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Rebooting Retail: Turning the Retail Apocalypse into a Renaissance

Opinion and Insight 39 Add to collection
R/GA Ventures strategist Joyce Schmulson chats with Lee Hnetinka about how retail brands must make delivery innovation part of their core service offering
Rebooting Retail: Turning the Retail Apocalypse into a Renaissance

For retail brands with e-commerce strategies in need of direct-to-consumer agility and customer-centricity, it’s do-or-doom time. 

That’s the argument on our latest FutureVision podcast by Lee Hnetinka, founder and CEO of the R/GA Ventures-backed fulfilment service Darkstore. As the power behind the world’s first Snapchat product drop with Nike’s Jordan Brand and R/GA, he shares lessons learned as the urban delivery partner for Nike and others. 

In addition to launching a two-hour delivery service for essential DTC brands this fall, his aim is turning the pandemic-shaped retail apocalypse into a renaissance opportunity—one that is driven by what customers need most, how and when they need it.

The four-year-old tech-driven fulfilment service backed by R/GA Ventures and other investors is now in an alpha-test of that 2 hour delivery service, FastAF, a tech-enabled marketplace for essential DTC brands that lets users in San Francisco (with Los Angeles to follow) get these brands delivered fast and when they want them most. The pitch: “Shop the top brands with the fastest delivery. Unlock 2-hour delivery to the products you need, curated with the brands you love.”

On our latest FutureVision podcast, R/GA Ventures strategist Joyce Schmulson chats with Lee Hnetinka about how retail brands must make delivery innovation part of their core service offering. And while not all brands can be as nimble as Nike, for example, there are some direct-to-consumer moves they can model if they want to survive the COVID-19 retail apocalypse.

Darkstore was well-positioned for this time, with the pandemic acting as an accelerant for retail brands that were hoping to grow their e-commerce business. With a network of urban fulfillment centers across the U.S., it gives companies without local inventory access to having a presence in any city so they can offer users the ability to purchase their product on a two-hour or on-demand basis.

“The brands that are going to be around are ones that are willing to be agile and willing to rethink their business and act quickly.” —Lee Hnetinka

As Hnetinka comments on our podcast: “COVID has given everyone the freedom and opportunity to not be a quarter-to-quarter business and really enable them to stop this in-person brick-and-mortar, which is their core business, and enable them to sell online in a way consumers want—which is fast—and do that without the distraction of ‘Is this going to hurt our core business?’ Because their core business doesn't exist anymore.”

How can brick-and-mortar retailers start thinking and acting like direct-to-consumer, digital-native brands? “It’s a mentality of innovating and reinventing yourself from within and being where your customers are and want you,” he says. If they can pivot and focus on customers, the retail apocalypse stands a chance of becoming a retail renaissance.

There’s no time to waste for retailers who aren’t delivering a seamless customer experience—one that meets customers’ heightened e-commerce expectations—while there’s still time to pivot. “The brands that are going to be around are ones that are willing to be agile and willing to rethink their business and act quickly.”

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R/GA New York, Mon, 17 Aug 2020 15:21:37 GMT