The keys to successful retail innovation

As one of the largest and most powerful retailers worldwide, Amazon has consistently made great use of technology while innovating to stay ahead of the game. Much of its success can be attributed to providing its customers with the most on-trend products, on demand and at competitive prices.

Amazon is continuously making incremental changes to its online retail platform. By updating and adding to its product lines, its customers are quickly able to find what they want, and to purchase it at a competitive price. A future-focussed strategy makes the online retailer a disruptive innovator. So, how can other retailers keep up?

The customer centric approach

For retailers to survive in this age of Amazon, it is important that they solve customer pain points. In doing so, they have the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. In fact, according to Gartner, virtually every disrupting retailer to date has solved a customer pain point.

>See also: Exploring the future of retail technology

Many successful retailers place a particular emphasis on addressing the pains and problems of the customer experience. One example of this is ensuring that the website is easy to use. It must be fast, intuitive and visually pleasing.

Retailers must consider the journey from arrival and search, all the way through to purchase and delivery. The journey needs to be smooth, simple and uninterrupted – if the retailer gets this wrong, the consumer will simply look elsewhere, competitors are just a click away. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to play a crucial role in facilitating differentiation and disruption.

Keeping pace with new technologies

2017 was a difficult year for many retailers. The majority found themselves under increasing pressure to drive efficiencies while striving to innovate. It is more important than ever that they make better use of technology to help streamline their operations.

>See also: A retail platform for change, stability and innovation

Countless retailers have focussed budgets and resources on implementing Enterprise Resource Planning suites to support omni-channel processes. The challenge, however, is that IoT services are already superseding this approach. Consumers expect retailers to have full knowledge of every previous interaction across all channels, even if very few manage to satisfy this expectation.

Ultimately, the challenge remains for retailers to understand that smart innovation must be built on top of pre-existing technologies. Using multiple competitive channels is not necessarily the best strategy.

Streamlining processes

Going forward, the winning retailers will be those that are agile and able to quickly innovate. This may mean developing new ideas, or quite simply, being a faster follower. For a successful IoT initiative, as Stephen Covey once said, “begin with the end in mind”.

With 2018 drawing closer, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) will begin to play a bigger part in the retail experience. For organisations, this this will mean real-time stock information and performance metrics. By building AI and AR into operations and leveraging IoT technology, it will be possible to respond to changing business conditions without the need for human interaction.

>See also: Retailers: “a frictionless mobile experience is our highest priority”

It is clear that, to compete with retail giants like Amazon, there is no silver bullet. The key is being able to adapt quickly, keeping pace with new technologies while experimenting with new business models and ideas.

Organisations must work to bring together stakeholders from across the business; employees, technologists, vendors and system integrators can all spark inspiration while a collaborative approach helps ensure that everyone is on board.

For retailers to remain competitive, they must be ready to adapt to the new normal. IoT is a prime example and presents a valuable opportunity to keep up with the evolving demands and needs of today’s customers.

Crucially, if something is not working, try something new. Industry leaders like Amazon are constantly changing, learning and developing. To keep up, smaller retailers cannot afford to wait. It’s time to embrace new technologies.


Sourced by Oliver Guy, Retail Industry director at Software AG

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...