In retail and marketing the conversation is currently awash with talk of innovation, digital transformation the customer experience and step change moments. Retail technology incubators have sprung and are springing up all around. Those like the guys at True Start and Forward Partners are ‘catalysts’ for growing startups with a kernel of an idea and an MVP into a multimillion pound businesses.
Crowdfunding platforms and a start-up economy/mentality are producing ideas aplenty.
Retailers are also getting in on the incubation action, John Lewis for instance are fostering the same relationships through their JLAB vehicle. Why not facilitate home grown talent by crowdsourcing ideas and leveraging their widely respected and well trusted brand. Others like Argos have invested heavily, taken all development in-house and away from expensive agency partners and waterfall delivery. They’ve developed their own internal ‘lab’ environ and host hackathons to generate ideas – with teams from Google and Paypal in attendance. Great huh? Let’s get Google to come and generate some brilliant concepts for our business.
It’s exciting, this new landscape. You’ll know if you’re in the retail/digital/marketing industry that when it comes to conference season all the subject streams are focussed on innovation, transformation, omnichannel, customer experience. All hugely dynamic terms. This is a massive departure from recent years when ‘innovation‘ was most definitely on the back burner. This particular term comes with certain connotations afterall – often those being ‘non-critical’ and ‘expensive’. It feels like we’re in the middle of another boom and yet the pace of industry progress is not quite matching the hype, neither it seems is economic growth or consumer uptake of new innovative ideas.
Foggy Fame… Source
My colleague and business partner Fergus was the first business analyst at Lastminute.com during the original dot boom. We have of course seen/been through patterns like this one before. They are most definitely cyclical. 2015 will be an interesting year – as the economy strains under the pressure of austerity measures and possible recession (historically every six or so years we face another), businesses will still continue to have to adapt and change. It’s become an essential part of business survival, that to exist and certainly to thrive you must be able to pivot and adopt a new forward strategy based on changing demand. And demand is a thing that now flexes and changes with more rapidity than ever before. In retail this is part due to the ceaseless advancement of consumer technology.
Inertia will most certainly be the death of those that don’t adapt – as consumer expectation and uptake continues to be the yardstick against which performance is measured. However, delivering innovation in business does not have to equal the grandiose. Innovation doesn’t even have to mean new ideas. Innovation can be and often simply is efficiency. Doing things better, doing things smarter. We do a lot of work with expert internal teams from big box retail to telcos to banks helping deliver our methods and increasing project efficiency. The Head of Innovation for a major retail bank asked the other day why we would help them skill up and adopt our methodology – effectively doing ourselves out of a job in the longer term. It was easy enough to answer.
Because we’d do a great job and that would earn their trust.
If you want to flourish in any sector, you need repeat and referral business, people buy from people – we know this. Adaptive businesses who engender great relationships with their customers by providing great experiences will succeed. Benchmark the customer experience across every touchpoint, make iterative improvements the business focus – this is the way forward. This is the capacity we build for our clients and what we achieve in our own successful delivery.