A few days ago, Walmart.com announced that they are introducing the MoDRN collection. A line-up of 650 items in the $20 – $899 price range. Within a few hours – I received numerous calls from retail friends wanting to gripe about this latest home furnishings “obstacle”. Giving each of them their due 60 seconds to gripe and complain – that empathetic “shoulder to cry on”; I had to abruptly ask “Does this really matter?” and if so “Why?” A race to the bottom is not one to win. In a previous article; “Knowing your differentiators and understanding consumer expectations” I discussed the need to really understand what sets you apart. The example of MoDRN above – if my retail comrades understood what sets them apart, they would not panic. They would take note of the latest Walmart retail landscape intel, and chalk it up to “its not my jam – so good for them”. They know the price race game is not theirs to partake in. They understand they need to compete on what sets them apart. Which ties nicely to my next 2019 topic of “Adopt initiatives that withstand and expand”.
Strategic initiatives help you be a stronger retailer. Most retailers shy away from big scary words like initiative because they often require capital (time and money). That must change. It is these investments today – if (when) done right, make you better, stronger, leaner, more profitable. The list goes on. Initiatives often top-of-pile are tech, talent, or client. Let’s dial in on tech.
Retail Technology is changing faster than ever. More choices, more features, more more more. Think about this, Snapchat and Instagram were created less than 10 years ago. Think about the evolution of web and social in our consumer mindset. OK, now think about how technology as evolved in your business. Has it? I bet it is time for a hard look at a strategic technology initiative. Technology can make you better. A couple points as you embark on this journey; pace, scope, and willingness.
It is changing fast, be ready to change again. It’s a scary statement, but the day I go-live with my latest technology investment I start planning for the next change. That is a hard reality of the pace of technology. Think 3 years – 36 very short months. How often do you switch cell phones? I think you get my point. If you picked the right “must-haves” (discussed below) for today’s choice, you can always be building that next list of “must haves” for tomorrow’s initiative!
If I was sitting in your chair – no matter what technology I am looking at, I would be limiting my “scope”. What do I really need it to do for the next 36-months? This will allow you to tightly define the list of “must haves” vs. that never ending list of “future requirements”. Developers refer to this as “scope creep”. The futile attempt to have it all in one go. Unattainable. As a business owner, the more I define and limit the must haves; (possibly even correlating these to my differentiators… mind.. blown) – the better I will be at making any technology initiative investment.
Be open to change. Technology is often a love hate relationship. I love to hate it but I love it because I hate even the thought of change. How dare anyone ask us to do things differently. After-all, we have been doing it this way for the last (insert) years. Technology “comfort” is a zone you need to step out of quickly. Change can be a great thing. Smart change that is. Be openly willing to make it. It is also precariously easy to measure any “new tech” against the “things you love”. But isn’t the prospect of changing technology a direct reflection of the willingness to opening the door to other “solves” on your “must haves” list? If your existing tech is that great, why do you have a gripe or “must have’s” list? Taking that “comfort” one step further. That feature that you are super comfortable with, may be 10th on the list of what matters. There could be 9 other things that are better for your growth as a business. What if a new technology offered you 9 things that make you stronger, but you must give up that one comfort food? Unless you are open to making a change, possibly sacrificing a little here to gain a whole bunch there; you will never enjoy how tech can enable “better” for your business.
By continuously looking at adopting initiatives to withstand and expand; focusing on pace of change – scope of needs – and willingness to jump in, you will position yourself to have a better shot at avoiding the growing list of “retail casualties”.