Customization, Cooperation, and Culture: 3 Keys to Successful Retail Innovation

Every retailer must forge a unique path to innovation, so tools must foster individuality

It seems increasingly clear that innovation is the difference maker in today’s great retail shakeout. Success—and perhaps even survival—rests squarely upon it.

But innovation in today’s world of retail is not a singular thing. There is no one model to follow. No universal blueprint. What works for one retailer might doom another. So, if successful innovation will look completely different from store to store, are there any commonalities to success at all?

One requirement, it would seem clear, is custom configuration of the business tools that retailers use to drive their businesses forward. If smart innovation will look different for every retailer, then the way in which it utilizes technology to get there must be equally unique.

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Rhett Asher

“How a customer uses data has to be totally configurable to fit their needs,” explained Rhett Asher, vice president of strategy at ThinkLP, which makes global loss prevention and safety management software. “No one retailer needs to examine their data in the same way that another retailer should.”

Each retail organization needs to be able to visualize and manipulate data in ways that are efficient for them and actionable for their business, explained Asher—and the ability to personalize visualization must extend beyond selecting from a pre-determined list of options that a developer thought up. “With our platform you can absolutely shape it to look any way that you want,” he said. “You can even define a different experience for different groups of users based on what matters most to them in the platform.”

Simplicity and ease of configuration is at the core of ThinkLP’s intelligent software platform for audit management, incident tracking, data manipulation, analytics, case management, and more. Every system administrator has the power to personalize the platform for their organization. For an LP industry that is in transition, ThinkLP is providing a critical foundation for LP teams to improve their relevance and forge new value. As one restaurant industry LP Executive explained, “we’re using ThinkLP to manage our cases and incidents, but we’re also using it to help our LP team show value to the company by capturing their KPI’s.”

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“That configurability is our differentiator,” said Asher. “You must be able to manipulate and correlate data in a million ways, so you can identify inefficiencies, be more productive, and produce truly informative reports that drive better performance.” For retailers, that is making all the difference. “ThinkLP has really changed the game for us. Before, we were using a system that wasn’t able to give us what we needed but ThinkLP has delivered and exceeded our expectations and continues to exceed them on a daily basis,” explained an LP Executive who made the switch to ThinkLP three years ago. “Since implementing, we have had no problems getting the information we need. Not only that but retaining the information and disseminating it– the reports, the charts, the dashboards, everything ThinkLP offers makes my job very easy.”

Most importantly, said Asher, it’s entirely up to the customer how they use ThinkLP. They can use it for a few specialized functions or just about everything. It’s all available. “Our customers can make this as robust or as simple as they want,” said Asher. “It’s just a matter of ‘point, click, and drag’ to shape it in whatever way makes sense, to create whatever report is needed.

Configurability isn’t only important at the corporate and department levels. It should extend all the way down to individual users. “Even within the same team, no one person needs a dashboard that looks exactly like someone else’s,” said Asher. “It’s important to be able to create those custom views.”

Cooperation

Custom configuration is one common key to innovation; cooperation is another. LP leaders repeatedly emphasize the importance of relationship reciprocity and building bridges between LP and business partners.

At one fast-growing discount retailer, for example, ThinkLP’s software was brought in for case management in loss prevention but gradually grew into other areas. Now, distribution centers use it to report accidents and thefts, stores to report pricing discrepancies, and promotions to track and report sales performance. LP also worked with the operations team to build a routine audit tool into the LP software for its use. This is how LP needs to approach innovation within their departments, advised the company’s LP director: by looking for LP solutions that can also drive companywide innovation.

Asher wasn’t surprised by the retailer’s creative use of its platform. ThinkLP typically serves LP departments initially, but it’s often just a starting point. “The more data you put in, the more valuable it becomes, as you start to correlate information between departments,” Asher explained. “We’re constantly polling our customers and learning about new ways they’re using it. We find human resource departments using it to track management vacancies in stores. We have clients use it for tracking productivity issues and losses, and for scheduling armored car pick-ups, and tracking. Any area where you want insight into data.”

Carter’s, Inc., Senior Director of Asset Protection for North America, David Shugan, uses ThinkLP across multiple teams to solve complex issues. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to try a lot of products throughout the years but my number one LP product to work with is ThinkLP. It should be called ‘ThinkExtra’ because of everything it can do. My LP teams, HR teams, real estate teams, and field teams all use it.”

Culture

For a retailer to withstand future challenges, perhaps nothing is more important than its company culture—and the brand reputation that emanates from it. Culture isn’t typically as big a business driver for companies that build business tools, but it’s the primary force behind ThinkLP. “One of our customers had a line in their signature that spelled out “Together Everyone Achieves More”. ThinkLP employees practice this every day, and it just happens organically. We truly are a team. I love it and our customers love it,” explained Tim Read, Global Account Executive at ThinkLP. Program Manager Shelley Cowan added, “ThinkLP is the first organization where I have felt incredibly valued and part of a phenomenal team which leaves me feeling very passionate about helping the company and our clients succeed.”

Since its inception 8 years ago, the company has been content to focus on building a valuable product out of the industry’s spotlight, but now it’s ready to announce itself and become more than ‘that great company that few people know about,’ said Asher. “It’s really a super organization of great people, who follow a people-first and business-second approach, where relationships are the most important thing,” explained Asher. “We’re all about being a true partner to the industry, and not a random vendor. We’re passionate and committed to helping drive the industry forward, and now we’re announcing to people that we’re here and ready to help.”

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