This article is the sixth in a series of Q&A's between RILA's Senior Vice President of Retail Operations Lisa LaBruno and featured general session speakers who will present at the 2016 Retail Asset Protection Conference.
Innovation in retail is the driving force of new technologies, stream-lined processes, and better ideas through more-effective products and services. As key players in their company's success, AP executives must keep pace with these innovative technologies and services.
RILA's Lisa LaBruno, senior vice president of retail operations, recently sat down with innovation guru Micheal Tchong, founder of Social Revolution, to discuss "Ubertrends" that shift the retail industry, market leaders in innovation and how to be more innovative.
LL: Is there one "Ubertrend" in particular that will reshape and shift the retail landscape more than the others?
MT: It's clear that the Digital Lifestyle is having the most profound impact on the retail landscape. Computers have made online comparison shopping virtually effortless, while social media has revolutionized the way we market to consumers. Predictive analytics are providing retailers with a wealth of information on customers, either pre-purchase or during the actual buying process. Big data will continue to fuel refined psychographic shopper profiles, greatly boosting insights retailers have on purchasing behavior. To access this wealth of information, expect that the user experience of cloud applications will greatly improve in the near future, helping retailers unlock a vast wealth of data. On the horizon lie robots, which will further revolutionize the customer shopping experience, as exemplified by SOFTBANK's Pepper or Lowe's OSHbot robots.
LL: Which big innovation of 2015 listed on ubercool.com was the most exciting/interesting to you? Will any of these carry over to 2016?
MT: Well, they're all my favorites, but let me cite three because I believe they presage the future of marketing and retailing. Domino's pizza emoji tweet is certainly the most creative use of Twitter social media integration in a marketing and customer convenience effort. I also have to single out Tesla for revolutionizing electric car design and putting the entire automotive industry on notice. Finally, there's no question that Tuft & Needle shows that innovation in something as staid as mattress retailing is not only possible but also resonates well with consumers.
LL: Which brand or individual sticks out in your mind as a top leader in reinventing industry sectors through emerging societal and technology trends? Why?
MT: Apple has unquestionably shown that relentless innovation drives success. This was a company that was on the ropes in 2001 with a $2 billion loss on a mere $5 billion in revenues. In a little more than a decade it became the most profitable corporation on earth. That explains why the death of Steve Jobs in 2011 was met by unequivocal global adulation. What other industry leader has ever been accorded such deep-seated respect? My research also shows that relentless innovation at Domino's has contributed to material financial success, resulting in a revenue growth rate that's quadruple that of the pizza category as a whole. And at Starbucks and Tesla we see two visionary leaders, Howard Schultz and Elon Musk respectively, who tirelessly drive innovation initiatives.
LL: What advice would you give to someone who is currently interested in the innovation industry and/or beginning a start-up company?
MT: As I teach in my innovation workshop at UC Berkeley, there are four ways to drive innovation at any organization: 1) challenge orthodoxies, or think creatively, 2) fill unmet needs, 3) leverage resources and 4) study trend waves. These tactics require individuals who can train themselves to be resilient and not impeded by structural, procedural or cultural barriers. Someone who can adopt a visionary approach to the future. While that may sound like a tall order, it's not. Just broaden your perspective constantly by studying trends and innovation case studies. You should also be able to freely navigate around calcified organizational structures and time-wasting office politics to ensure success. An ability to leverage your resources, either your networks and relationships, or be familiar with those of Silicon Valley, are a valuable asset. And practice your influencing skills to build a strong and diverse team through leadership. Creating a well-defined sense of purpose fosters a climate that facilitates innovation and helps develop mission-critical worker skills. Having thankful team members will also benefit you more than you realize.
LL: What is the most important advice you could give to next-generation users on how to help marketers improve their ROI?
MT: Don't be afraid of using the latest tools to quest into the unknown. One of the greatest challenges facing marketing today is that so few, less than 10%, budget for innovation. Consumers are burned out by boring ads and endless emails. Experiment with new techniques to freshen your skills. You may well discover whole new approaches to marketing that help build brand buzz. New marketing disciplines, such as predictive analytics, marketing automation and influencer outreach, are evolving fast. Get on the freight train now lest you be left behind. Be the first one to try your hand at virtual reality marketing. After all, this technology shapes up to be biggest revolution in consumer entertainment and information distribution, and that will have huge implications for anyone trying to communicate a marketing message to future consumers.
Don't miss Micheal's presentation Unbox Your Thinking to Create Innovation Breakthroughs at the 2016 Retail Asset Protection Conference, April 17-20, in Dallas. Register today!