If you’re a retailer, you know that the role of the physical store has changed more in the past two years than it did over the previous fifteen. While the major upheavals of the pandemic may be winding down, the pace of change in retail is likely to keep accelerating. At last month’s NRF conference, One Door sat down with three retail thought leaders to talk about what kind of changes retailers can expect and, most important, how they can transform their organizations to thrive in light of those changes.
Our guests were Gareth Jude and Andrew Smith, authors of Retail Innovation Reframed: How to Transform Operations and Achieve Purpose-Led Growth and Resilience, and Ron Thurston, author of Retail Pride: The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career. It was a great conversation, and we urge you to watch the video. In the meantime, here are some of the key takeaways:
1. Context is everything when it comes to store design
Retailers are increasingly thinking about the store experience in terms of what customers’ goals are in a given time or location. The same shopper who wants to grab a pack of batteries or a gallon of milk on a quick after-work visit might casually browses the aisles on a Saturday afternoon. One shopper might scan end caps for spontaneous deals, while another is focused on finding the specific products they have coupons for. The context shifts from shopper to shopper, hour to hour, and retailers need to design their stores and digital ecosystems around that fact. When they do, they can address the full range of shopping contexts and delight every customer, whatever their goals.
2. When you invest in technology you attract better talent
The pandemic has made retailers understand just how crucial their associates are to their success. But current labor shortages mean that retail workers have more choice and power than ever when it comes to where they work. They’ll gravitate toward the jobs with the best training and development opportunities, the best culture, and the best tools and processes. The majority of today’s retail associates are digital natives, with low tolerance for jobs where they’re expected to work with outdated processes. According to Ron Thurston, it’s the retailers that are investing in user-friendly, cutting-edge merchandising technologies and prioritizing training and development that are attracting and retaining great employees in today’s tight labor market.
3. Innovation has to be baked into the way you do business
People who get into retail tend to be great at process: making sure products get from the loading dock to the shelves to the checkout line. Indeed, being process oriented is critical for success in retail. What retail professionals typically aren’t as good at is innovating: pivoting quickly and disrupting existing systems as needed to meet new customer preferences and market demands—things that are essential in today’s retail environment. To shift to an innovation mindset, Jude and Smith argue, retailers need to treat innovation as just one more process and weave it into their operating fabric. As the last two years have shown us, it’s the retailers with agility already built into the way they do business that can adapt the fastest.
For a more in-depth discussion of all of the above, with real-world examples and many more valuable insights, I encourage you to watch the full discussion. I’d love to hear what you think.