Most would agree that invention and innovation are at the heart of a successful business. In a hyper-competitive industry such as retail, ingenuity has become a business necessity; driving our leadership and shaping the company mission and direction. This is where an organization and the company team can set itself apart; setting the tone for current victories and future retail trends.
But how do we create a company culture that unleashes and capitalizes on innovation? What is it that makes an organization a leader at setting retail trends and pushing the envelope for tomorrow’s successes? While there are many different strategies that can lead a retail company to future accomplishments, there are also some common qualities that many of these organizations will share in this pursuit:
- Creating a Culture of Innovation: Great ideas can come from employees at all levels and areas of an organization. Employees who’ve been taught and are encouraged to think like innovators will help set new retail trends.
- No Fear of Failure: Innovation requires the leap of faith to think outside the box; brainstorming ideas and looking to do something that hasn’t been done before. Some ideas will pan out, while others won’t. But innovation simply isn’t possible when failure is not an option.
- Balancing creativity and imagination with relevant strategies and operating processes: It is in our nature to be creative and allow our imagination the freedom to explore the limits of possibility. But in order to successfully bring these ideas to fruition they must be balanced with reason, structure, and planning. Innovation is a means to achieve strategic goals.
- Establishing an Environment of Trust: There is a great deal of risk involved when trying to establish new retail trends. Highly creative ideas can sometimes initially sound improbable, impractical, or even ridiculous. But if employees fear ridicule for sharing their thoughts and ideas, they will likely not share such ideas. Welcoming creative thought feeds innovative ideas.
- Autonomy: Along with trust, individual and team autonomy is a key component of innovation. Giving team members clear goals together with the freedom to find their own path to achieve those goals, creates fertile ground for innovation.
- A Devotion to Teamwork and Collaboration: Ideas become stronger when people with different points of view and backgrounds work together. By working together we can speed the process of vetting, testing, and implementing the innovative ideas that create new retail trends.
- Stepping out of your comfort zone: Disrupting the status quo fuels innovation. Embracing the unknown and exploring possibilities outside of our comfort zone encourages creative thought.
- Implementing ideas: Most businesses have creative employees with a lot of ideas, and some of those ideas may even be relevant to the company’s needs. However, one thing that differentiates innovative companies is a willingness to implement ideas.
- Innovation-friendly processes: Innovation processes typically start with discovery, move to invention, are followed by adjustments and improvement, find internal acceptance, and then go to market where new retail trends are established. Developing great solutions is a process.
- Committed leadership: Successful innovation is dependent on leadership that is open to new ideas and following a model that promotes innovation.
Leading the Way
Following is the annual ranking of the top 10 most innovative companies setting retail trends as determined by consumer publication Fast Company. This provides a brief review of those rankings and the companies, which mixes the familiar — Target and Amazon — with such upstarts as Casper, that are leading the way by creating new and creative retail trends.
- CVS Health: For reinventing the pharmacy;
The pharmacy and health care chain is setting retail trends by looking to grow its customer base with extra services that explode traditional expectations. The company banned tobacco products from its stores and is rolling out new services and education programs.
- Amazon: For quietly becoming a cloud giant;
With more than $83 billion in sales worldwide, Amazon.com, Inc. engages in the retail sale of consumer products in North America and internationally. The company sells merchandise and content purchased for resale from vendors, as well as those offered by third-party sellers through retail Websites. It also manufactures and sells electronic devices, provides direct publishing that allow others to publish and sell content, and other services.
- Warby Parker: For opening eyes around the world;
Warby Parker is an American e-retailer of sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses that also has 20 physical retail locations. Known for its try-at-home packs of inexpensive hipster-approved frames, the company also partners with nonprofits to train people to provide eye exams and sell glasses in their own communities.
- Farfetch: For putting the world’s best boutique fashion retailers on a global stage;
Farfetch is a global e-commerce company connecting shoppers with more than 400 luxury boutiques through a single Internet storefront. The company offers any small shop a sleek, streamlined online shopping technology to power e-commerce. Farfetch has signed on boutiques based in 35 countries and ships to customers in 190 countries, generating a revenue of $500 million in 2015.
- Everlane: For reinventing affordable basics;
Everlane is an American fashion e-retailer dedicated to “radical transparency” by openly reporting the sources and manufacturing processes of its minimalistic designs. Slowly but surely, the company has expanded from T-shirts to include pants, sweaters, shoes, and coats. Next, the company plans to develop proprietary fabrics so that it might become an innovative technology company.
- Kit and Ace: For designing luxe casual-wear from next-generation performance fabrics;
Kit and Ace is a Canadian technical streetwear brand. In just over a year, Kit and Ace has staked its claim solidly in the athleisure space. Instead of selling leggings and sweat-wicking tees to replace jeans and button-downs, the company has created semi-athletic clothes that also work as bona fide outfits. Local emerging designers are invited to set up in the shop for eight-month residencies to experiment with Kit and Ace’s fabrics, without restriction. That provides the company with testing ground for new designs, and those experimental designs are often integrated into the official collection and sold around the world.
- Shopify: For enabling every business to pursue a “retail everywhere” strategy;
After surveying the smartphones and favored apps of its employees, the popular e-commerce software platform Shopify realized that three major social hubs–Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest–were missing out on a big retail opportunity. If store owners poured resources into crafting their social profiles, why not enable followers to buy items they coveted with a few taps of a button? Now, more than 200,000 Shopify-powered stores can boost their mobile presence by selling on social media.
- Pinterest: For deploying a variety of buttons to make its pins more affordable;
Pinterest is a social network currently becoming a formidable source of traffic, particularly to retail sites. Pinterest allows users to visually share, and discover new interests by posting (known as ‘pinning’ on Pinterest) images or videos to their own or others’ boards and browsing what other users have pinned. It has a very slick user interface and strong revenue model. The site is strongest among young women in the center of the country.
- Casper: For reducing the headache of getting a mattress to your door (and up the stairs);
Casper is an e-commerce site that sells mattresses directly to the consumer. In February, the company announced that it had raised $1.6 million and by April, the startup was abuzz with positive press coverage and social media messages from consumers eager to order its mattress.
- Target: For treating its stores like an innovation lab.
Target is currently testing about 50 enhancements and innovations to study the power they have on guest experience and sales. Some of the tests are programs and services already piloting; others are brand-new ideas we’ve never tried before.