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This article highlights the ten companies that are at the forefront of changing and disrupting the retail experience in big and small ways.

1) Amazon- Amazon recently announced that it is planning to introduce a drone-based delivery system that would allow customers in certain areas to receive packages within 30 minutes of purchase.  Amazon has expanded same-day delivery shipping to 11 cities and is planning to role the feature out to even more stores.  Amazon is also growing its network of fulfillment centers, which are at the heart of its distribution strategy.  AmazonFresh is also causing disruption as it will compete with supermarkets to offer grocery items.

2) Facebook- Facebook is working with retailers to quantify the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook and what the implications are to the retailer’s bottom line.  Facebook is also working to develop artificial intelligence tools that can help Facebook analyze data and behavior on its site.  Facebook is also placing auto-play video ads into some users’ news feeds.

3) Google-Google is expanding in e-commerce.   The firm offers Google Wallet for payments, Google Offers for daily deals, and Google Shopper for finding items nearby via a mobile app.  Google’s Shopping Express program is expanding its same-day delivery option with retail partners like American Eagle Outfitters, Target, and Whole Foods.  Google is also investing in robots to improve its manufacturing and logistics functions.

4) Pinterest- Retailers love Pinterest because “pinning” activity helps drive purchases and traffic for brands. Target, for example, uses a site called “Target Awesome Shop” that showcases top trending items on Pinterest.    Pinterest is changing online commerce because retailers can use the site to help consumers find and share products, as well as to identify trends and market to the right shoppers.  Pinterest is currently available in 12 languages, with a goal of more than doubling that in the next year.

5) Twitter- Over 50% of retailers use Twitter to alert customers of real-time promotions. Twitter plans to launch an effort for direct shopping via Twitter postings.  This would be conducted as a collaborative effort rather than place Twitter in direct competition with retailers.

6) Apple-Apple is the most profitable retailer in the U.S. in terms of sales per square foot.  Apple recently rolled out iBeacons to its U.S. stores in December of last year.  iBeacons send targeted, real-time promotional messages to customers via their iPhones. Apple is also developing wearable connectivity devices.

7) Instagram- The fashion industry can use Instagram as a powerful marketing tool. Michael Kors became the first retailer last year to advertise on Instagram, with the ad reaching 6.15 million people worldwide.

8) Hointer- Hointer is a retailer that combines the in-store experience with mobile technology.  Customers can scan items in the store and have the items that they want to try dropped directly into a dressing room without having to interact with a sales associate.  Hointer will continue to identify new ways to incorporate technology into the in-store experience.

9) Square- Square is a small credit card reader that turns a mobile device into a handy cash register.  Square also launched an online marketplace and is looking to compete in the online commerce market.

10) HSN- HSN, formerly the “home shopping network” has undergone a transformation.  HSN is now a retail, media, entertainment, and technology hybrid that attempts to engage and connect with the consumer across multiple platforms using TV shopping, TV entertainment, digital, and mobile applications to spread its content.  HSN has blurred the lines between traditional channels. HSN is increasingly using analytics to anticipate exactly what the customer will want in order to maximize personalization and create passionate consumers.

Discussion Question:

Which companies are expected to disrupt the way we do retailing and why have they been chosen for this list?


Source: Dan Berthiaume and Marianne Wilson, Chain Store Age, January 7, 2014