RBTE 2016: What is digital innovation?

Many talk about digital innovation in retail, but it means different things to different people. At RBTE on Wednesday 9 March, a panel of experts will be asked about innovation in retail. As I am chairing the theatre that afternoon, I wanted to share some of my thoughts prior to the event. I'm also really keen to hear your opinions and questions in advance of next week.

I see digital innovation in three distinct areas as outlined below:

Omnichannel retail 

For any retailer, having an omnichannel roadmap is essential. I personally don't see this as digital innovation, but for some it still is. This will depend on your company size and market sector. Every retailer should be clear on where they are investing and the value this brings. Here are some of the elements to be considered.

At all times retailers should make sure that the customer is at the centre of their decisions. Customers shop brands, not channels, so the journey should be as joined up and customer focused as possible.

New trends

Trends by their very nature come and go. Your company size and market sector will determine how much you can afford to invest in any new trends and the value it brings. There is nothing wrong with being a 'fast follower' on new ideas, as long as you stay close to the market and identify when it's best to invest in a new idea. Some of the current new trends are below. There are hundreds to choose from, these are just a selection.

Think about those that best suit your business and invest at a time that is right for you.

Digital disruption

This is more that just a shift in technology to support your business, it's a new business model in its own right. Much of digital disruption is coming out of the data we now have, that enables us to understand our customer and provide them with better services. From Uber taking on the taxi industry, to Netflix changing the way we watch a movie or a TV series, these new business models are changing the rules of the game.

Retailers should pay close attention to these digital disrupters. How did iTunes become a market leader in music instead of HMV, should Boots be investing in the Headspace App?

What is certain, is that there is no certainty about the future. 

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways you can look at digital innovation in retail, but I've found these work well when trying to explain digital to retail leaders.

Please let me know your thoughts and questions ahead of RBTE.

Jevern Partridge will be chairing the conference sessions in Theatre A at RBTE 2016, between 13:30 and 16:45 on 9 March. The expo takes place at London Olympia on 9-10 March 2016. Click here to register for your free event ticket.

Jevern Partridge has spent over 15 years in retail, having worked in senior roles for Asos, Marks & Spencer and Boots. Most recently he was interim CIO for Nisa Retail. 

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