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A Cautionary Tale for Conventional Retailers

The print publishing industry was slow to adapt to the changes the Internet brought. As a result, many publications did not survive.
By Mark Roberti

Why do companies struggle with change that clearly threatens their very existence as a viable business? There are several reasons. One is that companies are afraid to cannibalize their own revenue. Another is that people who grow up doing things one way find it hard to see that there are alternative ways of doing things. And lastly, change often involves making significant investments, and this seems risky when a company is struggling. If the investment fails, the company might not survive.

The illusion, of course, is that if you just keep tinkering with minor changes, you'll find the right formula. But failure to invest in big changes usually means the company won't survive.

Conventional retailers are experimenting with "buy online, pick up in store" (BOPIS), "ship from store" and other forms of omnichannel retailing, but most are tinkering. Most are not fully committing to truly merging their online channels and stores. I know that because—with the exception of Macy's and a few others—they are not investing in the radio frequency identification solutions that would give them the inventory visibility required to execute successfully.

Amazon is now moving from online to brick-and-mortar stores with the acquisition of Whole Foods. We'll see if Amazon can create a new model for others to follow. Or perhaps one of the smaller, upstart retailers will show everyone how true omnichannel is done. But if my experience in publishing is any indication of the future of retail, change is going to be very painful for the existing players and profitable for some new players who figure it out.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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