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The right partnerships are key during retail’s digital disruption

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You might want to listen to Oisin Hanrahan when he talks about the vital role partnerships — and tech partnerships in particular — will play in the future of retail as the industry powers through an era of unprecedented disruption.

Walmart, you see, just announced that it would be partnering with Hanrahan’s company, Handy, to provide in-home assembly and installation services through more than 2,000 of its stores. Handy is one of a breed of companies born in the digital age with a mission to provide retailers with tools and services that are beyond their core competency, but not beyond what they need to provide in order to satisfy empowered consumers.

I met up with Hanrahan, who is CEO and co-founder of Handy, at Shoptalk on the morning of Walmart’s announcement. In the video clip below, he talks about how tech partners with a range of expertise are helping retailers agilely move into the future.

Plenty of the talk at Shoptalk has centered around “digitally native retailers,” or retailers who built their business in the digital age, fully aware of the way consumers’ buying habits and tools have changed. The companies often take a best-of-breed approach, focusing on their core mission of selling their products, while looking to partners who can provide the technology to get their products to customers, or to handle taxes, or to manage their supply chains.

They tend to be agile because they don’t need to deal with legacy systems that need to be overhauled or updated for the digital era. But tech partners give legacy retailers the chance to catch up, to take on the best characteristics of digital natives, while still taking advantage of their established brands and industry wisdom.

The paring of Walmart and Handy is the sort of thing we’ll see more of. In fact, it’s something we’ve already seen plenty of. (IKEA buying TaskRabbit, anyone?) But clearly Hanrahan’s point — and the trend — goes well beyond companies that use algorithms to match customers with new things and experts who can put the things together.

We’ve seen plenty of those other companies too. The ones working on the tech solutions for the operational areas that Hanrahan mentioned — and many others. They are themselves a part of, and the leaders of, retail’s digital transformation.

Photo by Mike Cassidy

Contact Mike Cassidy at; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at