There has been some big news in the retail world. I recently wrote about Sears and Amazon teaming upon the tire business, and now Walmart announced it will sell luxury goodsfrom Lord & Taylor on its website. The deal will boost Walmart’s higher-end merchandise and will give Lord & Taylor access to a much bigger audience. In another intriguing move, Macy’s just acquired retail experience company Story.  Story works with brands like and DressBarn to create immersive and curated shopping experiences. “Bringing [Story founder] Rachel Shechtman’s perspective to the table will help create more enriched and engaging in-store experiences and brand activations,” Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said in a statement. “We are committed to growth in 2018, and this is one important step along the way.”

Are acquisitions and major partnerships the key to saving big retail? These moves—combined with an improving economy—has created a more positive outlook and tempered stories about the “death of retail.” They are also proving the point that physical stores still matter.

In fact, Walmart just reported increased sales in the last quarter, “driven by higher grocery sales and more competitive prices and services online,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Earlier in the week, Home Depot reported sales at stores open at least a year jumped 4.2% in the period, while Macy’s saw same-store sales increase 4%.

But boutique retail brands don’t have the budget to make large-scale acquisitions. Instead, they must focus on innovative partnerships that add value. That’s the key. How can you give the customer a better, faster, more convenient experiences? The right partnerships can help with marketing via audience sharing,  and also brand discovery. Has to be the right partnerships though. Some things to think about:

  1. Purchasing habits: What do your customers want? What do they love about your brand? What does the data tell you? Is there a company out there already doing this? Find out. Yes, there are partnerships that make sense (i.e. Sears and Amazon), but what else do you know about your customer: What are they buying together? If you’re a jewelry store, or partner with a flower shop to create a one-stop gift shop like Lulu Frost.
  2. Think convenience. Along those lines of time-saving efforts, what are two services you could combine. The NYC health and beauty haven Ricky’s created hair salons in some of its locations; Urban Outfitters launched a pizza shop inside its store. How can you deliver a great experience for the customer that keeps them in your store?  If you don’t have a huge acquisition budget, there must be a strict focus on where their target audience spends their time to determine where your company needs to be.

Offer content. What Macy’s and Story tells us is that there is value in providing new, unique ways for your customers to experience your brand. Case in point: Rebecca Minkoff has partnered with Women @ Forbes to host their book club series with speaking events at her stores. There is benefit in tapping into influencers or media companies to help build brand buzz. But you always need to return to your core customer: what does she expect from your brand? How can you deliver that in a different way?