How can retailers succeed in a world where “technology that can put us in the center of everything” is creating consumers who are “accidental narcissists,” as Altimeter Group Principal Analyst Brian Solis calls them (us)? One important way is to stop mistaking iteration for innovation, Solis revealed during his keynote presentation at the 2019 Retail Innovation Conference in New York City.
“Iteration is doing the same things we did before, but better,” said Solis. “That can include using AI, putting beacons in retail stores, etc. Innovation is doing new things that introduce new value, the way that Uber and Lyft changed transportation. The combination of both iteration and innovation is disruption — doing new things that make the old ones obsolete. PayPal has an iteration group, an innovation group and a third group designed to put the first two groups out of business. The thinking is that if they can do this internally, they can circumvent their competitors from doing it to them.”
Solis identified five innovative retail trends that can help retailers stay ahead of the competition and keep up with consumers:
1. Constantly map the customer journey to create smooth cross-channel customer experiences. “Mobile is changing the journey, so it’s important for retailers to have a discoverability strategy, and ask themselves, ‘Are we showing up in relevant ways with relevant content?’” said Solis.
2. Engage in deep consumer research for a unified view of the customer. “A hair care company has been taking data from the hair market and style trends, and using Google machine learning to achieve 90% accuracy to predict what the hair trends will be six months from now,” said Solis. “That creates a runway for creating new content.”
3. Prioritize innovations that target the connected customer. “When you force mobile users to go through a journey that mimics ‘Web 1.0,’ consumers feel anxiety, stress and incredible impatience. Why are we still creating digital catalogs in an era when you can just swipe right for a date?”
4. Invest in cross-functional innovation pilots. Prioritize innovations that target the connected consumer, and perform cross-functional mobile experiments. “Ask yourself, what would you need to create a mobile-only shopping journey?”
5. Cultivate the necessary digital skills across the organization. “Create a culture of innovation, and incentivize ideas and risk-taking,” said Solis.
Solis stressed the urgency of implementing the changes that can lead to true innovation and disruption. “As times, tastes and trends change, executives have to be willing to innovate their brand’s value proposition,” he noted. Showing the RIC audience an Instagram-filtered picture, he said “Remember, you’re designing retail strategies for people who vomit rainbows.”