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The cost of doing nothing

fail, down, dollar, business, fall, decline, dropWill 2015 be a year of more casualties or will we see the rise of a game changer?

According to Deloitte’s Global Powers of Retailing 2015 report, the top three retailers operating in Australia are Costco, Aldi, and Amazon. None of these brands existed in Australia before 1994 (Date to Australia: Costco 2009, Aldi 2001 and Amazon 1994).

In 1994 I graduated from high school and was embarking on a communications career. But first I travelled Europe on a shoestring and was introduced to Zara, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, and Liberty. It was then I became a retail addict.

Fast forward 20 years I’m working in customer experience and often find I start a conversation with someone new telling the story of Kodak and the cost of not doing anything in an era of increasingly rapid and transformative change. Nearly every single person will nod their head in agreement because we now all know it is a given not an anomaly.

The smart businesses have been preparing for ongoing change for years. I’m not talking about building a mobile app, but creating a culture and structure that supports innovation and rapid prototyping. This is design thinking at its best. Jeff Bezos of Amazon drives this culture by repeating the mantra that everyday is Day One.

Then there are those businesses that invest in research and innovation to develop new ideas, but those ideas are left on the page because the business is fearful or hasn’t structured their people, processes or financial model to support design and implementation. While the best of intentions to innovate is a start, this is the same as doing nothing.

So which will your business be? Will you implement a new future or be another Kodak moment?

In 2015 the cost of entry for retailers (virtual or traditional) includes (not exclusively) consumer friendly ecommerce, mobile retailing and community engagement. To get a return on investment in these platforms, retailers must:

  1. Turn brand strategy into a clear and compelling narrative supported by a set of design principles that direct all efforts towards a single vision for the brand experience.
  2. Transfer traditional skill sets in distribution and service into a virtual and mobile world. This calls for a re-design of processes, systems and potentially talent to deal with a multi-channel service proposition.
  3. Transform the communications function into an insights-driven publisher. People to crunch the data and others to create time worthy content.

That is the cost of entry.

The cost to win requires a culture of innovation supported by rapid test and learn capabilities, the re-engineering of outmoded structures and practices, and evolving the end to end experience for the customer everyday.

Clair van Veen is GM and strategist at Designworks.

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