Established retailers vs. digital natives

Five years ago, I left corporate life to start my own consulting firm. I have loved this way of working and have relished the opportunity to help some great clients master different aspects of their e-commerce operations. It has also allowed me to achieve a long-held ambition to write my first book, Retail’s Last Mile.

A few weeks ago, I put Jonathan Reeve Consulting into hibernation and joined Eagle Eye. I had intended to continue consulting until retirement, but the opportunity to bring Eagle Eye to Australia and New Zealand was too exciting to refuse. Eagle Eye’s software platform, AIR, helps omnichannel retailers create winning stores in a digital world. Unless companies with large networks of stores solve this challenge, the likes of Amazon and Alibaba may one day dominate store retail as completely as they dominate e-commerce today.

To understand the challenge facing established retailers, consider the matrix below which looks at two key building blocks of retail success in a digital world:

  • Ability to master traditional retail skills such as merchandising, marketing, supply chain etc.

  • Ability to master emerging digital skills, such as personalisation, artificial intelligence, robotics etc.

The race between established retailers and digital natives

retail race matrix 20190729.png

The race between established retailers and digital natives

Framed in this way, the challenge for traditional retailers is this: can the likes of Walmart, Coles and Woolworths master these new digital skills faster than the digital natives can learn to become effective store retailers? When Eagle Eye CEO, Tim Mason, recently posed that question to audiences in Australia and New Zealand, the majority backed Amazon to win. At Eagle Eye we’re not so sure, probably because many of us were previously store retailers and know how tough it is to build a successful proposition in categories like meat, produce and bakery. Amazon’s ten-year struggles with AmazonFresh (before it acquired Whole Foods) illustrate the difficulty of mastering store retail, even for well-funded digital players.

Eagle Eye is an exciting place to be right now because it has a world-leading technology that helps store retailers compete on a level playing field with the likes of Amazon. The platform enables a digital connection to every customer walking into the store. It’s something Eagle Eye’s founder, Steve Rothwell, describes as a “cookie for the real world”. The e-commerce pure-plays take a digital connection with every customer for granted. In fact, in Amazon’s grocery format, Amazon Go, it is a condition of entry that customers shop using its App. In comparison many retailers with stores may not even know the names of their most loyal customers.

Amazon knows the identity of every customer shopping with Amazon Go


Exciting times ahead

So exciting times ahead for retail and Eagle Eye. We’re already a strategic digital partner for the likes of Diageo, John Lewis, Loblaw, Marks & Spencer, Mitchells and Butlers, PizzaExpress, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Any forward-thinking retailers in Australia and New Zealand interested to learn more can contact me at