What’s the one thing you need to future-proof your retail business?
Being prepared for the future is a major concern for all businesses. Huge amounts of time and money are spent on strategy and figuring out what is needed to deliver it. As such, you’re probably keen to make sure that what you do now will serve you well down the line. Opinions differ on exactly what retailers need to do now to not be left behind in the future, but there’s one thing all successful companies have in common.
It’s not all about technology
When looking to the future a lot of people focus on technology. This is because of the huge impact new technologies have had on every aspect of our lives. Mobile is one such disruptor which has changed things more than ever expected. And faster too.It makes sense then that when trying to prepare for the future and be in a position to respond to new trends retailers are putting money into technology.
In reality, the actual technology used in-store or behind the scenes is a secondary element. Technology is always going to continue to develop and change, so it’s impossible to just rely on what is innovative today being enough tomorrow.
The right mindset
So, how do you future-proof your business? The good news is the one thing you need costs nothing (although it may require a shift) –a mindset that embraces and encourages innovation, and a healthy attitude to risk.
It’s this mindset that is behind investment into new technologies. It’s also what is more likely to make you an early adopter of technologies that can really benefit your business as they continue to improve. It’s what stops you disregarding technology in its early phase when others may be disappointed. It’s what keeps you experimenting and thinking about what new developments can do for you. And how you can keep taking things one step further.
It’s also important to remember that nothing is a magic bullet. The best technology in the world only has value if it can benefit your business. If it’s not improving your processes or the customer experience, then it’s not worth having.
Equally though, things can take time to develop. Technology improves over time, new systems mature, so you also need to be open to the idea that a lot of solutions are fluid. Rather than implementing them and having them fixed from day one, they need to be tested, tweaked, improved, upgraded, expanded over time to keep providing value and not to become obsolete.And of course not every innovation works out, so you need a mindset that embraces risk, and is prepared for that outcome.
An open mind
Having a more open mindset can also help you take advantage of opportunities. Not everything has to come from the top. Your employees might have some great ideas for improvements, or insights into how to best utilise a new technology you’ve implemented.
Likewise, in-house teams are often siloed into separate departments, which makes it harder for new ways of working or solutions to be seamlessly implemented across the business. But changes can’t be made in isolation. For example omnichannel crosses every part of the business, so everyone needs to be aware of the strategy and their role in it. Changing the way you think about your business as a whole, rather than individual units, means everyone is working towards the same goals.
Experts from outside of the retail industry may also have another perspective on what you could be doing better. They may be able to suggest an application or technology that isn’t specifically for retail, but that you can make use of. Start-ups may be creating far more exciting solutions than your own in-house teams or regular partners.
By not getting stuck in a mindset that is closed off to outside influences you can ensure you’re always making use of the best expertise and solutions. External collaborators can also be a more cost effective way to stay ahead of the curve.
Your way of thinking should also be evolving constantly. Flexibility is key to being prepared for whatever the future holds. If you are resistant to change then you won’t stay up to date with customer expectations. If you pay attention to what they want and develop your service in line with that then you will be in pretty good shape.
This flexibility should extend right through your business, so that you can easily change the way things are organised and delivered to respond to new trends. Having a culture of flexibility should also help reduce the costs associated with putting new ideas into practice. And it keeps you open to trialling ideas and experimenting.This is particularly important when it comes to new innovations.
There’s also a need to move away from the idea that changes have to be made through these big, expensive programmes that you deliver every few years. New technologies or other innovations may fall into this category. But, often you can improve things for the customer through smaller actions. This might be deploying staff more effectively, using existing technology in smarter ways, changing how departments interact, introducing new capabilities. Having the right mindset keeps you open to these small opportunities, as well as the big ones.
So remember, if you’re always innovating, testing and flexible, then you’ll always be ahead. It’s all down to your mindset.
Read more tips for future success and find out why retail needs to move from pushing customers to pulling them in.
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