It took over 100 years for 'mail order' to reach 10% of retail sales - but when eCommerce arrived it took just 10 years.
Some on the struggling high street chose to simply add a website rather than look holistically at how this new medium could be used to improve the relationship and 'experience' with its customers.
They thought that having a website was innovation, they thought 'click and collect' (some still do) was innovation, they thought that putting an iPad in a store so someone who had made the journey around the one way system, then fought for a hard won car parking space that cost them the best part of £5 for a few hours was innovation.
Of course the Covid crisis has accelerated the collapse of businesses that already had weak balance sheets, especially those that were trying to operate in the 21st Century as they did in the last one, and those lamenting the demise of the department store model have simply witnessed a 15+ year long car crash.
The recent and inevitable collapse of 'Debenhams' the diluted presence of M&S and others in the sector is but one story amongst many.
Of course they rolled out the high rent argument just like all the others slow to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour.
It's the 'more shopping has moved online' bit that gets me, it sounds as if this is something new when in fact it's simply another example of an industry constantly playing catch up because it failed to understand and address the inevitable.
Offering a compelling omnichannel experience used to be the bleeding edge of retail.
Now, for many it’s a requirement for future survival.
Traditional retailers that failed to recognise the potential impact of eCommerce have been seeing casualties for well over a decade, this isn't something new, it isn't a fad, it isn't about cannibalization as some of them told me many years ago, it's about having the 3 wise monkey syndrome in the boardroom, not listening to the consumer, and frontline employees, and not reacting quickly enough to what they can evidence.
So, is eCommerce as we know it impenetrable to disruption?
Today's generations know nothing other than the free to access, free to use, lo-cost, no-cost digital world that many from previous generations still find somewhat bewildering.
Especially in multi-channel retail.
"More than one-third of Americans have made omnichannel features such as buying online for in-store pickup part of their regular shopping routine since the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds of those individuals plan to continue. Younger buyers are the most enthusiastic about new ways of shopping. Most Gen Z consumers don’t even think in terms of traditional channel boundaries, our research shows, and they increasingly evaluate brands and retailers on the seamlessness of their experience" McKinsey May 2021.
But before retailers rush to expand their omnichannel capabilities, they need to step back and consider the underlying drivers of value for their specific business.
Otherwise, with multiple approaches and technologies to choose from, and acute margin pressures, retailers can invest in the wrong thing and quickly fall into a downward spiral that can destroy value.
Omnichannel excellence requires a laser-like focus on value creation.
Leaders in the field must take a hard look at their strategic and customer priorities and decide who they want to be from an omnichannel perspective.
And then develop an equally clear-eyed understanding of what it will take to achieve that ambition.
The next wave of disruption doesn't require you or your employees to invest in the next 'digital' big thing, it doesn't require you to bolt new tech onto old tech, it also doesn't have the patience to wait around for decades or a few more years for you and your team to think about how to adjust and adapt.
One of the key reasons brands feel the need to ‘collaborate’ with bright young ‘social influencers’ is because they probably understand the landscape better than the media buying agency and the client.
They're seen as authentic, and more than likely clients want access to their followers.
Real people (you/me & consumers) tend to pick up on something that's 'liked' or 'shared' via our friends, family and business acquaintances, as such we have greater trust in what they recommended over the corporate message.
We do this because we have been programmed to be cynical when it comes to advertising, so we look for affirmation from the circles we trust.
The next wave of disruption has been happening for some years now, and in particular in the context of this post for online/offline retailers Covid simply accelerated the inevitable.
It's called 'social media' and if you still think it's just a place to 'advertise and promote' your brand then you're in for a very rude awakening.
At no time in history has it been easier and cheaper to set up a business, if I understand the digital medium better than you I already know I don't need a database, I don't need to spend huge amounts of my budget and resource on advertising, and I can gain access to your incumbent and future customers.
This change has been further accelerated by furloughed employees investing in all that paid free time whilst working from home and turning their digital and social media skills into a side hustle to top up the income and then finding;
"hey, this could be the start of a real business for me because I'm not sure if my employer can afford to take me back after all this, or even if I want to go back".
Today, thousands of people like these have managed to nip away at your business on all manner of social platforms without you even being aware of it.
This is the talent that has been sat in your business for ages, yet you seem to have missed the opportunity to unlock it because you don't really understand social platforms like they do.
Millions of businesses in the UK and around the world can now set up a single online store to sell products (like yours), with no fee, on Facebook and Instagram.
The stores will appear on business pages, Instagram profiles,TikTok, and many others.
The company has already used a no-fees approach in its Facebook Marketplace for personal classifieds.
This is incremental (aggregated) micro economics impacting your macro view of the world.
So, if you thought that eCommerce was a game changer for retail then compared to this it will be a mere blip in the timeline of the commercial multi-channel retail landscape.
eCommerce - what was that?
Focus on tech rather than on customer value. Many retailers have leaped to embrace tech-enabled, flashy innovations like smart mirrors, Bluetooth beacons, and in-store kiosks to create differentiation. But without a proper grounding in customer needs or determining how these investments will create and sustain value at scale, retailers sometimes end up with what amount to shiny objects that drain capital expenditures.