It’s time for specialty retailers to take their power back in 2017

The 2017 NRF show was a very interesting experience. It must be somewhat overwhelming for retailers to enter that technology cauldron and come away with actionable items to address the needs of their business in terms of cost reduction and revenue growth via technology. There are so many retail buzzwords to contend with as well. First it was multi-channel, then omni-channel and now concepts such as unified commerce and universal customer. What is a retailer supposed to do to digest this plethora of concepts, what is the hierarchy of their importance, the ROI?

The takeaway for me at this year’s show was that the mantra seemed very consistent throughout the Javits Center. The idea of delivering a frictionless customer experience across all channels is no longer a “would like to have” but clearly a “must have” if traditional bricks and mortar retailers are going to, not just survive, but thrive in this new retail order. There is truly a retail revolution happening and there will be winners and losers.

I love specialty retail, especially independents, and it kills me to see the store closures and press headlines about the “Amazon effect” and bricks and mortar misery.

If the NRF Show in NYC had one theme this year it was, “if you want to be relevant as a retailer in this Amazon Age, you better embrace the new retail reality, embrace the concept of unified commerce, the universal customer, and get closer to your customers like never before.” It was a rallying cry for both relevancy and survival. We are all reading the headlines of retailers closing stores by the hundreds. It is time for retailers to take their power back, to fight.

It is time to mobilize, get smarter, and to engage customers at another level that surpasses the purely online experience. Technology is not the only answer. It must be coupled with great experiences for your customers. Great technology simply gives you the conduit to deliver an exceptional and memorable customer experience.

Coming out of NRF this year I am an optimist. I believe that brick and mortar retail is not going anywhere, but the rules have clearly changed. There is no time for complacency or paralysis, it is time for action towards delivering the frictionless customer experience, and invigorating your merchandising, across your channels. Customers expect it.

Let me offer you a starting point, a checklist for 2017 of the “must haves” coming out of NRF show.

Do you treat your inventory record as a universal asset shared across all channels? Does that visibility exist, in real time?
Do you treat your customer record as a universal asset shares across all channels? Does that visibility exist, in real time?
Does your e-commerce and brick and mortar stores have complete visibility to each other in terms of order management? Can your customers buy on web/return to store, buy on web/pick up at store, buy on web/ship from store?
Can you customers share gift card and loyalty points across channels, seamlessly?
Can your staff engage on the sales floor with mobile devices that allow them total visibility to your inventory and customer history to best deliver a memorable, frictionless experience?
If you haven’t taken that first step to delivering these capabilities, the time is now. The world is not standing still and each and every day Amazon is looking for ways to deepen their influence and get deeper into your customer’s mind and wallet.

It is time to rise up and take your power back. Your customers will be thrilled.

If you would like to discuss omni-channel, unified commerce, and mobile you can reach Michael Dattoma at