I’d like to share some thoughts about how specialty retailers can grow faster using digital platforms. From my perspective, very few specialty retailers have proven they understand the digital world and everything it can offer. When employed correctly, digital can greatly increase customer engagement, brand loyalty, and sales. I believe most specialty retailers do not fully realize how digital platforms can help them grow very fast on all of the financial metrics that matter.

Before we go too far, let’s cover an important definition. Specialty retailers are defined as “retail businesses that focus on specific product categories, such as office supplies, men’s or women’s clothing, or carpet. It isn’t the product they sell that determines if a company is a specialty store but rather the breadth of their product offering.” Good examples of specialty retailers are pet stores (like Petsmart), office supplies stores (Staples), electronics stores (Best Buy), or in my current industry — party supply stores (Party City).

Specialty retailers have a unique opportunity to own a customer’s wallet and mindshare, but very few are investing in platforms and technology to deeply connect with consumers. And that’s a shame. In terms of revenue, the impact of digital connection is huge: 76 percent of consumers say they interact with products or brands long before they step into a brick and mortar store and it’s estimated digital interactions will influence 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores by the end of 2015. That’s $2.2 trillion dollars.

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