Stagnation means decline.
Technical developments and their role in helping create the store brand's distinctive profile.
Of all the tools in the toolbox used to create a store formula, (technological) innovation is the
one least benefited from. This is mainly caused by ignorance – what is innovation and what can I achieve with it? – and the resultant fear of innovation.
What does innovation mean? Briefly, innovation means keeping up to date (or keeping ahead of) technical developments in the field of retailing. Innovation can be introduced front stage or behind the scenes. Behind the scenes, the latest technical developments – with regard to logistics, to take one instance – can save a great deal of time and money.
In the past few years, some innovations have won ground in the store. For instance, self-scanning devices have appeared in supermarkets, both saving employees’ time and adding a service for the consumer. This kind of innovation is also very important for the store brand. If you wish to be thought of as a trendsetter or at any rate want to be up-to-date in the market, you can ill afford to fall behind your competitors; rather, you would like to be at the forefront. Use of the latest gadgets in the shop tells the customer in a very direct way that your store is modern. Lagging behind in this respect can be fatal; consumers very quickly get used to the new possibilities offered by innovation and will want to see them in your store. At one store you can see yourself on a television screen wearing the shoe of your choice, at another the computer is used to fit the right sports shoe.
Convenience, service and professionalism are general characteristics of good technical innovations that can be used in the store. Modern consumers are no longer interested in TV screens simply showing a music channel. However if the screen displays explanations of recipes
combined with a special offer, this would be called added value and the consumer would certainly appreciate it. Supermarkets are currently working on a self-thinking trolley. When it passes special offers or special product ranges, the consumer's attention will be drawn to the product by the trolley's computer and he or she may be tempted to buy the product. This may be a lucrative way of advertising for the supplier, but it remains to be seen whether the consumer really needs it…
So, in order to fit technical innovations into the sales process in the best possible way, one will have to think carefully each time what value is added. Ten guidelines for using technical innovations in the most appropriate way are listed below:
Before adopting any technical innovation, ask: ‘What does it add’? What real added value do I offer my customers? What do I want to achieve with the innovation?
What are the management costs? Not only is the initial investment in a technical innovation important, but so also are the costs of long-term use.
How long will my innovation remain new? Will what is new today not be outdated tomorrow? Technological developments simply happen very fast.
Capitalise on your edge. Tell your customers about the developments at your store. This will give you the image of being an ‘innovator’.
Keep it simple. Consumers have no patience for learning how to use complicated systems.
Consider the styling. Besides technical quality as regards content, a technological development also requires the right ‘emotional’ design to support the concept.
Bricks and clicks. Where possible, try to link the technical developments in the shop to your website.
Know who your users are. Where possible, try to get your customers to identify themselves. These customer ¡groups are often trendsetters who are also up for other modern marketing communication applications.
Collaborate. Technical innovation is an outstanding example of an area where new possibilities and solutions can be created together with manufacturers.
Try to make the results measurable and evaluate them on a regular basis. Dare to make decisions when something is not working. Daring to make mistakes is also part of innovation.