balancing stability and innovation in retail


Balancing Stability & Innovation in Retail

By Sarah Cascone

3 steps to drive innovation without disrupting your business

Retail is changing.

Consumers now shop differently (at different speeds, in different ways and in different places) and the technology available for brands to engage consumers has evolved tremendously.

In theory, this change benefits consumers and retailers alike. But in reality, it can create a headache for the traditional retailers who must now adjust to a radically different environment. The long term gains still exist, but the short term pain of making the change is very real.

Against this backdrop, the brands that are thriving are those embracing the shifts in the industry and adopting an agile mentality without creating immense disruption for the business. So how do you do it?

Driving Stable Innovation in Retail: Lead With Your Customers

The single most important ingredient to stable innovation in retail is remaining hyper-focused on your customers.

Staying on top of technology trends is certainly important too, but if you lead with your customers, they’ll direct you to where you need to go. And the more you listen to your customers, the faster you’ll get there.

Along the way, following these three steps can help you mature your digital marketing program in a way that embraces evolving martech and rising consumer demands at a competitive pace:

1) Understand your goals

First and foremost, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish. As simple as it may seem, you need to clearly ask and document answers to questions like:

  • What do we want to deliver?
  • What is the desired end use for any technology?
  • What actions are we trying to influence?
  • What types of data do we need?

Having these questions clearly answered will help keep everyone on the same page and aligned to business objectives.

Critically, the brands that do this best will focus on long term goals, not just what’s most immediate. That forward-looking view helps create a true foundation for growth and innovation on which to continue to build the brand, as opposed to a single innovative campaign.

2) Evaluate your martech stack

Next, you need to confirm that you have the right technology in place to support those goals. This requires a deep evaluation of your martech stack that asks questions like:

  • Do we have the right tools in place?
  • Do we have too few or too many tools?
  • Do we have the right technology partners to help grow and continue to evolve our business long term?

Asking these questions and making technology changes can be intimidating — whether it’s eliminating tools entirely, removing a deeply embedded solution or introducing something fundamentally different — but these changes are necessary to achieve the level of innovation consumers now demand. Making these changes can also increase efficiency for your business, making it a win-win.

As you evaluate your martech stack, one thing to keep in mind is that sometimes, more is just more. When it comes to determining if you really need technology you already have or really need to implement something new versus growing with what you have in place, always consult with experts and map everything back to your goals.

3) Get buy-in at every level

Finally, you need to get buy-in for any changes you plan to make. And this buy-in needs to occur at every level, from sponsorship in the C-suite down to engagement with people who will become end users of any new technology or processes. As you think through buy-in, ask questions like:

  • Who do we need to involve and when?
  • How will this change fit into our larger organization?
  • What is the downstream impact of making this change?

Remember that it’s not just users and sponsors who should be involved in this process. You likely also need to gain alignment from legal and privacy teams and keep them involved throughout your journey.

The best way to gain (and maintain) alignment is to involve everyone early and often and engrain this approach into your organizational culture. For example, promoting a culture of testing and learning can help grease the wheels for buy-in on all types of change.

Stability & Innovation Don’t Have to Be at Odds

Innovation in retail is inevitable. But innovation can’t come at the expense of stability for well-established brands. Fortunately, stability and innovation don’t have to be at odds — it just requires taking a thoughtful approach to balancing the two needs.

To find out more about what it takes and the results leading retailers have realized since driving innovation, watch the video below to see Julie Sukosd, Director, Digital Performance Marketing at Under Armour, share her experience at the Bluecore Summit 2019.

sarah cascone headshot

Sarah Cascone

A metrics-driven brand marketer with 10+ years experience, Sarah has a passion for tying the human element of marketing to revenue growth. As VP of Marketing at Bluecore, Sarah’s focus is cultivating and nurturing the strong community of innovative retail leaders behind Bluecore's mission to empower brands to discover their best customers and keep them for life.

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