The evolution of the retail revolution

I was sitting in a workshop with some Aussie retailers this morning and we had a chat about the exponential growth of retail. Companies such as IKEA, TARGET, WALMART, H&M all started in the 5 years after the second world war.

It suddenly struck me that it was because of logistics that these companies became successful. WW2 taught the world how to shift immeasurable amount of goods all over the world and this competence was fed back into society after the war leading to birth of these retail giants. Getting products to a specific spot at a specific time in order to fulfill and exact need. This was the first retail revolution.

Things hummed along until the electronic messaging and stock management age kicked in and gone were the paper work of yore but rather bits and in the digital pipeline. This was the second retail revolution and really took off during the 70’s and the 80’s.

The third retail revolution was of e-commerce. This took off during the 90’s. How can we forget BOO.COM and those others that transformed the way we think about retail sometimes at the cost of their own livelihood.  Amazon, however, is still chugging along nicely.

The fourth retail revolution is mobile commerce. And this revolution is still in its infancy. With m-commerce budgets still only forming a miniscule part of retailers total cost strategies. What puts this revolution apart from the first three revolutions though is the fact that this is the first retail revolution being driven from the consumer side rather from the industry side. Consumers have become creators of the retailers strategies rather than just the reactors.

What is interesting about the four revolutions is that they are becoming exponential in terms of speed of implementation. The first revolution hung around for about forty years, the second for about 20 years, the third for about 10 and the fourth one is now ramping up. The reason for this is because that retail has always been about information and in the 70s when the Information Technology Paradigm was stapled onto the retail sector it was always going to speed up.