Can You Bring Business Along?

Last week Rocky Agrawai of Venture Beat noted the simple painful fact that big box retailers have more online competition and need to upgrade.  He then documents his own painful big box experiences which you really don’t see in online retail (often because they’re screwups caused by being there).

Big Box retail needs an upgrade, he concludes.  I concur myself; most of my experience with Big Box these days is Frys, who has wisely chosen their own focus (crazy selections and sheer enthusiasm in bulk).

In fact, Rocky then went on to discuss how department stores need help too.  I imagine if he is going to fully explore businesses who are behind the times, he’s going to be very busy – and I encourage him, he’s got great insights.

We probably wouldn’t be complaining about this two decades ago as the stores wouldn’t have comparable experience.  We also probably wouldn’t be complaining as much as it’s a different economic and cultural time.  But in a day of cut-it-to-the-bone, short-term thinking, Big Box stores and many others often feel rather miserable.

Meanwhile online stores?  They’re great.  Fast, efficient, integrated with many services and tools, sharing data, etc.  I can order sausage on my cell phone and a library on my computer.  Online stores take advantage of technical integration in ways physical stores can’t because they’re riding the wave of technical integration.

They take advantage of technology and set expectations.  Those with physical spaces have to keep up.

But, it’s not just stores, is it?

Technical integration presents competition to all sorts of businesses and services.  Technical integration presents different opportunities.  Technical integration sets new expectations.

As gaming moves inevitably towards services, game stores have to change. Just look how video consumption has changed insanely, and now we’re getting DVD’s at our grocery store.  There’s  a Netflix of ties for the gods sake.

Companies with physical presences need to change.

This is where we geeks come in.

We know the technology that is challenging physical stores.  Hell, we’re probably some of the people building it and implementing it.  We understand what people want and need, and we know how it gets delivered.

Maybe we’re the people to help save or help these businesses, or get them to evolve up.  It’s not like we haven’t been busy destroying business models anyway.

As I’ve mentioned several times as of late there’s a lot of enthusiasm for supply chain-knowledgeable people in IT – there’s an old-school way of doing things that is catching up with the times.  What else can we do?

Medical and doctor’s services?  Already seen a lot of service integration here in Silicon Valley and at the VA.

Clothing?  Well beyond Netflixing ties there are ways to do measurements online, though it doesn’t seem to have caught on.

Food?  I’ve seen Food Trucks with heavy online presences, and the Safeway branch has gotten online ordering working, though it’s not as widespread as it could be.

Maybe your career opportunities lie in bringing businesses up to speed, using your geeky knowledge and technical experience.  There’s certainly a lot of work to be done.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at