3 Retail Innovation Myths and How to Overcome Them

Retail Innovation

We presented a session at Retail Global titled ‘Retail has an Innovation Problem’ and it has really got me thinking. Why in an era rich with resources to help you innovate and grow your retail business we are all still scared of innovation? 

After some thought, I realised that it’s not so much a matter of retailers not wanting to innovate. Retailers do want to innovate! It’s the fact that they are often discouraged to do so by things they hear about what innovation is and who can innovateThey think innovation is for people like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, who have millions, if not billions, to put on the line in order to pursue out of the box ideas.

Yes, Steve Jobs was an innovator and Elon Musk’s company Tesla is the epitome of breakthrough innovation…BUT….that’s not to say a family business or start-up with a small team can’t be innovative. 

Here are the most common myths we hear repeated OVER AND OVER again by retailers and here’s how you can overcome these fears! 

Myth #1: Innovation comes from ideas no one has ever thought of

WRONG! (sorta) Don’t get me wrong, there are some great examples of innovation based on ideas no one has ever thought of. We wouldn’t have inventions like cars, phones or lightbulbs if people weren’t pursuing out-of-the-box ideas.

Retail Innovation

However, you need to remember that in the age of the internet where we have unlimited access to resources for research and collaboration there are millions of great minds working on great ideas. Thinking of a completely unique idea today is like finding a needle in a haystack and once you find it someone else is probably already working on it.

Marketing innovation doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. Start by identifying a process of your own (or a competitor in your industry) that could be done better.

  • Where are the speed bumps or roadblocks in your CX and UX?
  • Are you wasting time doing tasks that could be automated?
  • How can you innovate administrative tasks so you have more time for creative and skill-heavy tasks (things you like doing)?

Innovation is about making things more efficient and satisfying for the user, you don’t always need something new, you need something better! 

Myth #2: Innovation takes massive budget and resource

MOST DEFINITELY WRONG! If your first thought is to throw a million dollars behind a project to get it off the ground then you’re probably in the wrong mindset. Actually, I take that back, you’re definitely in the wrong mindset.

Retail Innovation

Once you’ve really empathised with your audience and gone through the processes of ideation and have validated your solution it’s time to prototype and test your refined ideas. This should be done using micro-budgets over short testing cycles. Not by dropping a million dollars on a spray and pray campaign and hoping for the best. The most innovative marketing campaigns could literally cost you next to nothing!

Our favourite example is the ‘Volvo Interception’ Super Bowl 2015 campaign whereby Volvo hijacked their competitor’s multi-million dollar ads at the Super Bowl and used them to run a highly-successful, low-budget, social sharing campaign.

Myths #3: Innovation breakthroughs are always based on fascinating technology

Let’s go back to Steve Jobs for one second. You don’t need to invent the iPhone to be an innovator (you could invent a smartphone with a better lifelong battery life…but hey that’s a rant for another day). My point is, you don’t need to invent a fascinating piece of technology. You could innovate your current product packaging so that it is environmentally sustainable or you could streamline internal services by creating an automated workflow for client follow-up.

‘Innovation’ is the tech worlds favourite buzz-word but don’t be misled…innovation doesn’t need to involve technology! 

In conclusion, innovations can be big and spectacular or small and impactful – there are no rules here. The very definition of innovation is ‘A new method, idea, product, etc’, so let me first one to say, that’s totally within your reach. So go out there and get innovating!!

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