Impact of Disruptors & Accelerators on Retail Trends

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Disruptors and accelerators in retail can shift a business or industry forever. In this lesson, you'll learn more about five major areas impacting the retail industry today and into the future.

Hitting the Inflection Point

In the years just prior to 2008, travel planning looked a lot like this: Get on the internet, visit a ton of hotel websites, find a basic hotel room like every other hotel room out there, book it and go. So, what changed in 2008? That's when Airbnb burst on the scene.

Airbnb changed the way people choose to travel. Want to stay in a castle? Check. Rather be in a rural location? Got you covered. Prefer a single room in a local's home? They have that option, too. Airbnb has created new ways for people to personalize their vacations and experience different communities and cultures. In doing so, it created an inflection point, a moment that signaled a permanent shift in the way the hospitality industry was consumed.

So, how do we classify Airbnb itself? Sure, it created an inflection point in the industry, but what specifically does that say about the company? Airbnb is known as a disruptor because it forced changed in the hotel space. The other type of force, one that invites change, is known as an accelerator. Either can cause sudden shifts in retail that change consumer behaviors.

Let's take a look at some of the most common disruptors and accelerators impacting retail today.

Current Disruptors and Accelerators

There will always be companies or ideas that come along that serve as a catalyst for change. Here are a few that have been a big deal lately.


You use your mobile phone to look up the location of an item in a retail store. You make a purchase online and drive over to the store to pick it up. You check out with a self-initiated kiosk, never talking to an attendant. You pay for your purchases with your smartwatch. These are just some of the ways that technology has changed the face of retail dramatically. In fact, technology is probably the biggest disrupter/accelerator of change in the retail landscape over the past few decades.

Amazon is currently using the idea of technology to advance the concept of grocery shopping. Its flagship Amazon Go grocery store offers a completely automated process where shoppers scan their Amazon Go app, pick items from the shelves and leave. The payment is processed automatically. There are no other stores currently using this technology, but it has the potential to change the retail industry in a big way.


Retailers that want to be successful long-term are taking the idea of innovation, pioneering new and advanced products, services and ideas, seriously. Whether it's a new store format, an experiential shopping atmosphere or service-based selling, companies are embracing the idea of innovation and changing the face of retail for consumers.

Home improvement store Lowe's is on the forefront of innovation with its aptly-named Innovation Lab. In the lab, engineers and tech experts work to develop experiences and ideas that will appeal to a new generation of consumer. So far, they have experimented with virtual reality design and created the Vision App, which lets customers plan and design home improvement projects virtually.


You can turn on the news just about every evening and discover the impact terrorism, natural disasters and even a shortage of clean water can have on relations between countries. Geopolitical issues have the potential to disrupt businesses or even entire industries with their government instability, tariffs on trade or even breakdowns in the supply chain.

Amazon, for example, gets a third of its revenue from foreign operations. Any type of breakdown between Amazon's domestic and foreign partnerships could disrupt the way it operates. Safety concerns over pet food imported from other countries can also cause a rift in the way American businesses operate.

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