Beyond Retail FOMO to the Death of Mediocrity

About three or four years back, in this very column, I argued that we are in a post-omnichannel world and that the industry is moving away from the overused (though very good) adjective — omnichannel — to describe retail.


Consumers just are. They express themselves — via the brands they choose, on social media, and privately with their friends and family. They shop — wherever it is most convenient, wherever they find joy, wherever it suits them. Not for a minute do they stop and think about whether their actions are “physical” or “digital.” It doesn’t matter. It never has.

This means that retailers have to come to terms with the new economic model of retail and realize that the path-to-purchase is dead and the days of funnel-based marketing and commerce will follow. Understanding the influence-attribution that different channels have on each other will lead to a clearer understanding of the true economic value of a channel; this becomes especially important for those retailers that are trying to understand the true value of their store.

Delivering a seamlessly integrated customer experience to customers across all channels is  just retail. While most retailers have embraced the notion of omnichannel whole-heartedly their approach has been cookie cutter and driven primarily by the fear of missing out and ceding ground to the competition. As retailers embark (or not) on digital transformation initiatives, they must be careful to avoid the dreaded Digital Death-Trap. Both retail and other industries such as banking, telecom and high-tech are replete with examples of market-leaders that entirely missed, underestimated or fluffed their short window of opportunity. Avoiding the Digital Death-Trap will mean ushering in a new age which is best described as being...The Death of Mediocrity.

Being good enough isn’t a strategy or goal. While retailers may want to wait for trends to be fully baked before investing they don’t have an option to not innovate, and what’s worse than not innovating is half-hearted execution or deploying capabilities (say like curbside pickup) which don’t really work for your business. Focus will be a strategic differentiator, as retailers become more circumspect in where they invest their limited resources.