Another View on Retail – Rohit Bhargava’s 12 Big Ideas

Over the last couple of weeks I have been writing and thinking a lot about the future of retail. I’ve been interested in exploring the state of Australian retail and understanding why a sector that was once driven by innovation now seems so bereft of it.

In many ways, the seeds of the current retail malaise were planted during the dot com boom. At the time I was working in the IBM eBusiness Centre and can recall many meetings with retailers. There was confusion, hype and hubris (obviously a bad combination). eCommerce was still in its infancy – and was expensive to implement – back then we didn’t have the online shopping plugins for WordPress, shopping cart modules or “cloud based” online commerce providers that we do today.

Effectively the problem was one of technology.

And as the dot com boom came and went, it seemed that most retailers breathed a sigh of relief. Talk of the “death” of the bricks and mortar shopfront had been over exaggerated, and in the washup, retailers felt justified and went back to business as usual.

But innovations never rests … and the retailers took their eye off the ball. And in the background, new innovations were sweeping the global marketplace. Recommendation engines, social proof and social networks were transforming our notions of trust and technology was becoming more robust and secure.

Those retailers with an eye on the future and a toe in technology experimented, learned and innovated. They created new markets and corralled new audiences. And the whole game changed.

Now here, in Australia, after decades of neglect, condescension and bloody mindedness, the scramble is on. It seems there is a belated recognition that “online” is somehow connected to “in-store”. But it’s hard to catch a market that has been evolving and experimenting for 20 years. What can be done?

Rohit Bhargava shares 12 trends that might just provide some direction.