When I moderated the panel discussion at the Australia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce’s annual retail luncheon, panellists spoke of the need to continually reinvent themselves to stay relevant to their customers and to constantly look at new ways of doing things. Attendees gained valuable insights into how retailers are approaching innovation.
Whether for research, price comparisons or payment, consumers are increasingly using mobile devices on their way to making purchases. This exposes retailers to the influence of unprecedented technological change. Ideas have to be operationalised much faster, necessitating a lighter touch to get them up and running.
Retailers are adopting the techniques of start-ups such as test and learn, running pilots and failing fast. They’re changing design, or even actively killing something, because of a change in the marketplace.
It’s a faster way of execution but it’s also disciplined. The organisation’s structure must give people access to the resources they need and good governance for the organisation’s pioneers. As one panellist said, “You have to balance systemically for disruption to happen otherwise it will be done to you.”
Implementing those agile processes isn’t possible without people in the organisation who step up to say they believe in the idea and take ownership to make it work. Champions result in rapid adoption. That’s why they’re so powerful whereas allocating this role part-time is a proven mistake.
Culture of collaboration, communication
Above all, organisations have to be capable of change. This comes down to culture and one that is comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Retailers are looking at how to drive better collaboration, not only internally, but also externally so they can work with partners to push boundaries, drawing on what other organisations – not necessarily in Australia or retailers – are doing.
Internal debate is good and formalised communications are a must so that everyone is rallying to the same cry.
The power of data
The best innovators are visionaries. Rather than thinking about meeting customer needs today, they’re anticipating customers’ future needs before customers realise them themselves. The customer and product data now available makes anticipating these needs far easier.
Much of the discussion resonated with me because it closely aligns with how we innovate at CommBank to bring world-firsts such as our Albert merchant terminal. In addition to providing an amazing customer experience, the underlying open architecture of the Pi platform provides unlimited flexibility to create apps and modify them as business needs change.
For example, the truRating app can ask customers to rate the business’ service on a scale of 0 to 9 as they make their purchase. It is seamlessly integrated into the customer’s payment process while giving businesses powerful insights into their customers’ experience.
The message from the panellists is we are best served by embracing a customer-centric culture and focusing on good leadership to bring balance in how we engage with all segments and customer profiles. There’s far more to innovation than creating cutting-edge technology.