Since Marc Andreessen’s prediction in 2013 that “…retail guys are going out of business and ecommerce will become the place everyone buys…,”1 there has been a cascade of opinions and predictions about the digital disruption of retail. Hindsight teaches us that digital disruption is about more than technology. In spite of the dire predictions, incumbent brick-n-mortar retailers are growing and competing with ecommerce players. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers are opening stores or partnering with stores. For example, Harry’s has partnered with Target and Walmart to achieve profitability. Pure play ecommerce retailers like Casper, Warby Parker and Indochino are opening brick-n-mortar stores and achieving greater success in markets with stores.
A successful retail strategy requires a broader view than just technology. Larry Page, Co-Founder of Google, makes it straight forward when he said, “Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future.”2
So how do retailers miss their future? Mindsets and biases create blind spots in the view of the future. Each blind spot can be troublesome in its own right, but when combined they will make a retailer prone to missing their future. The stakes are high. If you don’t take the time to get your future right, you’ll join the ranks of Blockbuster, Toys “R” Us, Kodak and Nokia in case studies of companies that missed their future.
Let’s look at four blind spots and consider some questions that will help you expose mindsets and biases that could make you blind to your future and face a crisis of market irrelevance.
Blind Spot No. 1 – Projecting current successful strategies into the future
Are our strategies based on projecting what we do today into the future?
Are we defending our past decisions and successes when discussing the future?
Are we seriously evaluating new ideas or are we mocking new ideas and pointing out any stumbles or delays in their development and implementation?
Are we underestimating the velocity of change in general? A specific change? A type of change?
Are we considering the future or are we working with our head down trying to get our backlog done?
Blind Spot No. 2 – Lacking the freedom and curiosity to discover the future
Are we risk adverse? Is our adversity to risk embedded into our culture? Is our adversity to risk embedded in our technology acquisition process?
Are we building a single view of customers? Do we know what they really want? Do we understand them? What are they saying? What are they doing?
Are we curious? Are we exposing ourselves to new ideas? To emerging technologies?
Are we giving ourselves the freedom to discover the future?
Are we tracking emerging entrants into our market?
Are we getting out of our stores to experience what others are doing?
Blind Spot No. 3 – Protecting existing business
Are we avoiding what customers want because we are afraid to hurt our existing business?
Are we only measuring performance with traditional metrics?
Are we evaluating evolving market forces in our revenue projections?
Are we considering the complementary effects of physical and online sales channels?
Are we evaluating our legacy technology systems?
Blind Spot No. 4 – Working in Silos
Are we working together or are we separated into functional silos with competing priorities?
Are we collaborating with others? Who could we partner with?
Are we learning new digital skills? Digital tools? Are we building our teams with people who possess the right digital skills?
With a new understanding of your potential mindsets and biases gained by working through these questions, what do you need to do differently to make sure that your blind spots don’t cause you to miss your future?
If you would like to learn more or discuss your answers to these questions, including what happens after you answer these questions, you can reach out to Kevin Struthers at firstname.lastname@example.org.