The new normal: How retailers continue to evolve

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Have you heard that retail is dying? We have too — but the numbers don’t support that story. For over a decade, NRF and Forrester’s State of Retailing Online studies have shown an industry in flux with never a dull moment. Forrester Retail Analyst Sucharita Kodali can attest to that: “The myth of the retail apocalypse!” she says. “We’ve got to crush it now!”

Kodali joins this episode of Retail Gets Real to present findings from the latest report, which surveys retailers about key investments and plans for the year, and discuss examples of successful retailers adapting to the changing retail environment.

Retail store closures were some of the biggest news stories in 2017 , feeding a narrative that retail is in decline. The numbers show a different outlook, though: More brands plan to open stores versus close them this year. The best examples come from brands that used to be ecommerce pure-plays — Warby Parker, Amazon and Rocksbox, to name a few — opening physical stores. “Pure-plays have realized that it is really hard to gain mindshare and market share online,” Kodali says, “and there is nothing better than to have a great physical manifestation of a brand … to help build that brand.”

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Retailers continue to find ways to integrate the digital and physical worlds, especially in store improvements like self-checkout and back-end processes like task management for store associates. The challenge remains prioritizing “digital first” over other organizational goals, optimizing product assortment and getting content online. For as much as companies want to engage in the latest and greatest thing, Kodali says, “there are a number of basics that companies still seem to need to get in place and get right before they can truly make the most of their digital strategies.”

Listen to the episode for a breakdown of the numbers. Download the State of Retailing Online 2018 report, and don’t miss Kodali’s insights on digital strategy at the upcoming Shop.org conference this fall.

Sarah Rand is a co-host on NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.