In an election year in the UK, it struck me that 2015 could be redefining in both the political and retail landscape. Like political parties, retailers are finding it harder and harder to stand out in an overcrowded frenetic world, to really be seen or heard.
These parallels struck me even more so at NRF in New York just over a week ago. It was actually a great global meet-up of retail and technology strategy. But when I first went to NRF six years ago, I saw companies really stand out, being proud to be different. Now they all seem to want to say the same thing...omni-channel this, agile that, customer first, "blah blah" noise.
In this parallel world analogy there were just too many ‘populist political headlines’ that really did not excite anyone or stand out. So even if a vendor has the greatest supply chain, order management or e-commerce platform, vendors are all claiming to solve all of our retail woes.
The reality is simply not true and like political parties positioning this generalist, ‘me-too’ almost ‘average-safe-middle’ will not give retailers what they need other than exactly the same platform (or soap box!) as the next retailer.
So from the prophecy, to the what to do in 2015.
Omni-channel is a frame of mind, a catch all for every customer experience one could possibly imagine. But in this age of speed-to-market we simply don’t have the time, money or resources available to build out every piece of our omni-channel experience. Rather than striving for omni-channel nirvana, retailers should be investigating quickly what are their real points of difference or core assets and amplifying those as much as possible.
I checked both ends of the retail spectrum and the amplifiers are doing very well because they are incredibly focused on their positions - from the discount retailers (e.g. Aldi, Lidl) to the luxury retailers (e.g. Yoox Group). Behind the scenes we also know that many are scrambling to hold systems together and create new processes that support their customer experience in order to ensure they meet their brand promise. But that is exactly what the best in class are doing...delivering for the customer and just making it happen internally.
We are helping our clients to find and amplify those points of difference and then transform organizational culture, process and technology to be responsive to future market changes. For example, at Domino’s Pizza (who shared our NRF presence), we built the online-mobile automated ordering platform. But we didn’t stop there and went on to create Pizza Mogul, a social loyalty program that engages customers to create their own pizzas and then rewards them when they are sold online. The top earning Pizza Mogul has made $35,000 AU in just four months. That is different, even if it is just amplifying the simple pizza!
At Lastminute.com we went back to their roots, amplifying what it really meant to book something last minute on your mobile phone in under three minutes. Conversion soared, new customer segments were found. Recently, we launched Shop Direct Group’s VERY app, a slick mobile commerce and financial services experience with a unique ‘snap style’ feature. Snap Style allows customers to snap images of desirable items and have the app search for affordable similar items. With mobile accounting for over 60% of sales now and coming off the back of their best holiday season ever, VERY shows why having a distinctive mobile experience will be important for almost all retailers in 2015.
It doesn’t really matter anymore which was the ‘year of mobile.’ Just make sure you are equipped and able to push your sound-bites into a smart device.
So our 'agile manifesto' is still true to our core – agile will provide the framework for speed, quality and a focus on minimum. Continuous delivery will bring the clarity of thought to rapid repeatable software on demand and lean enterprise will join the business and IT seamlessly to help scale this ‘good behaviour’ so that as organisations, you can be faster to market with winning policies and stand out from the crowd.
Best wishes for an amplifying 2015.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.