When I examine the explosion of mobile over the last few years, I unfortunately see some parallels to early days of the Web when newspapers and media struggled to embrace the new distribution method.

Let me explain. Back in the mid-90’s hard copy publications – newspapers, magazines, trade publications – were the go-to sources of printed  information. The press and media (specifically those selling the written word) were the gatekeepers of content and they liked it that way. Most believed that putting their content out on the Web would cannibalize sales of their hard copy publications.

It took a long time for this group to realize there were ways to give people the information online and still make money. Some adapted and did well. Many saw steep declines in revenue and took action – like paywalls, online subscriptions, etc. – as a strategy. Ultimately, many media outlets simply vanished under the mounting pressure of plummeting ad dollars.. Of course, there is more to the complex issue – add in the start of blogging, the start of social media and the sharing economy on the horizon, search becoming a new method of uncovering information and other factors. It’s complicated, but you get the gist.

These content organizations had everything going for them – content creators, editors, distribution, recognized brand names and more. Yet most still failed or were unwilling to adapt.

I see some of this history repeating itself as the mobile commerce explosion takes place. Many retailers that made their name in brick and mortar are falling horribly short in evolving in the new mobile world. Often times big, legacy brands are being usurped by smaller, nimbler upstarts that have their roots only online.

Sure, there are some retailers who get it and are thriving, but still there are some unwilling to change their old world mindset. Retailers are in the business of selling goods. That means they need to do that how and where the consumers want to buy. And right now that purchase journey includes online and offline.

I see so many retailers that are not willing to invest in the proper infrastructure required to make mobile a priority. That means going beyond a simple online presence that allows for the most basic shopping experience. Retailers can not just have a website and try to coordinate with their brick and mortar stores. That doesn’t work.

Mobile is a seismic shift that requires a new way of thinking. And maybe even adjusting to the notion that ecommerce is not just a passive or incremental venue generator for a retailer’s business, but rather THE driving force for purchases right now.

There are many ways to embrace this idea – having a site that uses responsive design, a dedicated mobile only site, or creating a mobile app. These options need to be combined with email, search, social, retargeting, personalization and other online marketing efforts. Also, using innovative tactics (like Target has recently embraced) for inventory management, fulfillment and delivery (including in-store pickup options), SMS delivery notifications and more can take mobile efforts from basic to standout.
I can’t emphasize enough that retailers who fail to embrace this new mobile shopping economy are doomed to perish and likely meet the same ate that big newspapers did. Seriously, when was the last time you read a printed version of newspaper?