Retail: Redefining Innovation | USA

Executives in the retail industry are seeing innovation take place on a daily basis. In the past decade online shopping, apps, and omnichannel communication have transformed this industry.  Moving beyond focus on simply being a brick and mortar location that I can walk into, retail now considers coordinating impact through influencers, shows, social tools and beyond. The push to differentiate and add value to each customer experience has expanded the mindset of innovation.

Retailers have learned how to communicate with customers using social networks and even how to behave more like a friend than a retail brand. They have apps offering in-store Augmented Reality experiences, and the smart apps are offering features such as payment-in-app.  You can literally pick up your items and walk out of the store or even try a make-up style through an app prior to purchase.

That said, there are a couple of important areas where I think we will be seeing more retail innovation in 2020.  It’s not just about adding support for a new social network – think TikTok (formally Musical.ly).  Think in terms of using physical locations in a completely new way. So, innovation in retail is not just about who has the greatest app.  I think that personalization of other existing apps that are relevant to your demographic and retail using their physical locations to support entirely different markets will really be worth watching.

Take a look at Levi’s for one great example as recently documented in the business magazine Forbes. Levi’s is a legendary denim jeans brand, but it’s a product that has been around for a long time and there are many other players in the market. How can you differentiate one pair of jeans from another? How about making them unique by allowing customers to create their own individual pair?

The Levi’s store at Times Square in New York City features 4 on-site tailors ready to make your jeans fit perfectly. Customers can select logos and images on iPads and print them directly to their jeans. Each pair of jeans bought from this store is not only unique, but the customer has a great experience preparing their clothes and creating an individual style.

Then look at Walmart. I have talked in the past about how Walmart has really been exploring innovative ideas around their physical presence — especially in creating fast delivery options across the whole US. 

But now they have a new idea. Only 82% of Americans live within 10 miles of their nearest rural hospital. It’s okay in the big city, but once you get into rural areas healthcare advice is much harder to find. However, a whopping 90% of all Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.

So, what if Walmart creates healthcare clinics across the country using their existing stores and offering dental, vision, general medical, and mental health expertise? In addition to that, why not make the prices for all the tests and treatment transparent? Walmart does flu tests for $20, checkups for $30, and eye tests for $45. 

That’s a completely different approach to the normal healthcare experience of most Americans. It’s a new program, so it will take some time to see if it succeeds, but the ambition is incredible. Once again, Walmart has found a way to use their store real estate in a way that offers much-needed services to customers — and once those customers are in the store, they are highly likely to pick up a few extra items.

Innovation in retail is going far beyond social media. In some cases, entire industries and brands are being reshaped in a way that brings them closer to the customer. Retail is where innovation is coming together to exploit value for the customer through physical brick and mortar locations, apps, social channels, varying demographic and multiple service offerings. That’s the innovation we need to look out for in 2020. It is no longer linear.

Photo by Mike Mozart licensed under Creative Commons

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