Brick & mortar retail operations have already seen shifts in customer expectations toward digital offerings, but what more can they expect? And how can they prepare for an uncertain and ever-evolving future? [IMAGE: Illustration of three individuals with graphic representation of brick and mortar stores, websites, and social connectivity in the background]

Surviving & Thriving in Retail: Key Themes for 2019

May 15 · 14 min read
  1. Omnichannel offerings: The challenges inherent in combining brick & mortar retail experiences with digital retail experiences are vast and varied, but so are the opportunities (both known and to-be established).
  2. Organizational change: Retailers need to retool the way they operate at an organization-level — not just in their upfront consumer interactions — if they want to see lasting success in both technical implementations and digital transformations.
  3. Partnerships & shifting marketplaces: Emerging marketplaces and new technologies will require a greater emphasis on partnerships than ever before and retailers need to assess and understand their strategies for working within these new parameters.

Holistic Retail Experiences

A major shift across almost all retail spheres is the way retailers view themselves. Increasingly, they understand themselves to be not just providers of any one set of goods or products, but as conduits for an individual’s personal goals and objectives.

Being where the customer wants, when they want, and in the way they want is all part of the shift from offering single product benefits to holistic brand experiences. [IMAGE: Illustration of a person with shoulder-length hair interacts with a point of sale system in retail setting]

Omnichannel Offerings

Part of the strategic challenge retailers are facing is the proliferation of channels for connecting and communicating with their customers. Even more challenging is the number of channels that must double as purchasing streams (more on that a little later on).

Multi-channel, multi-platform: a proliferation of interfaces means retailers need to be smart about where they meet their customers. [IMAGE: Illustration of various interfaces and devices]

“It’s not about having channels just for the sake of having channels — it’s about picking 2 or 3 things that make sense for your target market and demographic.” — Katherine Jones, Associate Director of Product Strategy Services, Myplanet

This means several things:

  1. Experimenting early with different approaches is going to be the best way to get it right. Try new channels on subsections of an audience, launch new experiences in specific markets and spaces, and learn from these experiments to ensure when a full-scale deployment happens, it has the best chance for succeeding.
  2. Understanding data (and this should come as no surprise) will be pivotal. Grappling with the quantity of data is challenging in itself, but finding truly meaningful information from that data is going to be one of the biggest challenges facing every business, regardless of industry.
  3. Businesses will need to retool how they view themselves. To effectively manage the ever-changing, multi-pronged approach that is omnichannel, retail companies are going to need to be nimble, flexible, and comfortable with ambiguity in a way that historically they haven’t needed to be. And not just in one part of the org — at every level.

Organizational Change

“Technological change is outpacing organizational change,” said Tara Wilkinson, Director of Marketing for Best Buy Canada, at her DX3 talk. And she has a point. Every part of an organization — from the C-Suite to the warehouse to the front-of-store — will need to be infused with a new way of thinking, one that recognizes technological change requires organizational shifts to be successful long-term.

“The challenge in today’s retail environment is not just acknowledging change, it’s knowing how to roll with it. But the underpinnings to move in these specific ways is not insignificant.” Katherine Jones, Associate Director of Product Strategy Services, Myplanet

Businesses that understand it’s not only a technology shift (a new PoS system, for example) but also a strategic shift (a new way of thinking about transactions, interactions, and delivering value to customers) will be the businesses that succeed. And that requires a retooling from within.

“Transformation — digital or business — is a hot topic. But if you imagine it as something you can take off the shelf, then it’s only veneer and it won’t ultimately matter.” Ian Moss, Design Lead, Myplanet

It was encouraging to hear leaders speaking in those terms at DX3. As he discussed the shift from selling financial products to helping customers find the right financial solutions, Lazar noted the way BMO is driving internal change to align their thinking. “We instituted nomenclature changes, invoking the idea of ‘customer solutions’, to help motivate an internal shift in focus,” he noted.

“Technology cannot save you in retail. But a business strategy that uses technology to help facilitate transformational change? That’s a lasting approach.” Everett Zufelt, Director of Technology Services, Myplanet

Businesses that understand the requirements around being open to change and being flexible enough to implement it quickly, that have the spirit of adaptability core to their operations, are going to find it much easier to transition no matter what technologies emerge. Moving towards a more agile mode of operation is the only way to be able to pivot as needed.

Partnerships & Shifting Marketplaces

It’s not just new technologies that are emerging, but new spaces, new opportunities, and above all, a new reliance on partnerships that retailers will need to be ready for.

  1. Who will they partner with when faced with an endless array of new opportunity spaces to avoid even greater fracturing of the essence of their brand?

“Platforms require consultancy up front. The evolution to these holistic experiences that span channels and revenue streams and require a systemic overhaul of operations — that’s where consulting becomes so important.” Ian Moss, Design Lead, Myplanet

With a product-only focus, things were different. But this new era of retail experiences means that a partner — someone who can help think through the end-to-end experience, who can dig into the research with fresh eyes, who can clarify where investment should be made and which opportunities should be seized upon — is going to be extremely important for businesses going forward.


Retail is in the midst of a sweeping period of change: the shift from brick & mortar stores to comprehensive digital experiences is already underway. As the landscape of retail changes, businesses have recognized they need to be firm in their core offering and identity, but ready to shift to where the market demands.

Myplanet Musings

Thoughts, ideas, insights, and more from the Myplanet team.


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Myplanet Musings

Thoughts, ideas, insights, and more from the Myplanet team.