Retail Radicals, Robin’s Radicalism

Surviving in a Radically Changing Industry

Speaking of radical change, perhaps the most radical thinker and doer in history, Steve Jobs uttered eight words in a keynote address on January 9, 2007 in San Francisco. He said, “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

I would call that the greatest understatement in history. He should have said. “Today Apple is going to change the world.” Because it did. It’s not a phone. Our entire lives are packed into it. We worship and pay homage to it. We can’t leave home without it. We sleep with it.

And overnight, Jobs flipped traditional retailing on its head. The store used to be in the “center” and consumers would go to the store. The consumer is now in the “center” and the store must go to the consumer, both online and off, wherever they are, whenever they want to be engaged, how and how often.

This small device is the biggest marketplace in the world. And there are about five billion of them around the world. Think of each one attached to its host (a human being) as a personal marketplace. So, then think about five billion POS (points of sale).

And while Jobs was figuring out how to change the world in San Francisco, there was another radical thinker and doer in Seattle: Jeff Bezos. On July 5, 1994, he announced that it was “Day One” for Amazon. Now, of course, every day is day one for Amazon. He said, “we must get big fast,” which they did.

From an online bookstore that was losing money to the $180 billion online and offline business they have become, it has grown 20-30 percent a year and accounts for almost 50 percent of the total retail growth online. With a market cap of almost $800 billion, Amazon is larger than the seven next largest retailers combined, which includes Walmart and Target. Another radical approach, they still only show a profit occasionally.

Both of these visionaries radically changed and are still transforming the world of retailing and indeed, all consumer-facing businesses. And now we are at the intersection where the newly emerging next-gen, tech-armed consumers meet the traditional legacy brick-and-mortar world of retailing. And the old world does not interest them. Why leave wherever they may be and spend the time it takes to go to a mall or store full of stuff that is neither exciting or compelling, when they can scan through virtually anything in ten minutes online?

So, this new consumer culture with its distaste for big buildings full of stuff, is forcing old-world brick-and- mortar stores to radically change their physical stores. These new-world retail spaces will become a “Starbuckean third place” where consumers want to hang out. They will be community places like Apple stores, Lululemon or Nordstrom Local neighborhood locations. In order to survive, these retailers must also perfect their omnichannel strategy and model. The online and offline model must be seamlessly integrated to provide quicker, easier and compelling access for consumers, and at the same time, provide retailers quicker and easier access to consumers.

Experience and omnichannel are not the only things to be perfected. The legacy retailer needs a strategic and structural transformation of the entire value chain and understanding what technologies to use, and how to use them. It requires huge capital investments and time, both of which traditional retail have little of.

The transition to the new world of retail is shaped by data analytics and machine learning enabling personalization. AR, VR and the limitless uses of all of it will be the tools of the future. The good news is that this is possible today. It’s really simple in concept, however, awesomely complex to implement.

So, how does transformation happen? It gets done by radical thinkers and doers, entrepreneurial innovators who are willing to think differently and jump out of the box — particularly within the ecosystem of the traditional big-box retailers.

Are You a Radical?

We are looking for traditional legacy brick-and-mortar retail innovators (in organizations established prior to the year 2000) and brand change agents who consider themselves radicals in their companies.

The Awards will recognize the change agents who work in every sector of retail and brands from management and human capital to the back-end supply chain, strategy, merchandising, stores, marketing, analytics finance and any other aspect of the business. These are the radicals that are rethinking and reconfiguring traditional retail and major brands.

We will identify 10 finalists who are changing their organizations and reveal the Grand Prize Winner in March 2019 at our awards gala at Shoptalk. The deadline for applications is December 23, 2018. Nominate yourself or a colleague today! The finalists will be reviewed by a prestigious jury of retail leaders and featured in The Robin Report. It’s a valuable way to share best practices and success stories that will raise the bar of the entire industry.

Why did we establish the Radicals Awards? We have observed that there are thousands of conferences celebrating the tsunami of tech-driven upstarts. So, we asked ourselves, what about the unspoken, unrecognized, unheard of radical thinkers and doers and bold innovators within the traditional retail sectors who have a far more complex job of turning those battleships into speedboats to strategically and structurally move them quickly and successfully into the new world?

So, we urge you to support the mission and encourage members of your team – and yourself — to apply for the Radicals Awards. Together, we will lift the receding tide of retail and inspire the industry to think like new-world entrepreneurs and innovators.

Upcoming Radicals Events

We have a series of interesting and inspiring programs with industry Radicals that will inspire your own retail radicalism.

Listen to a replay of our Radicals podcast “Why Go to a Store Anymore?”  that was recorded July 11th to hear from Robin Lewis; Paul Charron, former CEO Liz Claiborne; and Retail Industry Value Engineer, SAP; Rick Barber.

Listen to our recent Radicals podcast, “Surviving in a Radically Changing Industry” with Robin Lewis, Shea Jensen, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience, Nordstrom and Matt Laukaitis, Senior Vice President and General Manager, SAP

Join us on campus Columbia’s Annual Summer Retail Forum August 1 to hear from leading retail Radicals.

Apply for a Radicals Awards 

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