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“Retail is Dead” — and Other Rumors with no Validity

Published: May 05, 2017
Author: Janet Schijns


It’s time to speak up against the #fakenews (using a # so those spreading said news feel at home here) that retail is dead. It’s just not the case.

Retail is here to stay because people, like you and me, are still shopping, eating and buying from brick and mortar establishments. Walk the downtown area of pretty much any city in the US and tell me, are the retailers and restaurants struggling? No, they aren’t — in fact, a lot of small businesses in local communities are flourishing. There are around 28 million small businesses in America, a 49% increase on the number around in 1982. 1 These organizations are providing local services, customized to their community, and are experiencing great growth as a result.

It’s all about the customer

Why then do we keep hearing that “retail is dead”? Is it because these retailers are at the mall — is the mall a death sentence for stores and restaurants? It’s a “no” again. The death of malls also appears to be #fakenews. Take a look in your nearest mall on any given Saturday at stores like Teavana, Lush, or Sephora — they are generally packed. These businesses have created a physical experience that customers want and will drive to the mall to have. They’ll dedicate their time to engage with these businesses and buy from them. Don’t get me started on the restaurants at my local mall — a 60-minute waiting time is the new definition of “the wait isn’t that bad today”.

So it’s not location and it’s not lack of demand. Glad we established that. So what is it then? For me, it’s the inflexible, old world, big box locations that haven’t adapted to modern day CX practices and as a result have failed to attract this generation of buyers. And yes, that is the key – the customer experience.

Technology helps to deliver greater CX

Increasingly it’s digital innovations that are helping drive better CX — online and instore. And organizations that use technology effectively are the ones that keep customers coming back and keep the “retail is dead” rumor quiet. They’re collecting the right kind of customer data and using it to adapt their CX strategy and maintain a competitive edge. They’re providing WiFi access to keep customers happy and empower employees to deliver a better all-round experience. And they’re not just using technology for technology’s sake. The most successful retail businesses are analyzing the entire customer journey and only using technology where it will improve CX. Technology is no longer a side-gig in retail — it’s basic survival.

The deadly truth

So spread the word — what’s really dead are inflexible, customer-aggravating retailers. And what’s hot are engaged, adaptive retailers that prioritize customer experience. When you think about it, shouldn’t that always be what’s hot in retail? Don’t always believe what you read, particularly when it’s #fakenews. And on that note, robots aren’t taking over the world and unicorns — although tasty themes for frozen drinks and cupcakes — aren’t real. All this #fakenews is made to engage you — at times for a decent purpose, at other times just for the shock factor. And, in reality, the businesses using technology to stay competitive and in customers’ good books are thriving, not dying.

Janet Schijns — joining Verizon in 2010, Janet is the Vice President of Global Channels at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. She currently oversees indirect enterprise distribution channels, drives customer growth through engagement of the enterprise channel, and focuses greatly on improving the role of women in the tech space. Stay informed about the latest tech trends that matter — follow Janet at @channelsmart.

1 Small business, big impact, Small Business Administration