Non-Retail Change Agents

During my OpenWorld presentation earlier this week, I pointed out that four men and their associated mega-companies have had a huge impact on the retail industry without being traditional retailers.  Obviously Amazon is a retailer, but when they started they were definitely not considered a traditional retailer.

Arguably Amazon set the standard for pure-play e-commerce and have been a leading innovator for online shopping, including early pushes into user created content, mobile commerce, and personalization.  And don't forget they are putting lockers in malls and on campuses for easy pickup of their products.  Some might call that a small step toward a physical store.

Apple stores have been the king-of-the-hill with the highest sales-per-square-foot, one of the best customer service models, and innovative features such as the genius bar, mobile POS, and iPads with product information.  Their bigger contribution has been moving commerce to mobile devices, which is a channel that will continue to grow.

Now no one will mistake Facebook for a retailer, but they continue to influence how consumers talk about brands and products.  The forthcoming "want" and "own" buttons will make it easier for people to express their relationship to products, and probably spur conversations that result in purchases.

Then there's Google, which has been helping consumers search for products, show them off with haul videos, and more recently introducing a new payment method.  But the big story here is Google's foray into physical stores.  They are starting small with their Chromezone store-within-a-store concept for selling Chrome-based netbooks.  With their purchase of Motorola, I can see them adding mobile phones, GoogleTV boxes, and other consumer devices in the near future. Isn't that exactly how Apple got started in their quest for stores?

Its tough being a retailer, especially when these four companies keep changing the rules.

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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