2014 – The Year of Disruption in Retail

Sooner or later, disruption occurs in almost every sphere of human activity. While the radical upending of long-established norms and conventions is not always a positive development, oftentimes disruptive forces enable a burst of creativity and innovation that move an industry toward new levels of success and achievement.

The Sex Pistols disrupted rock music in the 1970s with short and simplistic, yet powerful songs that focused on real emotions and social ills. Quentin Tarantino disrupted films in the 1990s with movies that disregarded traditional approaches to plot and dialogue. Both industries were thus opened to further innovation and insight that had previously been unobtainable.

Leading-edge technologies, such as social, mobile, video, location-sensing and Big Data analytics, hold promise to produce similar results in the retail industry. These technologies are simultaneously providing customers with a far greater level of control over their individual customer experience, while also providing retailers with insight into the personal preferences and habits of individual customers they could only have dreamed about a few short years ago.

The year 2014 is shaping up as the year of disruption in retail, and in this special section Chain Store Age takes a look at some of the unfolding trends and developments. From specialty retailer In the Pink, which is empowering store associates with real-time mobile data, to casual dining leader Applebee’s planned rollout of tablets at its tables nationwide, retailers are exploring new ways to engage customers and enhance the shopping experience, both online and in-store. And then there is ModCloth, which is using an innovative crowdsourcing model to create intimacy — and fuel its growth.