I can’t tell you precisely when I began to prefer texting over using the telephone or, for that matter, email. With the ubiquity of smart phones and my general propensity towards instant and direct communication, my inclination toward texting seemed inevitable. I’m certainly not alone.

According to a recent article published in Fashionista, and other reports, messaging applications are contributing to a seismic shift in retail, one that is disrupting what was traditionally a very segmented retailer/consumer relationship. Simply put, technology has completely shifted the balance of power and control from the retailer to the consumer.

It’s the Democratization of Retail.

Commerce today is everywhere. Nordstrom’s TextStyle, for example, is a messaging medium that puts customers in direct contact with a sales associate during the purchasing decision, and applications like China’s WeChat provide an integrated ecosystem of messaging, ecommerce and mobile payment.

Not everything is about the transaction, however. Many retailers are capitalizing on the engagement aspect of messaging, banking on the value of real time chats with actual human beings to help reduce abandoned carts and relieve the anxiety that accompanies solo online browsing.

A new report, the Democratization of Retail explains how the expansion of commerce beyond traditional digital channels is creating a new frontier in retailing. The linear and direct relationship that retailers previously had via physical stores and traditional ecommerce is yielding to a more erratic and uncontrolled environment; one with many touch points that include messaging, social media, Internet of Things, search and advertising, virtual and augmented reality. This non-linear shopper journey presents challenges for retailers, to be sure, but it’s a shift that retailers must embrace or risk being left behind by more fleet-footed competitors.

Those that build capabilities and competitive advantages early on will hold a significant edge over those that have no choice but to play catch up.