Three ways that retailers can behave like start-ups

December 08, 2015

Here’s what we learned about retailers being more agile from the VIP breakfast at Wired Retail 2015.

1. Don’t take weeks to make changes.

Legacy systems have been excuses for years now: “I can’t do that for at least 3 weeks, the CMS/CRM/POS/ERP/eComm system is really clunky.” You know what, it’s understandable, it makes sense, but fixing it really should be your first priority.

If the system isn’t fit for purpose, you can change it. Software is a wonderful thing, it is malleable, upgradable, cost-efficient, but only with the right people. I could go on about how Valtech is the digital partner who has the capability to do it for you, but you’ve already worked out that’s the whole point of this blog anyway. You’re not stupid, you’re straightjacketed by legacy systems.

2. Embrace your data, don’t silo it.

“We’re collecting too much data! We can’t store it all in one place!”

Wrong. Data from different areas of your enterprise can influence each other in your understanding of the consumers you serve. Siloing these different data sources just limits your ability to achieve the holy grail of retail: a 360-degree view of the customer.

Additionally, you can work in real time and you don’t have to silo the data to do so. Agile Data is the term we use, and it provides actionable insight from large collections of data early. Even better, with some simple changes to your architecture you don’t have to wait for weeks to have access to it. Building in machine learning will allow insights to be surfaced as they come in.

3. Test what you’re doing.

Jeff Gothelf’s book, “Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience” presents the idea that fostering an entrepreneurial atmosphere in even the largest of organisations is key to staying ahead in the game.

In our opinion, it can be simplified for retailers. Ask your consumers a) what they think and b) what they want. I know it sounds silly, but it could revolutionise the way some companies develop their brands.

Take Polaroid for example. They ignored the behaviours of their users and the proliferation of digital through to previously physical-only environments and they tanked as a result. Understanding your users doesn’t have to rely on the data, you can take a more human approach to it, too.

User-centred design (UCD) is at the heart of everything we do. Every project we work on, especially the people-sensitive digital services offered by the UK Government, has an element of user research to it. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees, and it’s important to be humble enough to say: ‘maybe, just maybe, we don’t have the right answer, so let’s find it out.’

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