“Dear Average Retailer” is a new, semi-regular column that shoots from the hip, offering straight talk and advice to average retailers like you, who are facing common challenges. This inaugural installment looks at online-to-offline retail.

Dear Average Retailer,

Here’s what you’re up against in your quest to stay relevant in today’s fast-moving retail age:

As if it weren’t already challenging enough that competitors can poach your best customers simply by dropping a web site and reeling people in with good SEO and discounts, now you have to worry about them dropping stores just as easily – and having an even bigger impact.

Baldwin Cunningham, writing on Forbes.com, highlights how today’s digital commerce makes an engaging store presence more critical than ever.

Everyone’s favorite examples of pure-play digital commerce companies starting wickedly effective store operations are worth reiterating here, and are mentioned in Baldwin’s article: Warby Parker, Bonobos, Birchbox and Rent the Runway.

After boning up on Australian retail stories for a recent trip to Demandware’s Retail Connect event in Sydney, Shoes of Prey became my latest favorite example (Seeing co-founder Jodie Fox speak recently at the World Retail Congress in Rome heightened my interest.)

An added challenge in all of this is the rise of pop-up stores as an increasingly common component of an omni-channel retail strategy. Now, the average retailer has to worry not just about competitors’ permanent fixtures, but also those than come and go in a flash. This Inquisitr article does a great job laying out the benefits of a pop-up.

This is all further evidence of how complex it is to keep up with consumer expectations and “compete on experience,” increasingly the mantra of any successful retailer.

What’s the average retailer to do?

Think beyond omni-channel – unify the experience across physical and digital channels. For pure-play digital commerce players: get a physical experience!

Re-invent the store – both permanent stores and pop-ups – particularly by bringing digital into the store.

Build agility into retail strategy – what works today may not tomorrow when the next twist unveils itself.

Average retailer: you’re up against a world of challenges. You have no time for complacency.

Your friend,