Retailers know that innovation keeps them on the cutting edge of everything from technology to lifestyle to marketing to productivity increases. Why has innovation become mission critical? Michael Tchong, adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley, and innovation guru, provided the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Asset Protection Conference attendees with a high-energy, entertaining look at so-called ubertrends and the importance of “catching the next wave before it catches you.”
“Ubertrends” are massive social tsunamis with broad implications for today’s business and consumer lifestyles that are reshaping the retail landscape. Ubertrends help explain the living forces behind market phenomena and how these tectonic shifts affect demographics, products, consumer behavior, and retail logistics technology.
Tchong opened his keynote presentation with the question, “How do you fuel innovation?” He identified and explained four key actions:
– Challenge orthodoxies
– Identify unmet needs
– Leverage resources
– Ride trend waves
Telling the audience that the opportunity to innovate can come from anywhere, he illustrated the point with the start-up company Uber. The innovative transportation service came from a simple idea that people no longer wanted to call a cab with no guarantee of when the car would arrive and how much they would pay. Uber removed all of the negative aspects of traditional taxi service by showing users who was picking them up, where the vehicle was located, when it would arrive, and made the money transaction easy and transparent.
While Tchong acknowledges that the value of innovation is very hard to prove which can stifle new ideas, his bottom line message is “relentless innovation drives financial success.” For retailers trying to manage the rapidly changing retail landscape, that is a valuable message that certainly retail operators, merchandisers, and marketing organizations are struggling to implement. Loss prevention organizations also need to innovate not just to keep up with their internal peers, but get ahead of the wave to help lead the retail enterprise.
“Disruption equals opportunity,” said Tchong. If that’s the case, given the massive disruption inherent in today’s retail environment, the opportunity to find innovative solutions should be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities.