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Re-engineering Retail with Doug Stephens

“Is this the end, or just the beginning of retail?” Mitch Joel shares insights with one of the industry's leading futurists about the challenges disruptors present to big-name retailers.

Doug Stephens is one of the retail industry's most insightful futurists. His work and thinking have influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies, and brands. Prior to founding Retail Prophet, Doug spent over 20 years as a professional in the retail industry. He’s also the author of two business books: The Retail Revival - Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism, and his latestRe-engineering Retail - The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World. The world of retail is facing disruption, innovation, and digitization all at once. Is this the end or just the beginning of retail?

Retail is a massive industry, and businesses like Amazon are not only highly disruptive, but create glorious types of businesses. I asked Doug if he considered it a strange anomaly that it’s the disruptors – and not the traditional retailers, with all their space and clout and brands – that have transformed retail so successfully.

“It’s an interesting point,” he said. “You’d think the brands with all these assets and resources and capital behind them would be the ones. They have such an immediate awareness of all the things that are ‘screwed up’ in retail and with the customer experience. They’re so close to it, you’d think they’d be the ones to fix it.”

Doug pointed out the vacuum that a lot of the “retail behemoths” seem to exist in, their inflexible approach that says, “these are the rules of retail, and this is the way the business operates.”

“And the irony of the whole thing is that while this is happening, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is having a covert meeting with a whole bunch of different people from different disciplines talking about robotics, artificial intelligence, and space travel,” he added.

As opposed to most retail CEOs, people like Bezos look at the world like an open challenge.   

“Amazon is fearless in their reinvention,” said Doug.

So, will the big name retailers develop the stomach to kill off their “sacred cows,” like couponing, discounting, and flyers, and transform their stores into “media experiences”?

You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.

Check it out here.

- Mitch Joel is President, Mirum Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @mitchjoel