This past summer, the retail industry was shaken up by a series of high-profile acquisitions. Last month, Walmart completed its $3.3 billion purchase of one of the best-known startups in the commerce space, Jet.com—an e-commerce marketplace that launched just one year ago.
Whether in the form of acquisitions, partnerships or something else, these new alignments highlight an inescapable reality: Everything about how consumers discover, shop and buy is changing, and established retailers and brands must adapt.
At the annual Shoptalk conference this past May, the CEOs of both Dollar Shave Club and Jet.com, as well as from hundreds of other innovative startups and established brands shared their viewpoints. From their talks, four new trends emerged:
1) The online-to-offline trend is gaining momentum
From venture-backed companies like Warby Parker, Bonobos and Birchbox to giants like Amazon, companies that once focused solely on e-commerce now operate physical stores. The convergence of the physical and digital worlds is accelerating, with few leading companies embracing only one or the other.
2) Stores remain as relevant but are evolving
Stores are becoming more than just places to make purchases: They are now entertainment hubs and social destinations where shoppers can explore, learn and connect. Retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Sur La Table and Lululemon have added wine menus, cooking lessons and yoga classes to attract and engage shoppers.
3) Delivery options are growing as timeframes shrink
Today, urban online shoppers can expect deliveries just a few hours after placing an order; in more rural areas, retailers are exploring new options to deliver packages more efficiently and economically. Some companies are signing on with startups like Instacart, Postmates and UberRush to accelerate delivery timeframes.
None of these trends are restricted to a single market and no one region has a lock hold on innovation. At Walmart, for example, the growing demands of Chinese shoppers led the company to forge an alliance with JD.com, a massive e-commerce player with a highly sophisticated nationwide logistics network.