What’s called the survival of the fittest is actually survival of the quickest to adapt. To stay on top, we have to think ahead and anticipate new trends before they even take off. This doesn’t come as a big surprise either.
Why can’t you just remain the good, hard-working, functional company you are, the winner of 2016 and 2017 awards in your field – and be fine just by keeping up the good work? Why is it, that no matter how good you get one year, next year you fight for your place again, engulfed in an ever-present struggle wherein no effort is ever really enough? Why?
Innovation vs. the Old Ways: Why Change?
A typical innovation life cycle usually starts humbly enough: as geek turf or an impractical solution, a gimmick. It’s not actually profitable at this point unless you have a specific audience that buys this kind of stuff. This is where you must already be aware of its existence if you want to still be on the market in three years. The innovation rate has been consistently accelerating for a while now. Some four years ago the idea of drones was more of a cool thing to watch on YouTube in an engineering students’ dorm, much like all these cool videos of robots from Boston Dynamics and their colleagues.
The next milestone is when some businesses try it out, oftentimes not yet profiting from it directly. You can already replace a traditional human and car delivery duo with a drone, but it might just not be worth it. Now, you have to know that a working alternative already exists.
Next, the technology becomes a more efficient alternative compared to the old system. The cost of innovation becomes smaller than the additional value it brings. It’s when delivery with a drone becomes quicker and cheaper than a human courier. And here it becomes about optimization rather than just a geeky gimmick, and businesses will then start implementing it because it will be profitable.
Then you become extinct if you haven’t been paying attention: the number of businesses in your field, who have been optimized to include the innovation, reaches the majority level. Now you have no way of competing for the market. The Luddite approach to innovation doesn’t end well.
No One Says Change Is Easy
Even for giants like Amazon, the task can prove truly daunting, but they face their challenges head-on. To do that, the retail giant implements technologies, such as computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. This is all utilized in their latest development, Amazon Go. If you haven’t heard of it, Amazon Go is a new age retail solution which provides checkout-free shopping experiences. So it’s a shop.
It's Just Walk Out Technology automatically monitors when products are picked from or returned to the shelves. It keeps track of them in a virtual cart, and shortly after the customer leaves, it charges their Amazon account and sends the receipt.
It saves the customer time and a lot of hassle. They’ll choose it over standing in lines and fiddling with the checkout in supermarkets. Amazon knows this because they’ve invested in large-scale analytics of customer behavior, identified blockers and customer pains. Simple premises: the easier it is for a customer to purchase stuff from a retail store, the richer the retail store would get.
Also, Amazon Go makes shopping so much easier. The idea might sound deceitfully simple. Behind it, are terabytes of analytics, and cutting-edge solutions. Some of which are cleverly borrowed from the developing industry of self-driving cars.
Modern and digital retail, however, is increasingly more triumphant over physical stores but still has its own set of challenges. For example, the glorious Just Walk Out Technology is reportedly not working properly, malfunctioning when there are more than 20 people in the store. At the same time, if Amazon is going to gain an advantage in the grocery segment, a physical store is crucial, because, contrary to the general trend, with some products, customers still prefer to feel and touch before buying. A good example would be grocery stores. If you’re particularly interested in the grocery retail sector, this recent study by Nielsen is a total must read.
It’s essential that a decision maker can spot that very moment when a new development makes the transition from "innovation for the sake of innovation" to a practical, efficient solution.
Takeaway Points: Where Do We Go From Here?
Global retail revolves around customer experience. The survival and success of a retail company is impossible without anticipating these ever-shifting customer needs and expectations. E-commerce is a trend which has been relentlessly overtaking in-store purchases for several years now. Data analytics and implemented big data solutions are simply not a competitive advantage anymore, they are a survival mode condition.
Instead of struggling to keep up with all the latest developments in the field, one can consult with experienced professionals who specialize in retail solutions. Many companies offer ready-made fully integrated solutions that increase the efficiency of business operations, improve customer experience and update marketing models.
Big data and machine learning, digital marketing and omnichannel sales, internet of things and intelligent apps – all these elements of digitized solutions are inexorably becoming a must-have for successful retailers eager to engage their customers and provide personalized user experiences.
When Warby and Parker made an online shopping store for glasses, it was a breakthrough, a bold move. If you’ve ever tried out the technologies based on facial recognition, surely you must have wondered how much easier purchasing glasses online would be if you could actually try them on. How cool would that be?