Since RILA's inception nearly half a century ago as the Mass Retailing Institute, we have ridden the tide of the industry's expansion to the chain store age of today. We observed, as the industry's leading partner and voice, the pioneering efficiencies and scale that characterize retail's current dominance. We saw industry behemoths grow from their earliest days. We have witnessed the difficulties of layoffs and store closings, and we have experienced the excitement of new retail channels being born and prospering.
Beginning in 2015, we saw the seeds of a deep transformation to a new age of retailing, the Age of RTech, which we eventually documented in our first report, The Emergence of RTech.
We had a front row seat to the industry's response: a surge in innovation. And because of our role as a trusted industry partner, we're uniquely positioned to help drive it forward. So, in 2017, after many conversations with senior retail executives and innovators, RILA launched its Retail Innovation Center. We have learned a lot – and built a lot – since then.
So, now, 18 months later, we are sharing our experiences from the journey so far. Beginning next week, RILA will launch its "September is for RTech" campaign. We will use September to highlight the great work our members and the Retail Innovation Center are doing to move the industry forward.
What can you expect to come?
- The launch of two new research reports focusing on consumers' needs
- Live tweets from RTech Center events at MIT and in Silicon Valley
- Two whole new industry-wide programs that address retail's most pressing needs, including a powerful platform called the RTech Open Innovation Engine – or "ROI Engine", and a network to attract the next generation of retail talent, the RTech Collegiate Network
- Introductions to the RTech Innovation Network, composed of the leading incubators, accelerators, and venture capital firms that work with retail startups
- Innovation awards programs that recognize the leading innovations in retail HR, AP, supply chain, and customer experience
- Blogs related to innovation in key retail functions
I think you'll find – like we have – that retailer's innovation programs and the retail ecosystem of today is unrecognizable from that of year's past.
Here's some of what we've seen in the last 18 months:
- Retailers are orienting their innovation strategies to address the most critical customer needs, while also achieving quick wins
- Retailers are investing in the workforce of the future by attracting data scientists, engineers, designers, behavioral scientists, and strategists
- Retailers are increasing their presence in Silicon Valley, partnering with startups and venture firms, and warming up to open innovation processes like hackathons
- Retailers building a true RTech culture across their enterprises
- More startups and venture funding are focusing on retail-specific solutions
In short, we see that RILA's members are making major effort, across every element of their business to stay competitive and exceed their consumers' expectations.
But this is only the first few miles of a marathon of industry changes; more is certain to come.