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The retail trends you are missing

I’m an ex journalist, so I do understand that the media has no choice but to report what is happening on the high street, good and bad. However it helps no-one to report that sales in September slumped as a result of rising inflation and wage concerns. What can retailers do but keep planning for the two remaining peaks for 2017 – Black Friday and Christmas; bad news can’t make them even blink.

Meanwhile, everyone else in the business of selling to retailers, is telling a completely different story; an upbeat tale of omnichannel inter-connectedness, seamless payments through crypto currencies, customer-driven retail through mobiles, transformed operational processes through blockchain, and so on. It’s inspirational stuff, but it is also about as useless as the bad news from the media.

My point is, the everyday challenges facing retailers live in the middle ground between bad news and good news, but the public and social media are not at all good at telling that story. Retailers may well be inspired by the promise of the Internet of Things, but most of them are still struggling to build the processes that would enable IoT devices to actually deliver value. And others are still trying to fix problems that they have had for years, like being able to schedule staff based on real events in store. Or, implementing in-store tech to manage the hundreds of exceptions that take place while so-called business as usual is going on.

Fortunately, there are a handful of retailers that do live in the real world between hard news and hype, and pursue their own destiny based on a realistic understanding of where they sit between legacy and innovation. They are not innovators but they are not laggards either, and they probably represent the main bulk of the retail industry.

It is this dominant middle that is often overlooked by the IT vendors, the analysts and the media, but actually reflects the true state of the industry. It is also this dominant middle that provides the insight into how retailers are really investigating, buying, implementing IT and prioritising spend.

If we all took the time to find out what these retailers, many of whom live in the shadows behind the headlines, the future-gazing white papers, the analyst adoption curves and magic quadrants, are really up to, we would, I think, eventually reach a point where retailer and tech vendor operate hand in hand around a shared understanding of the role tech can play in transforming retail.



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