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How to succeed like a digitally native retailer

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How Digitally Native Retailers Are Gaining — And Keeping — Market Share

Say you’re a retailer that’s been around for, oh, 100 or 150 years. No doubt it grinds your gears when everyone is fawns over “digitally native retailers,” those come-lately upstarts that launched with little inventory, no physical stores, few employees and oversized media attention.

Don’t be glum. You too can behave like a digital upstart — jettisoning vital ecommerce operations that are absolutely necessary, but not necessarily absolutely what you got into the retail game to do. We go back to Ulta Beauty Independent Director Cathy Halligan, who in the brief interview below, talks about how legacy retailers can transform themselves by finding the right partners.

The way to catch up with digitally native retailers and recapture lost market share is to embrace another contemporary buzz phrase: digital transformation. As Halligan indicated, that doesn’t mean tearing down everything you’ve built and rebuilding from the ground up. Instead, the answer lies in outside providers, experts in picking and packing, fulfillment, payments, fraud protection, customer service, taxes, human resources, law — whatever it is you identify as something you shouldn’t be doing because someone else can do it faster, better and/or cheaper.

That leaves you to focus on selling your products with superior marketing and merchandising. It means you can focus on acquiring and keeping your customers by providing a customer experience that they won’t forget and that they will tell their friends about.

OK, you caught us.

Digital transformation isn’t always an easy task

It’s not as easy as just deciding you’re going to transform yourself digitally. Digitally native retailers, after all, started life in a transformed way. In addition to her comments in the video, Halligan talked about the task ecommerce executives face when trying to determine the right pieces to assemble into their ecommerce tech stack.

“The challenge becomes, how do you find those,” she said. “And if you’re a successful retailer, you get a lot of inbound, but how do you distinguish between what’s the best AI provider and what’s the best email provider etc. etc.?”

Part of the answer, she added, is to talk to people outside your organization and to be open to trying new things.

In some ways, a retailer’s work with a vendor needs to look more like a partnership than transaction. For instance, Halligan said there are plenty of companies that know how to work with legacy systems — how to turn legacy to an advantage.

Halligan suggested an approach that says, “I have a product feed. I have an inventory feed. I have a pricing feed. If I give you that, what can I get back?”

The truth is that sometimes trying new thing works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But in the world of the cloud and software as a service, it’s possible to fail and move on with little damage done.

And sometimes, when a retailer hands over some of its long-standing processes or data, what it gets back is a path to the future.

Photo by iStock

Contact Mike Cassidy at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].