Digital disruption, understand it and embrace it or have your business operations become obsolete.

Having just returned from a NZ Global Woman trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, never have I been in a more reflective space and focused on how to ensure the longevity and growth of a fashion business through my bricks and mortar sites in NZ, whilst looking to amplify sales globally through the digital platforms.

Over the three days of introduction and learning in the valley I heard over and over of the seven million dollar sales revenues - all generated from businesses operating in the tech space - that had been set up with the intention to sell at international telephone number amounts.  Sure there have been thousands of failures but as one speaker in the medical engineering space quoted, “If all your experiments work out, then you are not experimenting!

Yes, failure is such an important precursor to the success that we all covert.

The fashion industry couldn’t be further from the business models that we visited.  The juggernaut that is Google and the relatively new boy on the block, Twitter, are all advancing at speeds that none of us can really comprehend.  But such pioneering thinking and operational processes are offering opportunities that could be extremely business-enabling should we just take the time to learn them and embrace them!

So does my research mean that the physical retail space will become the ‘cassette of the music world’?  Quite the contrary as Restoration Hardware, a USA homeware retailer displayed with their new concept stores. The largest and most recently launched in Atlanta is over 70,000 square feet, a six-story design gallery.  No longer a store but a huge multilevel showroom that resembles the most beautiful home and outdoor areas. In fact, if this brand were your preference, it would, I suggest, resemble your dream home, in a very visionary way.  The marketing experience is supported by catalogues that rival the US House and Garden magazine and that no website could emulate. All of this gets their customer back into their physical spaces in droves.

To quote the CEO and Chairman Gary Friedman  “We hope we will be a destination for inspiration, everywhere you look, you should see something beautiful.” With the retail landscape evolving due to the rise of e-commerce sales, more retailers are pushing away from traditional enclosed malls — which Friedman called “archaic windowless boxes lacking any sense of humanity”. Retail has changed - it has been disrupted.  Brand loyalty and engagement are paramount to survival!  Stories told with authenticity are the way forward and unfortunately I can still remember when the good old advertisement in the local paper was all it took to ensure a continuum of trade.

I am excited, rather than apprehensive at all the new learnings and opportunities the digital platforms offer.  Working with consulting experts that can meld brick and click, often so much younger than myself, has become the backbone of my supporting framework for future planning. Change will always be a very necessary and healthy part of the business process and traditional retail models must remain nimble or risk falling into obsolescence.