Note — May 07, 2018

Dual Reactions to Online Challengers

French sporting retailer Décathlon has come to town. We look at some of the tactics they and other chains are using to distinguish themselves from online challengers.

By now it’s blindingly obvious that the internet is changing retail in many ways. The variety of solutions is quite interesting to observe. Recently, the French sports chain Décathlon opened its first store in Montreal.

They are reacting to online pressure (and traditional competition) in a few ways: First, by working on their in-store experience, focusing on the opportunity to try out their products on the spot in their wide-open aisles. Second, by integrating online and making it possible to order from home and pick up at your local outlet. Third, by opening new smaller stores in downtown cores (Munich and Stuttgart for now), making them more easily accessible for city center customers. Fourth, by equipping their staff in some stores with tablets and an app to quickly and precisely answer client queries. Fifth, by investing in training and treating their employees well, thereby boosting their level of service.

For their part, Walmart is investing massively in India and their online offering by putting a reported reported $12 billion in Flipkart, raising their participation from 60 to 80%. A definite move to both address a growing market and position themselves against Amazon.

For years, Lowe’s has been operating their Innovation Labs, working on solutions and products around Alternate and Virtual Reality (AR and VR), on-demand manufacturing, robotics, etc. All in the hope of making the in-store experience more interesting, efficient, and enjoyable.

In a way, these big chains are stretching in two directions: on one side, by investing in getting better online to fight native internet competitors and on the other, by changing how they operate to enhance the in-person experience. In an already very competitive landscape, which of these giants will be able to navigate this two-sided effort successfully? And how do those ideas move up and down between them and the smaller, more nimble but more cash-strapped players?

Originally written for CloudRaker Thoughts.