Encouraging Innovation And Organizational Change

During his tenure at Hudson’s Bay Company as SVP of Corporate Strategy, Ryan Craver helped the retailer implement a multitude of innovative marketing and engagement concepts.

In February 2014, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor implemented Pounce, a mobile app that allows consumers to scan and buy items in circulars directly through their mobile devices.

Throughout the year, the retailers also successfully implemented iBeacon technology in stores. Prior to the holiday season, 50 Lord & Taylor stores and 90 Hudson’s Bay locations were equipped with the technology, allowing consumers to receive tailored mobile messages as they ventured through the store.


“Generally speaking, department stores have been on this downward trend in terms of sales,” Craver said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor were two of the oldest operating department stores in North America. So we wanted to make sure that everyone was motivated and excited to come to work because they were going to help us evolve the next phase of retail.”

Now an investor, advisor and mentor for different organizations, Craver is helping retailers embrace — and even encourage — disruption. However, with many organizations still battling technological and organizational silos, how can retailers take that leap without losing site of who they really are?

“Retailers need to embrace heritage yet harness innovation,” Craver explained. “The No. 1 learning throughout my career is how influential that statement needs to be and how many people need to buy into that slogan.”

Pointing to the beacon rollout as an example, Craver explained that although the technology is easy to implement, “it took 20,000 associates across the organization to make it successful because we were spread so far and wide.” Retailers also need to take the following strategic steps to ignite excitement and joy within the organization, which will eventually encourage change:

  • Take small, calculated bets: “Have a group of employees within the organizations that are young Millennials and are the voice of the modern consumer,” Craver said. “They are the ones that are well aware of what’s happening outside of retail.”
  • Show team members how organizations outside of retail are pushing the envelope. OpenTable is one company that is innovating within the restaurant industry. Although many consumers use the app to book reservations, some markets have the ability to order directly via their phone, swipe to pay and even book an Uber cab ride at the end of the dining experience.

    “When I showed this example to retailers, I asked them why we couldn’t create the same experience,” Craver said. “For example, what if a customer could bring an item to the dressing room, complete the transaction through their phone and schedule their Uber so it arrives as soon as they’re finished?” 

  • Consider strategic partners: Retailers also can work with startups to build up their arsenal of innovative technologies and business concepts. For multi-million or billion-dollar businesses, the initial impact on new technology rollouts is “so tiny and no one really cares,” Craver noted. “Startups can work with retailers to do what I call ‘cheap and cheerful projects’ that are potentially very impactful down the road and help you get ahead of the curve.”

    Craver added that retailers “won’t be able to drive disruption and innovation internally until they find those strategic partnerships.”

The Role Of The Innovation Lab

Retailers such as Nordstrom, Target, Walmart and Zappos have invested in innovation labs to test new tools and technologies that improve the customer experience. However, retailers are at different levels of technological maturity, which is influencing their overall approach to innovation labs.

“The retailers that know they need to push their money towards digital have gone well beyond just an innovation lab,” Craver said. Companies like Walmart “have moved their mobile or digital groups out to San Francisco, Israel or have acquired companies. They believe they’re going to bring that acquisition in-house and execute new ideas themselves.”

Other organizations, such as Nordstrom, have developed their own internal labs but are keeping them within the corporate structure. On the completely other end of the spectrum, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor “believe in piggy-backing on startups but are also trying to figure out how this massive wave of disruption works and how to address it.”

Although retailers are at various areas of the maturation cycle, “the industry as a whole gets it,” Craver said. “They know we’re going through this massive wave of disruption and they need to determine which model or approach is right for their business.”




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