amazon’s UK country manager Doug Gurr talks about the next industrial revolution – the digital revolution – its impact on the retail industry and how to prepare for the changes.
Digital is coming like the railways to Victorian Britain, but much faster. We need to be ready for that transformation.
Industrial revolutions have always brought enormous benefits but in each case there was short-term pain – industry needed to retrain the workforce, and that took a generation. Now we have a chance to take the benefits and avoid the downfalls.
There is an extraordinary opportunity in this digital revolution. Digital makes it easier for great retailers to do what they have always done: connect customers with products and services.
Here are five ways in which digital transformation is impacting retail:
1 The democratisation of retail
Technology makes access to large and small retailers easier. It’s not just about online but bricks and mortar too. All retailers are now accessible – all you need to start a business today is an idea, a laptop and a product or service.
2 Rural areas are gaining from the digital revolution
This revolution is different to the previous industrial revolutions, as digital gives you the opportunity to run a great business and live where you want to. There is an opportunity to reverse urbanisation, as you can run a global business from anywhere – you don’t have to be in a big city.
3 Omnichannel is the new norm for large and small players
The vast majority of people still shop in physical stores. Stores will stay but they will evolve to have more digital elements. This applies to small companies as well as large – it is all about giving the best customer service and supporting your shoppers in store and online.
4 Retail is becoming global not local
It is not easy to run a global retail business but we’re starting to see thousands of UK businesses export and reach a global audience. Small UK businesses are now able to service customers on the other side of the world through online.
5 Next phase of automation
Retail has always been innovative and adapted technology, automation is about investing in the next phase of growth. It is an opportunity to create a better customer experience. Automation is the new toolkit to improve the services you offer.
It is hard to predict the future but it is easier to focus on the things that will not change: the fundamentals of retail. Customers care about the selection you carry, the price you can offer and the convenience of receiving the goods – that won’t change.
I remain hugely optimistic about the future of retail. No other sector has embraced change like we have over the decades – we always rise to the challenge. Great retailers always adapt, I’m confident we can.
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Drapers Fashion Forum will look to the future and investigate what the fashion retail landscape will look like in a year, five years or even 10 years: what retailers will be focusing on and investing in;
adapting organizational structures; streamlining supply chain and back-end operations; how the store will function alongside digital platforms; how consumers will be shopping and on what platforms; and, ultimately, how retailers can future-proof their business to survive and thrive.