Ketner Group at Stacy's Wedding

4 Ways to Create a Great Agency Culture

How do you get a PR agency owner’s attention? One way is to whisper about employee burnout. That’s why a recent Digiday headline was so alarming. The article, “A crisis boiling under the surface: agencies confront employee burnout,” described a toxic, high-stress agency culture where 32% of professionals worried about their mental health.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the article focused on ad agencies, not PR firms. After all, we’re Ketner Group, not Sterling Cooper! However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the article. Several of our employees came from national PR agencies that expected them to bill 160+ hours a month. Late nights, employee burnout and high turnover were part of the culture.

That’s no way to run a PR agency — and it’s certainly not the way we do things at Ketner Group. We talk about KG as our “work family,” and it’s not a cliche. Our agency culture has evolved over time, and I think there are at least four reasons why.

#1: Create an Agency Culture Where People Can Thrive

Clear expectations and mutual accountability, combined with reasonable work hours and billing expectations, are fundamental to creating a positive agency culture. (And yes, competitive salaries and benefits matter, too.) These are table stakes, though. Everyone in an agency deserves a climate where they can continually learn, develop new skills and grow in their career, without sacrificing family or personal time. They also need a clear sense of how they can progress, both in salary and titles, and the reassurance that hard work will be rewarded. These are all things we’ve taken to heart at Ketner Group. That’s why we do employee reviews every six months instead of just annually. Why we value everyone’s opinion, not just the most senior staff. And why we do anything we can to help our individual team members grow and thrive.

#2: Trust Your Team

Do you hire great people? Then by all means, trust them. If KG team members focus on clients, consistently hit billing targets, demonstrate professional growth and are team players, then they earn our trust. That’s why we have a flexible work-from-home policy, especially given the headaches of Austin traffic. Trust is also the reason we’ve let KG’ers work abroad, from Dublin to Bali, not to mention our new offices in New York and Nashville.

#3: Exceed Client Expectations

Are you surprised that this wasn’t #1? Well, there’s a method to our madness. To do great client work, we believe that agencies must first create a positive environment where everyone thrives, and where there’s a climate of mutual trust, respect and accountability. Professional skills are a given, of course. But without these other attributes, it’s hard to create cohesive, focused teams where everyone focuses on exceeding client expectations. Great teams do great work, and we see it every day in our fantastic, hard-working team members.

(This isn’t me hyperbolizing, either. The VP Marketing of one of our clients recently told me that hiring Ketner Group was the single best decision he made for his company. And just last week, an editor told me we had the best PR team in the business.)

#4: Have Fun

This one almost goes without saying, but let’s face it: even at its best, PR can sometimes be stressful. And the best way to counter that is to leave plenty of time for fun. That’s why Ketner Group has Taco Tuesday, Wake-up Wednesday, frequent team lunches, and random outbursts of singing and laughing during the day. Yes, we use Slack primarily as a business tool, but sometimes a string of off-the-wall giphys is just what you need to laugh during a crazy afternoon (a Greg video or a random JK emoji can do the trick, too). And just this weekend, the KG team danced its heart out at Stacy’s wedding. The point is, committing to a fun work environment is one of the reasons we enjoy showing up every day.

There’s much more that goes into creating a great culture — frequent video chats and weekly check-ins with our remote team members. Taking time to chat with one another about life, not just work. Making sure everyone has each other’s back. Keeping the freezer stocked at all times with Amy’s frozen dinners. And occasional Rosé breaks. Team culture is always evolving at Ketner Group, and we’re working hard to make sure it evolves in the best possible ways.

Ketner Group Takes On The Big Apple

Amazon’s HQ2 expansion to New York was the biggest news in corporate expansions for 2018. But let me set the record straight. Ketner Group thought of it first.

This time last year we started laying the groundwork for expanding to the Big Apple. And we’re thrilled to say, it’s now a reality. Ketner Group Communications has just opened an office in New York City, led by our fearless team member Adrienne Newcomb. It’s a dream come true for all of us at Ketner Group, and it underscores our commitment to growth, innovation and client service. Check out our recent Q&A with Adrienne to find out how this native Texan is adapting to New York. (If you know Adrienne, you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s embracing it 100%.)

Besides the world’s best pizza and bagels, New York is a strategic move for Ketner Group. We’re excited about it, and it makes sense for a number of reasons, including the following:

The Center of the Media Universe

First and foremost, New York is the undisputed center of the media universe. Where else can you hold high-value, in-person press meetings with The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg and WWD in a single day? We’ve managed dozens of press tours and press meetings for our clients in New York, from top-tier to relevant trade media. Our interactions with New York media will pick up dramatically, now that Ketner Group has on-the-ground representation.

A Focal Point for Technology Innovation

New York is also the #1 area for retail, fashion, advertising and CPG innovation, and this will only accelerate with HQ2. The Retail Innovation Conference, hosted by our friends at Retail TouchPoints, is a prime example. Our client RevTech Ventures will participate in the May conference, focusing on the impact of disruptive, venture-backed companies in retail. New York is also home to XRC Labs, widely recognized as one of the top accelerators for disruptive retail and CPG companies. Moreover, in our first few weeks on the ground, we’re already talking to early-stage companies that will have a big impact in their markets. You may not have heard of them yet, but you will; we’ll make darn sure of that.

New Opportunities for Growth

Finally, our New York expansion is a sign of Ketner Group’s remarkable growth. We experienced a nearly 40% YOY growth rate in 2018, adding six new clients and increasing our team by over 50%. We’ve already added two major clients in 2019, and we’re not slowing down. We’re proud to say that our former KG’er Kirsty Goodlett has returned to Ketner Group as a senior team member; check out her intro blog to learn more about Kirsty’s recent re-entry to our team as an Account Supervisor.

None of this would be possible without our amazing team here at Ketner Group, as well as the best, most supportive clients in the business. We’re privileged to work with so many innovative companies that are shaping the future of how we work, shop, play and live. They trust us to tell their stories, and we work like crazy to exceed their expectations every day. Our New York office will only make it that much easier.

For more information, check out our press release announcing our NYC office.

Forget HQ2: This Is the Big News About Amazon and the Retail Industry

Amazon and its strategies are always at the forefront of my mind. Working with retail clients operating across all sectors, I’ve seen firsthand the impact Amazon has on a thriving retail scene. On Tuesday, Amazon announced its decision to split the company’s second headquarters between Northern Virginia and New York City. So, let’s take a look at what this really means for the retail industry.

Not a Bang, But a Whimper

In almost every way, it seems Amazon’s feverishly anticipated HQ2 announcement was anti-climactic. Few other companies have the resources to add 50,000 jobs over the next few years. But as is often the case with Amazon, the eCommerce giant is doing a host of other things retailers should focus on this holiday season.

For example, Amazon is on track to drive 80% of ecommerce growth this year. This will almost certainly account for more than half of all eCommerce sales during the holiday. That’s on the heels of Amazon’s Q3 sales of $56.6 billion, an increase of 29%.

Amazon’s first-ever toy catalog arrived in mailboxes last week, signaling Amazon’s intent to duke it out with Target and Walmart for toy supremacy following the demise of Toys “R” Us (did anyone really shop there the last few years?). Amazon is also offering free shipping for all holiday orders with no minimum purchase, even for non-Prime members.  Amazon is on track to become the #1 apparel retailer in the U.S. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of brick and mortar locations gained through the Whole Foods acquisition, and Amazon’s own branded moves into physical retail with Amazon Books and Amazon Go.

So, What Does It Mean?

Does this spell doom and gloom for the rest of retail? Not at all. In the face of Amazon’s dominance, the most innovative retailers are thriving, too. Projections indicate retail sales this holiday season will increase nearly 5%, the largest gain in recent years.

Our friends at IHL Group also noted that net retail store openings are outpacing closings by a margin of two to one. Yes, retailers that failed to embrace innovation (Sears being the “prime” example) are dying. However, a new generation of dynamic, exciting retailers are more than filling the void. And stalwarts such as Walmart, Macys, Nordstrom and others have kept pace to remain relevant in a retail landscape that’s changing at the speed of Amazon.

Back to HQ2: it’s exciting news for Crystal City and New York, and congratulations on winning 2018’s biggest economic development prize. But it’s all the other cool stuff happening with Amazon and the retail industry that will be the important story in the long run.

Austin’s Domain: Who Says Shopping Has to Be Boring?

I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really like shopping, which is a surprising admission for someone who’s worked with enough retail technology companies to populate a small mall. My idea of a great shopping trip is spending five minutes on my laptop, finding a reasonably good deal, ordering what I need online, and then calling it a day. I’m one of the millions of reasons why ecommerce sales continue to skyrocket, year after year. (And yes, my Amazon Prime account gets a hefty workout every week.)

Here’s my second confession, though: I love observing retail trends and the creative ways that retailers are reinventing themselves to get people off the couch and back into their stores. And what’s happening at the Domain, Austin’s premier shopping destination, is particularly intriguing to me. Retail is transforming at a dizzying rate, and the Domain is a microcosm of the changes in the industry.

For those of you who live outside Austin, the Domain is a thoughtful mix of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices – and a hugely popular Whole Foods – that’s known as Austin’s “second downtown.” It transformed 300 acres of formerly vacant Texas scrubland into a dog-friendly, family-friendly destination that’s fun to visit – even for a shopping curmudgeon like me.

I’ve had multiple occasions to visit the Domain in recent months, and each time I’ve come away convinced that it exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance.

Clicks to bricks

Warby Parker, Away, UNTUCKit, Bonobos, b8ta and Casper are some of the hottest e-commerce brands around. They all have brick and mortar stores at the Domain, too, along with Amazon Books, as my fellow KGer Amanda noted in a blog earlier this year. Physical stores are playing an increasingly important role for online retailers, and some of the best can be found at the Domain. (Tip for Amazon power shoppers: take your returns to the Amazon Books location. They’re happy to take them, and they won’t mind if you purchase a book or two while you’re there.)

Turning shopping into an experience

“Experiential retail” is one of the biggest themes in retail right now, as evidenced by the 13.4 million search results on that term in Google. Retailers are focused on creating experiences you simply can’t get online – for example, sampling the coolest tech gear on the planet at b8ta or trying out a Casper mattress. But it’s not just about the experience at each individual retailer. A destination like the Domain makes the entire shopping trip an experience, with green spaces, a splash pad for kids, outdoor restaurants, an entertainment district that rivals Austin’s famed Sixth Street, and a compelling lineup of retailers, which brings up my final point.

Making it fun

People flock to the Domain because it’s fun: a great place to take your out-of-town friends who want to shop, eat dinner, let the kids run around, and experience something that’s uniquely Austin. There’s something for everyone, from luxury brands like Tiffany and Neiman Marcus to brands that are aimed squarely at the mainstream. The Domain is anything but boring; and as retail consultant Steve Dennis points out, it’s a bad time for retailers to be boring. The Domain has taken that mantra to heart.

I may not like to shop, but the Domain has won me over. And it reinforces why I love working with technology companies that are helping drive some of the changes in this fast-paced, fascinating industry.

Not My Dad’s Grocery Store — But I Think He’d Approve

I have retail in my blood, so it may not be too surprising that I’ve spent much of my career focused on retail, grocery and CPG technology. Mom retired from the Sears credit department back when Sears was a healthy, viable company that was well-respected in the industry. Dad spent his career at the U.S. Postal Service but always had a part-time job in a grocery store or meat market for as long as I can remember.

They’d both be fascinated by the rapid changes in retail and grocery, especially Dad, who was intrigued by Jeff Bezos way back when Amazon was merely an online bookseller. So, with Father’s Day just around the corner, it seems only appropriate to focus on the huge changes in the grocery industry that Dad always had his foot in.

The Rise of Online Grocery

Here’s a sampling of some recent data points that underscore the magnitude of those changes:

  • Online grocery sales will reach 20% of total grocery retail by 2025, climbing to $100 billion in consumer sales, according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute, conducted by Nielsen. Amazon is the clear leader here, with 18% percent market share and $2 billion annually in online food and beverage sales. Dad would, no doubt, be surprised that the online bookseller, now the giant of online retail, is Disruptor #1 in today’s grocery industry.
  • The same report notes that 1 in 4 U.S. consumers are buying some of their groceries online, and more than 70 percent will participate in online grocery shopping within 10 years. Click and collect numbers are higher, according to Nielsen Homescan data, although frequency is low, which Nielsen believes makes sense, since it’s a new service.
  • Of those shoppers buying online, Coresight Research notes that 51% opted to pick up at the store through click and collect, while the rest chose to have their groceries delivered.
  • Online shopping isn’t just about small orders, either. Fung Global Research notes that online grocery will increasingly capture larger orders. (As I write, our office just received a “pantry loading” Instacart order with snacks, breakfast foods and more Amy’s frozen dinners than you can count, ensuring that KG’ers don’t go hungry.)
  • Brick-and-mortar grocery isn’t being left behind, either. Our client, Symphony RetailAI, pinpointed some of the trends that are reshaping traditional grocers in its Supermarket 2020 findings: displacing center-aisle items with prepared foods, where shoppers spend 3X-4X more than other areas; farmer’s markets in every store, featuring local produce; reducing the number of aisles in each store and focusing on highly curated items, with an endless aisle available online; and a higher proportion of private label goods.

Back to Basics

Would Dad recognize today’s fast-changing supermarket? I think he would – after all, these changes are all about offering shoppers an increasing array of choices for where, when and how they purchase groceries and other essentials. Ketner Group is fortunate to work with a number of clients that are helping shape the modern grocery industry, including Mercatus, GK Software, Symphony RetailAI, Displaydata and others. It’s one of the most fascinating, and fast-changing, segments in retail today.

In a sense, I believe that all the advancements in technology are helping bring grocery stores around full circle, to a day when grocers knew their local customers and catered to them. Who needed Instacart in the ‘60s? Several of my family’s local grocers in Wichita Falls offered home delivery to customers – you’d simply phone in your order, then pay your tab at the end of the month. Credit checks? No need for them; Kouri’s Grocery, for example, knew its best customers by name.

Today’s new grocery technologies are helping bring back an era of greater personal service. Of course, it’s impossible for regional grocers to know every customer by name. But online shopping, personalization and mobile apps help create a deeper level of customer knowledge, along with offers that can be fine-tuned to each shopper. These technologies are also helping regional grocery chains compete against the likes of Amazon and Walmart, helping ensure that they stay relevant. I think Dad would approve.

 

Healthcare’s Amazon Moment

2017 marked a turning point for the retail industry with Amazon’s bold acquisition of Whole Foods, which immediately turned the grocery industry upside down. It gave the e-commerce giant a powerful brick and mortar presence that it’s now leveraging with free two-hour delivery of Whole Foods groceries for Prime shoppers.

Will 2018 be similarly remembered as the healthcare industry’s “Amazon moment?” The recent announcement of a health alliance between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase has the potential to reshape healthcare in tantalizing ways. Because Amazon is partnering with two other corporate giants, it adds credibility to what could become a blueprint for healthcare innovation.

While Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase are initially focused on creating a healthcare company for their own employees, they’re thinking big. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement that the joint effort could eventually benefit all Americans. And as is the case with anything Amazon does, it raises questions about Amazon’s next moves.

As The New York Times reported, “the announcement touched off a wave of speculation about what the new company might do, especially given Amazon’s extensive reach into the daily lives of Americans — from where they buy their paper towels to what they watch on television. It follows speculation that the company, which recently purchased the grocery chain Whole Foods, might use its stores as locations for pharmacies or clinics.”

The companies said they will “initially focus on using technology to simplify care,” which means they will draw heavily on Amazon’s core strengths in technology and data. Given Amazon’s track record of disrupting every business it has ever touched, plus the power of partners such as JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, it’s easy to imagine huge disruptions in an industry that’s hungry for technology innovation.

In fact, Health Data Management recently reported that healthcare organizations will increase their healthcare information technology (IT) spending by 10 percent in 2018, according to Forrester Research. Specifically, the use of cloud computing, an Amazon expertise, is growing rapidly in healthcare, as the cloud model offers significant advantages in security, ease of deployment and flexibility. AI spending is on the rise, too, along with predictive and prescriptive analytics.

While Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of technology and possibly healthcare innovation, there’s plenty of action among startups, too. For example, one of Ketner Group’s clients, Birdzi, just announced a unique partnership with ScriptSave, the provider of prescription drug saving programs at 62,000 U.S. pharmacies. Together, the companies are launching a new WellRX Personalized Wellness program using Birdzi’s platform for digital customer engagement. The program helps grocery shoppers make healthier choices by offering personalized product recommendations and offers on products that are beneficial to the shopper’s health and well-being based on specific health conditions, allergies, food or lifestyle preferences. It’s an intriguing alliance that brings together grocery stores, pharmacies and drug companies.

Given the sad state of the U.S. healthcare industry – it’s ranked worst among 11 developed nations and spends the most on healthcare – there is plenty of room for improvement from power players like Amazon as well as innovative startups.

Will 2018 indeed be remembered as healthcare’s Amazon moment? I certainly hope so. Because while the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan Chase alliance may be the primary signal of disruption in the industry right now, it’s only one of many – and hopefully we’ll all see the benefits in the not-too-distant future.

REVTECH Focuses on Retail Reinvention

One of my most rewarding experiences in 2017 is Ketner Group’s involvement with REVTECH, a Dallas-based venture accelerator and seed fund that works with early-stage retail and restaurant technology companies. Ketner Group became a REVTECH sponsor in 2016, I signed on as a mentor, and it’s been full-speed ahead ever since. We just completed our first year with REVTECH, and it’s been eventful, to say the least.

REVTECH hosted three Tech Trends events in Dallas, opened a 13,000 sq.ft. co-working space, announced its largest fund to date this year, participated in numerous retail industry events and grew exponentially in industry recognition. Ketner Group helped several REVTECH portfolio companies with PR launches, and we’ve worked to earn recognition for REVTECH as one of retail’s premiere growth accelerators.

David Matthews, REVTECH’s managing partner and a veteran retail tech investor, is an evangelist for retail technology role, and he’s become a good friend to Ketner Group. We share a similar passion for retail technology and a firmly held belief that technology is vital to retail’s continuing transformation. REVTECH’s portfolio companies are doing groundbreaking work in AI, machine learning, robotics, IoT, voice and other technologies that are helping retailers break away from the pack.

Last week REVTECH announced the winner of its first REVTECH Entrepreneur of the Year award. Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley were honored for co-founding The Citizenry, a socially conscious, ethical home décor retailer that sells goods from artisans around the world, donating 10% of their profits back to the artisans’ communities. In addition to its online business and brick-and-mortar showroom, The Citizenry launched a pop-up show in New York last week just in time for holiday shopping. It’s a great example of the kind of fresh retail concept that can thrive in today’s fast-changing retail world and a worthy recipient of REVTECH’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.

As we enter the final count-down for holiday 2017, retail sales are up, along with consumer confidence, and Cyber Monday set a record with $6.6B in sales, the largest online shopping day in history. The industry has reason to be upbeat about 2018, and organizations like REVTECH will play a big role in ensuring a bright future for the retail industry.

Did Amazon Find the Key to Shoppers’ Happiness?

Leave it to Amazon to keep things interesting. Now, in addition to same-day delivery of just about anything, Amazon can walk your dog, clean your house, install and set up your new refrigerator, let selected neighbors in, leave your packages securely inside your home, and who knows what else.

I’m talking, of course, about Amazon Key. Like everything else they do these days, Amazon’s announcement is big news for the retail industry. Available exclusively for Prime members, Amazon Key includes an in-home kit with a cloud-enabled indoor security camera and compatible smart lock for $249.

According to an Amazon press release, “Amazon Key allows customers to have their packages securely delivered inside their home without having to be there…each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer’s home, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time, through an encrypted authentication process. Once this process is successfully completed, Amazon Cloud Cam starts recording and the door is then unlocked. No access codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers. And, for added peace of mind, in-home delivery is backed by Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee.”

Will it Work?

An audacious value proposition? Of course. Will it work? Who knows. My guess is that a thin slice of time-starved, upper-income, tech-savvy, trusting, heavy Prime users will turn to Amazon Key.

I don’t think Amazon will hit a home run with this across all Prime demographics, though. Unprecedented technology and privacy failures have burned consumers too many times, with Equifax being the #1 culprit in recent months. Security issues with unprotected webcams offer a real concern. Making consumers comfortable with the idea of perfect strangers entering their home is another huge barrier, even with the measures that Amazon has in place. And will Amazon’s delivery people need your alarm code? The list goes on and on.

Much of the initial consumer reaction to Amazon Key was skeptical. As Huffington Post observed, “The Amazon key is designed to aid package delivery. What could go wrong?” The answer, according to the article, is summed up in one word: plenty.

What Does Amazon Key Mean for Amazon?

However, success or failure really isn’t the point. Amazon floats more audacious ideas than any other retailer, and as a result they raise the bar for the rest of the industry. Amazon Key is a clear signal that Amazon wants to take the consumer experience directly into its customers’ homes. As a result, other retailers must rethink what it means to truly serve their customers. Once again, Amazon is rapidly reinventing the norm in today’s retail industry.

Even if it’s a modest hit, Amazon Key offers consumers a basic, all-in-one home security cam and smart lock for $249, regardless of whether consumers use the service. And if Amazon wants to drive large-scale adoption, they can take it a step further. Amazon could consider not only delivering shoppers’ same day Whole Foods order, but putting a home-cooked dinner on the table. Now, that would take customer service to another level!

Retail Apocalypse or Retail Reinvention?

What’s the biggest “fake news” story of 2017? Surprise, it has nothing to do with politics!

Instead, it’s the narrative of the “retail apocalypse” that has dominated media coverage of the retail industry this year. The term picked up steam in early 2017 amid reports of large numbers of store closings, and yes, legacy retailers and chronic underperformers including Sears, Radio Shack, Kmart, JCP and many others have announced massive store closings.

It is true that some malls and retailers are experiencing a world of hurt. As Sageberry Consulting’s Steve Dennis says, though, “regional malls — and their department store anchors – have been on the decline for more than two decades.” In many cases, the result of massive overbuilding and speculation – adding that “many dying malls are being killed by other malls” in faster-growing areas.

The real news story is that retail sales are up 4% year over year (and they are) and, simply put, the retail industry isn’t dying!

According to the NRF, retail sales increased 4.1% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, as our analyst friends Paula Rosenblum and Greg Buzek point out. In Buzek’s words, “we have a $4 trillion industry that is growing at a rate of over 4% year to year – that’s nearly $100 billion in growth in 5 months…And somehow this is bad news?” This latest growth isn’t an outlier, either; retail sales have grown nearly 4% annually for the past seven years!

Retail employment is also up, hardly the thing you’d expect in an apocalypse. In fact, retail jobs have grown by 1.5 million since early 2010, so store closings and layoffs haven’t dented retail’s overall upward trajectory. Store openings are on pace to surpass store closings this year, too. Buzek’s research firm, IHL Group, says the retail industry will see a net gain of 4,000 stores this year – again, not the sign of an industry in decline.

Need more proof? As CNBC reports, “there are more leaders than laggards in retail today, according to Moody Investment Services. Dollar stores, home-improvement chains, convenience stores and auto-parts retailers are among the leaders…off-price retailers, supermarkets and office-supply chains are also reporting more growth lately.”

We’re not in the midst of a retail apocalypse. Instead, we’re seeing retail reinvention with exciting new concepts and brands (TreeHouse, B8ta, TOMS, Warby Parker), new entrants in the U.S. market (Lidl and Aldi have taken the U.S. grocery industry by storm), continued disruption by ecommerce players, and bold moves by the giants of the industry, Walmart and Amazon. Amazon just placed the biggest bet of its life with its acquisition of Whole Foods – does anyone think Amazon is buying into the myth of the retail apocalypse and the death of physical stores?

As always, the real story is much more exciting than the fake news. And it’s good to see so many people setting the record straight about the retail industry.

48 Hours That Changed Retail Forever

The early morning hours of June 16 started like any ordinary Friday. Then came Amazon’s shot heard round the world, its boldest move yet in the retail revolution as the online giant announced its acquisition of Whole Foods Market. Journalists, retail analysts and PR teams shifted into hyper-drive to analyze the news before they’d even had a chance to finish their morning coffee.

The Whole Foods deal, however, was just one of a series of events, all in a 48-hour period, that will change retail forever. Here’s a quick recap:

On June 15, German discount grocer Lidl opened its first U.S. stores, as Lidl’s U.S. CEO told Supermarket News that Lidl intended “to beat the best prices in the market.” U.S. grocers, already under assault from Walmart, Amazon Fresh, Aldi, Kroger and a horde of other competitors, are feeling renewed pressure from Lidl’s appealing store design, innovative merchandising, high product quality and ultra-low prices (12 to 30 percent lower than competitors’ published promotions, according to Supermarket News.)

In any ordinary week, Lidl’s U.S. arrival would have been the week’s top retail story. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, however, was the biggest jolt to retail and grocery in several years – even more significant that Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com last year. At the end of the day, other grocery stocks plummeted as the financial markets grasped the strategic significance of the Amazon-Whole Foods deal.

That acquisition almost drowned out another key event on Retail’s Freaky Friday – Walmart’s $310 million acquisition of trendy menswear retailer Bonobos. Walmart has been on a major spending spree on digital brands as it squares off against Amazon, and its latest purchase follows on the heels of its acquisitions of innovative retail startups Jet.com, Moosejaw, Hayneedle.com, Modcloth and Shoebuy.

Taken together, these events mark a watershed moment in retail, particularly in the grocery and apparel segments. And while most of the retail media coverage this year has focused on the so-called “retail apocalypse” marked by thousands of store closings, the real story in retail is far more complex and exciting. The retail industry is undergoing an intense time of transformation and reinvention, and the news from Lidl, Amazon and Walmart underscores the fast-paced disruption of established retail models.

Is retail becoming simply Amazon, Walmart and everyone else? I don’t think so – for one thing, disruptors such as Warby Parker, Pirch, Paul Evans, Outdoor Voices, TOMS, Shinola, Lidl and hundreds more are enjoying solid growth and can quickly build a passionate, loyal fan base. Fashion incubators are springing up from New York to San Francisco and beyond. Yes, some of these companies will get acquired by a Walmart or Amazon – but many more will grow into strong, mature companies that will keep an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s no accident that so much technology innovation today is focused on the retail industry. According to IHL Group’s research, Amazon spent more than $15.1 billion on innovation in 2016, more than the top 20 U.S. retailers combined. IHL calls this the TIGIR (Technology Innovation Gap in Retail) and says retailers must dramatically increase their technology spending to compete. The industry is making strides. Zappos, Walmart, Neiman-Marcus, Lowes and many other retailers have their own innovation labs, Kwolia’s Retail Innovation Lounge was a hit at SXSW and Shop.org, and technology accelerators such as REVTECH are nurturing early stage tech startups in retail, grocery and restaurants (Ketner Group is a proud sponsor of both).

It’s an exciting, disruptive time in retail. Our team at Ketner Group is fortunate to work with many of the technology companies that are enabling retailers to compete against the Amazon-Walmart juggernaut, giving retailers, grocers and other businesses the technologies they need to drive sales, profits and customer engagement. As the events of June 15 and 16 demonstrated, retail is changing forever – but the story is far from over. Stay tuned; it’s going to be a wild ride.