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Mobile’s threat to traditional retail

December 13, 2012

Michelle Crames is founder/CEO of SkuLoop

Michelle Crames is founder/CEO of SkuLoop

By Michelle Crames

Last holiday season on Dec. 10, 2011, Amazon offered consumers an additional 5 percent off in exchange for scanning items in-store, and comparing the price on Amazon.

During this year’s annual summit, Citibank analyst Deborah Weinswig shared a study that a majority of consumers would wait to buy online with a price difference of only 2.5 percent. Where does that put multichannel retailers in a world where Amazon is on average 8 percent cheaper than, and 9 percent cheaper than Walmart stores?

What’s on the line
Retail executives speak about Amazon today as they did Walmart a decade ago.

These retail executives are well aware that “showrooming” is on the rise—U.S. smartphone adoption passed basic phones earlier this year, and applications such as eBay’s Red Laser have become more integrated with smartphones, although Amazon missed holiday with its Android-based phone, which is now rumored to launch in the first quarter of 2013.

With the iPhone 5 now available, this adoption is poised to accelerate even faster. “Offline” is reaching an end and power is shifting to the consumer as they increasingly have the power of choice, infinite selection and immediate gratification.

For retailers, many questions remain. How can they be the first and last stop on that journey? How do retailers use data to unlock meaningful value in the retailer-consumer and brand relationship? Who owns mobile, online or stores? Which, if any, wallet do they participate in: Google, Paypal, or Square? What is my team doing around iOS 6 anyway?

It is time to think differently about how retail works as lines become blurry.

Taking stock
Different business units that have not worked together in the past now must in order to ensure their companies’ continued health and growth.

Rather than inventory, retail must be organized around the customer.

Chief marketing officers and chief information officers see their worlds and budgets colliding and must find new common ground as retail becomes increasingly driven by data and analytics captured by technology, which must come alive via marketing across a myriad of devices.

Stores can use ecommerce data to personalize recommendations for consumers, and ecommerce systems can use email confirmations to drive people into stores with personalized, relevant offers.

Retailers recognize these units need to work more nimbly together, but in practice, this is not happening quickly as it needs to. CEOs must step in now to drive bolder visions for their companies, and to create accountability around collaboration across the organizations.

TRADITIONAL RETAIL is only becoming more complicated as consumers are empowered by mobile and are more enticed with offers from competition—even within a retailer’s own four walls.

To strengthen and grow your business and to have your products under the Christmas tree, recognize the problem, and work to build digital bridges to the customer, both physically and emotionally, that help to go beyond price.

Michelle Crames is founder/CEO of SkuLoop, Los Angeles. Reach her at

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