News Feature | February 5, 2018

Retail Disruptors Driving Retail Transformation

Retail Digital Disruption

New RSR Study looks at how disruptive behaviors are helping retail to evolve.

A new study from RSR  in partnership with JDA Software investigates the role of retail disruptors  - retailer who are defining the game of retail transformation - and the behaviors they are employing at the intersection of growth and scale to help the retail industry evolve. The study also helps dispel several commonly held myths about who these industry disruptors are and how they do it, as well as identifying common characteristics of these disruptors. The research shows that “Disruptors ‘live’ at the intersection of growth vs. scale; they focus on the best products, delivered in the fastest, most responsive way, through the best customer experience; and they deliver on their promises consistently and profitably.

In “How Retail Disruptors Drive Industry Change: Special Report,” RSR addresses the transformation of retail in four separate sections: Disruptive Behaviors; the Role of the Store; How Disruptors Use Technology: What’s the Vision?; and What Happens as Retail Disruptors Mature.

Among the study’s key findings are:

  • There are four major areas that disruptors focus their differentiation strategies on: unified commerce, informed insight, customer acquisition, and the role of the store.
  • One myth about retail disruptors is that they must be digital pure plays. As even giant has come to recognize with their purchase of Whole Foods Market, this simply is not true. Disruptors are positioning the transformed store as an essential component of a unified commerce experience.
  • Disruptors think about technology in a different way than non-disruptors. They make judicious investments in technologies that keep them close to the customer and also support speed and efficiency. But disruptors are also more interested in a fast learning curve than they are in the “perfect” solution or a well-defined ROI from their technology investments.

This benchmarking study examines the reality of today’s evolving retail landscape to determine who is thriving and who is failing, and why. It is clear that all retailers – even longstanding retailers with long histories – must adapt in order to survive in today’s retail marketplace. RSR offers several recommendations to both non-disruptors and disruptors to help them avoid burning out too quickly or moving too slowly in these changing times.

Technology is definitely the key for success. In fact, the study asserts, “In the end, technology – both consumer and enterprise – is upending retail to the point where retailers have three options: fail to adapt and go out of business, adapt and survive and hopefully thrive, or rewrite the rules altogether.”

Too much attention has been placed on those retailers who are failing to adapt, with widespread reports of the “retail apocalypse” from those who choose to look only at the negative effects of disruption. While those who fail to adapt provide lessons on what to avoid, far more can be learned by asking how retailers are adapting in incremental ways. Retailers who manage incremental adaptations will most likely survive disruptive transformation, but they are not guaranteed to thrive.

Even more educational are the examples of the disruptors, who are choosing to rewrite the rules altogether. According to RSR, “Many executives have stated publicly that they wished they could start their business over from scratch so that they could embrace the technology disruption that has upended their business models. But some also opine that they simply cannot start their business over from scratch.”

The study debunks seven popular myths about disruptors, including:

  • Myth #1: Disruptors Are Very Large Companies:
  • Myth #2: Disruptors Are Small Upstarts:
  • Myth #3: Disruptors Come From Specific Verticals Or Countries:
  • Myth #4: Disruptors Are eCommerce Pure Plays:
  • Myth #5: Disruptors Are Technology Wizards, Invested In Every Latest Technology:
  • Myth #6: Disruptors Burn Through Cash Like A Year-2000 Start-up:
  • Myth #7: Disruptors Are By Definition, Over-performers

Retail Disruptors exhibit four key behaviors:

  • Disruptors live at the very delicate intersection of growth vs. scale – and either one could kill their business if they aren’t prepared.
  • Disruptors focus on three main things: the best products, delivered in the fastest, most responsive way, through the best customer experience.
  • They focus on delivering on their promises consistently – and profitably.
  • Disruptors’ attitudes toward technology are fundamentally different from non-disruptors. They will do whatever it takes to execute on their strategy, and they won’t let slow, old technology get in their way. And they are more interested in getting on the learning curve fast than they are in the “perfect” experience, or even a well-defined ROI.

The bottom line is the retail disruptors have their technology priorities in order, and, RSR asserts, “make judicious investments in technologies that keep them close to the customer and also support speed and efficiency. As long as they can hold onto these tenets, they have the very real opportunity to succeed, and gain staying power that will see them beyond the current turbulence in retail.”