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Digital Retail Enters The Next Phase Of Disruption

It has been 24 years since Amazon launched, although if you ask many retailers it seems like an eternity. Digital retailing has come a long way, yet we’ve only just begun. The stakes have never been higher as we enter the next stage of digital disruption. Strategies will need to do what we used to think was irresponsible – driving strong ecommerce growth while concurrently integrating digital tools and processes into our stores and partner ecosystems. The tools are changing rapidly – IoT, AI and robotics come to mind – but many barriers to yield productivity gains are faced with familiar challenges.

Ecommerce is still important, but the business model is changing as new digital revenue channels proliferate and marketplaces dominate growth conversations. Globally, we’re just getting started with the shift to ecommerce, yet as the data below shows, the concentration of market share among titans may redefine the meaning of being a specialty retailer as we jostle for market share. We now look to China for innovation that will transfer to other markets, such as WeChat’s mini programs that may transform the omnipresent communications platform into the next sales channel.

Omnichannel seems passé and is now table stakes. And not just for retailers – brands, food service, grocery/CPG are all grasping at injecting their business models with digital disciplines and revenue channels. Operationally, most retailers and trying to realize the benefits of their significant investments – and the key may be in their workforce. This holds true on both the front lines of serving customers as well as at HQ where digital shared services make sense on paper but are practically challenged by stubborn conventions that require a body of evidence that even a CFO can embrace.

AI, IoT and robotics represent the next wave of digital disruption, but not in isolation. If we learned from the past, what are the common threads with the first wave of digital disruption? Data, analytics, a testing culture, and a laser focus on the customer experience. Check. More science, without losing the art of merchandising. Check. Agility is a desirable organizational characteristic, not an IT buzzword. And a common internal challenge – organization design inclusive of new KPIs – without alignment the transformation slows and performance suffers. How does your organization measure up on these skills and competencies?

We look forward to engaging in these challenges as we problem solve with our clients and industry friends. Bring it on. This is what we love to do – drive growth in retail and stare down the barriers that intimidate others.

About the author: Jim Okamura is the newest partner at McMillanDoolittle. He brings over 20 years of digital transformation experience, and a global perspective. He can be reached at or 312-286-6755.


McMillanDoolittle is a premier international retail consultancy bringing deep experience with world class clients. Our partners have extensive experience interpreting the retail marketplace and converting insights into successful strategies. We help clients develop innovative solutions in strategy development, the customer experience, new concepts, brand performance, retail performance improvement and retail intelligence services.

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