What Does a Modern Retailer Need to Succeed

House of Fraser’s last-minute buyout buyout, and John Lewis’ announcement of a 99% profit drop dominated the headlines last quarter. Acting as a constant reminder to other high street retailers that if they’re not on the ball, they could suffer a similar fate. Traditional retailers may know brick and mortar inside out — but unless they learn lessons from online-first brands, they will fail to win back market share.

Masters of customer experience, the success of eCommerce-led retailers lies in their ability to harness technology and use it to spur rapid growth. Their use of big data and machine learning allow them predict and shape consumer behaviour, pumping up profits at every opportunity.

With 89 percent of customers starting their purchase journey online, former retail icons have important lessons to learn from the examples of smaller, more agile eCommerce brands.

This article explores the mindset and technology modern retailers need to adopt if they want to succeed in the current climate. Read on to find out how your brand can avoid being the next high street fatality.

Cross-channel experience

To compete with online-first brands, high street retailers need to offer customers a seamless customer experience across every channel. Internal digital transformation is needed to make this possible.

Rather than working in silos, every channel owner needs to be guided by one central brand vision. The focus of this vision should be to build a memorable, highly personalised cross-channel customer experience. One which is frictionless, user-led, and intuitive — making shopping a pleasure, not a chore.

Brand awareness

Online-first brands like the hugely successful Dollar Shave Club, understand the power of brand awareness. They know that building a famous brand means embracing authentic brand storytelling.

Storytelling is an ancient, human practice that allows us to make sense of the world. Brands that tell their audience a story are the brands people talk about. Give people a relatable story about your brand and you will stay top of mind.

Go one step further and include the customer in your story, and you’ll achieve eCommerce cult status. Think of your customer as the hero and your brand as the mentor, guiding them on a voyage of discovery. A journey where your buying your product leads to their victory.

Technology adoption

To succeed as a modern-day retailer, your brand needs to invest in the right technology. This doesn’t mean jumping on every piece of emerging technology. It does mean being quick to recognise the platforms that will allow your brand to grow.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel by taking risks on new and untested technology.

Allow the big players to show you to way, and quickly follow their lead. Your brand might not be the next Amazon, but you can watch them closely and emulate their success.

Being quick to adopt the platforms that will allow you to improve customer experience is key. In this regard, machine learning and smart automations should be high on your priority list. To learn more, read this blog post we wrote about why Amazon excels at customer experience and how you can too.

Customer insight

Brands that are achieving growth in the current climate understand the importance of customer insight. They make the most of real-time behavioural data to understand, predict, and shape the buying behaviour of their customers.

Building a single customer view that makes sense of multiple data points allows these brands to supercharge their marketing. This should go hand in hand with the use of an intelligent personalisation platform.

Behavioural marketing tactics like triggered emails are key. Using these smart automations ensures your messaging is timely, contextually relevant, and persuasive. This is a powerful way to drive conversions and — over time — significantly grow your online revenue.


Modern day retailers need to adopt the mindset and structure of online-first brands if they are serious about succeeding. Agility sits at the heart of this.

The brands forging a path to success in the eCommerce landscape are willing and able to rapidly adjust their tactics according to what data tells them. They are not tied to the way things have always been done. They are not restricted by rigid processes. They don’t cater to egos. Online-first brands are united by a common goal: to perfect what they do.

A test-and-learn culture enables these brands to optimise their way to increased profits and rapid brand growth. They keep a constant watch on the internal and external factors that could affect results. Every part of their business is primed to adapt to make way for success.


The high street is not dead. It has just evolved. Brick-and-mortar still accounts for over 90 percent of overall retail sales. What’s more, online-first brands are expanding into the high street.


Eyewear brand, Warby Parker, started off online — growing to £1 billion in eCommerce revenue — and now operates 64 brick-and-mortar stores. Others like Daniel Wellington and Matches of Fashion are following suit.

Further reading: The Rise of the Direct-to-Consumer Brands

The current retail climate represents an excellent growth opportunity for traditional retailers humble enough to learn the lessons eCommerce brands are teaching them. Succeeding as a modern retailer means embracing cross-channel experience, brand awareness, technology adoption, customer insight, and agility.

We help retail brands adopt the eCommerce technology they need to compete. To book a demo of our personalisation platform, click the button below.

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