1. Technology & Innovation

From boardroom buzzword to survival tactic

“Innovation” and “digital-first” used to be edgy buzzwords used on boardroom agendas but now, in the midst of a massive digital transformation in retail, they are code for survival.  When it comes to innovation, retailers tend to hyperfocus on their core business rather than incrementally developing emerging technology capabilities, leaving them highly vulnerable at this catalytic moment when digital optimization is critical to driving growth and staking claim on golden market share.  

Evaluating emerging technologies to leapfrog the competition is an essential capability that can be overwhelming for retailers.  What is your focus?  How much are you willing to invest?  And who has ownership?  This is where clarity is critical and the foundation to your innovation initiative must have a solid foundation for success. Here we simplify it for you.

  1. Create your own innovation ecosystem 

When you begin to innovate, you must start with a fresh understanding of your marketplace and beyond.  Refresh yourself with an updated look at the traditional incumbents and competitors in your space and then identify who the global disruptors are, both large and small. Be sure to look in other parts of the world like South Korea and China, where digital first offerings have been exploding for nearly a decade. Discover new offerings in other industries like contactless technology, meal-planning technology, and other technological solutions to everyday customer issues. 

Think about these questions and put some company names to each

  • Who inspires us in terms of process and divergent thinning?
  • Who is leading in niche technology areas we would like to invest in?
  • Who can we partner with to build and de-risk innovation investment?
  • What companies outside of our market are doing great things – how can we learn from them?
  • Where are we going to get trends, information and technology news that goes into our pipeline?
  1. Ambition Planning 

This is about setting the parameters of an innovation initiative at your company to ensure the team is empowered to deliver. In Step 1, we identified the types of companies to watch, analyse, partner and that inspire, so here we want to narrow in on what innovation will look like for you. Everything won’t always fit the mold and that’s okay – this is about the ideal scenario so when concepts that require increased process and investment come around they can be dealt with in a parallel work lane. 

  • What level of emerging technology are you interested in? 
  • What is the ideal level of investment for each project to get from idea to minimum viable product?
  • How will these concepts integrate with the rest of the business? Both in terms of development and scale but also in terms of strategic priorities
  • What part of the customer journey are you comfortable creating or changing?

Laying out these early ambitions and gaining support from the executive team will pave the way for emerging technologies to be tested within a predetermined set of boundaries, reducing the opportunity for mission creep or stage gate rejection. Whether your aim is to make many smell bets or a few big bets, you have to succinctly but methodically get your team to the “test and prototype” mentality. Innovation initiatives and teams should be a peninsula into the business, not an island. They should be seen as strategic partners making strategic investments and creating viable new offerings for the business. 

3. Take Action!

Innovation rarely fails due to lack of ideas, and almost always due to lack of process.  Execution is everything, so focus on what efforts will pack the most punch. Step 1 and 2 created a baseline for the innovation initiatives, now it’s time to use that information to produce the right process, gather the right team and get started.

At its core, innovation is a repeatable process to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. Whether that means protecting market share, solving for offering gaps, or unlocking net new revenue, investing in and experimenting with emerging technologies and market trends is one of the fastest ways to rocket-launch new and existing customer engagement and spend. Innovate today, win tomorrow.  

by Matt Cebulski and Katie Hotze

Matt Cebulski is the founder and principal  at Avro Advisory, a digital strategy and innovation consultancy helping clients through transformations and building up new strategic innovation capabilities. Contact matt.cebulski@avroadvisory.com

Katie Hotze is the founder and CEO of Grocery Shopii, an award winning eCommerce technology that expedites online grocery shopping.  Recently awarded a 2020 Top Women in Grocery honor, Katie is a self-professed digital marketer with a data obsession and is a frequent conference speaker on digital grocery and marketing topics.  Contact khotze@groceryshopii.com 

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