Traditional Retail Vs. Modern Retail: The Verdict

Online vs Physical Retail

In the battle of traditional retail vs. modern retail , who’s the winner?

With the emergence and proliferation of online shopping, the appeal of conventional retail has been waning significantly. Fearing imminent extinction, many retailers have scrambled to adapt to this new retail landscape, moving into eCommerce and embracing interactive technology in their retail shops.

Some retailers, however, have tried their hardest to go against the increasingly scary and enveloping tide of modern retail. These businesses have steadfastly continued to operate the way they always have done.

It’s admirable, but is it sustainable? In the battle of traditional retail vs. modern retail, does the traditional approach still have a place?

Overcoming the fear of change

Retailers are right to fear change. They have, up to this point, been required by customer demands to remain consistent from visit to visit. IT and technology projects, in particular, have long been a deeply-held worry, and for good reason: these projects are expensive, hard to control and even harder to bring in on time and on budget.

Retailers have, in the past, tended to rely on external experts to help advise them about the present and future technologies. Too many bad bets have burned their fingers.

Traditional Retail Vs. Modern Retail: The Verdict

If a retailer decides to adopt agile principles or a technology-driven focus, the change comes from the grassroots elements of their business- the people on the front line, the store managers and workers. 

When it comes to traditional retail vs. modern retail, overcoming the fear of change is vital. While it’s understandable that long-established retailers would want to retain some of the more traditional aspects of their business, a certain level of change is inevitable.

Modern retail is leane

Being lean is not about being small or unambitious. It’s about being following a relatively simple sounding program: Test, Learn, Iterate. Of course, it’s not simple to implement and the difficulty retailers have when attempting to adopt these principles highlights a propensity for over-reliance in the past; on external consultants, on one-size-fits-all technologies and on the old way of doing things. 

Retailers have perhaps waited too long to make changes. Many have delayed decisions to the point where perhaps one relatively big change requirement has spiralled into one hundred.

Traditional Retail Vs. Modern Retail: The Verdict


No retailer can make one hundred major changes in one go and successfully adopt a lean approach. Still, many will go to a service provider who will claim that they can solve all of their problems with one major project. 

In our experience, the retailers who succeed in turning to an iterative approach are those that look to implement a thin layer between many of their problems; a reliable, flexible and tailored framework whose design was informed by their needs during its creation. The challenge is accommodating for the future changes that are guaranteed to be needed when operating with an iterative model. 

The historic trust of and reliance on technology providers has left too many retailers in a state of inertia, unable to understand or implement the changes that are necessary to be able to compete with lean startups online and offline. 

Modern retail is agile

Reimagining a store proposition is the complicated business. 

There is a required level of business agility that may at first seem daunting; in order to gather the data necessary for judging and justifying recommendations, retailers need to begin by implementing new processes that capture that data and refine it over time.

Traditional Retail Vs. Modern Retail: The Verdict

In order to help retailers improve faster, the businesses that help them prepare for and implement change need to do a better job of defining the current, near-future and long-term industry landscape. 

If you’re looking to Embrace modern retail with a digital retail strategy, we can help! Take a look at the guide on planning your digital retail transformation.

Perhaps retail culture has got to the point where change generates slow-burning terror. Before anything can change, retailers need to make sure that the first thing to be tackled is embracing changing across the business-from the bottom to the top.

Modern customers are forcing change

The grand irony is that the reason for this change; the habits and preferences of millennials. The principal motivator behind Lean and iteration is two fold; millennials have short attention spans, expecting change or fresh experiences. Secondly, they’re much more forgiving. Their taste for the new means they’re understanding of hiccups, flaws and incomplete implementations or process adoptions. It ties into their narrative of being part of a journey, of seeing something develop through their participation in the marketplace. 

Traditional Retail Vs. Modern Retail: The Verdict

Too many consultancies fail to deliver a solution and then hand over the keys to the future. This is perhaps driven by the business model many have- a relic of the past, in a similar way to the retail change management of old. Consultancies often want to be the ones who own the maintenance and the roadmap, retailers are often happy to let them. 

Retailers need to be braver to make changes, but suppliers need to be brave enough to share their secrets.

5 things retailers can do to modernise

  1. Make culture changes internally so that the forces with a tendency to resist new technology and processes are more easily bypassed.
  2. Make radical technology changes. Even if you only make one change, make sure it makes jaws drop. The purpose of technology in retail is to create more memorable customer experiences.
  3. Embrace automation and self-service. You’d be surprised how cost effective technology driven solutions can be when compared to people driven solutions.
  4. Be prepared to iterate. The first big project you introduce probably won’t go exactly as planned, so brace decision makers for the reality; plan to change your plans and include features that emerge throughout the project.
  5. Re-evaluate how tech savvy your customers are. 39% of people aged 65-74 in the UK are smartphone users, according to Ofcom research! The times have changed.

Prepare to invest

To be agile or lean, retailers need to be prepared to invest in technology. They need to be prepared to embrace change across the entire organisation, from the bottom up. They need to choose high quality technology and consultancy partner, who they can trust to guide their decisions and from whom they can learn as they go. 

They need to consider their business operation holistically and start planning very quickly how they they’re going to integrate not only their desired contemporary systems and processes but leave enough room for the innovations of the future.

With all of this, they need to ensure that they do not sacrifice their identity and that they retain the core of their business proposition. The goal is to attract the millennials, but not alienate the core customer base. It’s been proven to be possible by successful retailers who have moved or are moving to an agile or lean model, so there are no excuses. Fear of change, fear of investment, fear of alienation; all need to be abandoned and replaced with decisiveness and a compulsion to act now.

So, in the battle of traditional retail vs. modern retail, who’s the winner? Well, it’s complicated. Of course, even the most traditional of retailers are going to have to embrace some of the trappings of the modern worldeventually, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping some of the more compelling aspects of the traditional shopping experience. So, perhaps it’s most appropriate to say that both traditional and modern retail have their place, and can coexist peacefully.

Whether you’re looking to create a completely modern retail experience or wanting to embrace tradition, at LamasaTech we’re passionate about creating the perfect retail solution for you. Get in touch with a member of our expert team today for a free consultation about your retail project.

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