Innovation: Are retailers trying to do too much?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
One of the best bits of advice I ever got was delivered to me when I was a newly-minted IT project manager: “You need to focus on doing what you do well so that the things you don’t do so well aren’t as obvious.”
That tidbit came to mind when I heard Morten Hansen, a management professor at U.C. Berkeley and author of “Great At Work,” at the NRF Tech meeting in June. His talk was about “How top performers do less, work better, and achieve more.”
What does this have to do with innovation in retail? The industry is under tremendous pressure to innovate. Not long ago, one speaker at an industry event stated, “The new model for retail is ‘platform plus’ … It’s all about more, more, more. Retailers cannot focus on their core; they need to add pieces to their platform, to their core, to their foundation.”
Here’s the thing though; all the innovation in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t know what that one special thing is that consumers want from you. Sometimes, retailers need to go back to look at the value proposition.
Our recent survey about the state of innovation in retail (full report due in September) shows retailers are in a hurry to do more. Few choose “to do less (but better).”
Source: RSR Research, August 2019
Professor Hansen advises against trying to do too much in his book, but instead “do less, then obsess.” I think he’s right. While keeping up with consumer adoption of technology is really important, it’s not innovative — other retailers have managed to do that. Same with merging digital and physical shopping environments and creating hyper-responsive supply chains.
Ultimately, retailers need to answer, “What’s so good about our experience that consumers will pass up our competition and experience it with us?,” and then nail it. Ironically, executing to the nth level of precision with a laser-like focus on that one special value proposition might even seem innovative.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Have retailers tended to lose focus on their core value propositions as they invested more in innovation in recent years? What advice would you have around balancing priorities toward the new versus the core?