It’s a whole new retail game out there. Digital disrupters — i.e., companies and/or people with digital models that disrupt a profitable, even booming, industry such as retail — are the new normal. These companies generally make the same products and offer the same services as the companies they’re disrupting, but make them readily available anytime, anywhere and, often, at lower prices. Some of these companies can be hugely successful (at the time of this writing, Unilever had just purchased digital disrupter Dollar Shave Club for a cool $1 billion) by leveraging technology and transportation systems that never existed before.
Should traditional retailers be afraid? Will digital disruption create waves of change in the retail marketplace, rendering once-successful business models obsolete? No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think there’s a lot that traditional retailers can learn from digital disrupters, which is why this issue's cover story is dedicated to them. For the story, the Total Retail staff put our heads together and came up with six successful "game changers" that we believe are helping usher in a whole new world of retailing.
The companies include Betabrand, an online clothing community that designs, manufactures and crowdfunds new products into existence in weeks; Casper, a mattress startup that sells a superior product directly to consumers; DITTO, an online retailer that uses 3-D virtual fitting technology to enable consumers to try on glasses to see if they fit before purchasing; Le Tote, a fashion subscription service that allows members to borrow personalized clothing and accessories for a fee; Rocksbox, a jewelry rental subscription service that also offers members access to personalized designer jewelry; and Shoes of Prey, a company that enables shoppers to use 3-D technology to create their own shoes, which are delivered in just four weeks.
Sure, these companies are super cool and their structures are likely very different from your company’s, but I bet some of the technologies and tactics they’re using can be adopted by yours. For example, perhaps you could ask your customers (i.e., crowdsource) about new product ideas before setting out to create or procure them? Or maybe experiment with 3-D technologies? Or offer services (e.g., the ability to rent a product) alongside the products you sell?
Regardless, I hope you enjoy reading about these companies and entrepreneurs as much as we did writing about them. Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions about digital disrupters and how they’re changing (or not changing!) your business.
Related story: Game Changers: Chris Lindland, Betabrand