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Conclusion – October 2015

This report proves that digital innovation is top of mind for retailers in today’s climate and rightly so since it offers them the opportunity to build closer relationships and learn more about their customers than ever before.

It also provides the best link between online and offline and ensures a smooth cross device customer journey that customers may not know they need, but that they certainly appreciate once they are offered it. Our research and interviews show numerous examples where what could be construed as small changes have delivered huge benefits for consumers, increasing loyalty, trust and of course spend as a result.

As we have seen retailers are innovating in lots of different ways and putting huge effort into trying to understand the changes that will best improve their businesses and allow them to stand out from the competition without disrupting the customer journey along the way.

But we have also seen that such tactics are not without their challenges. Digital innovation requires an agile, reactive environment in which to thrive – not only from an IT standpoint but from a hearts and minds culture viewpoint too. It also requires that retailers make better use of their data than they ever have before.

It’s a challenge that for larger businesses – still somewhat constrained by legacy systems and bureaucracy – can be hard to manage. And yet our case studies section in this report shows that many are tackling such problems head on and delivering effective change that is enabling them to thrive.

There is lots that retailers could do and Jack Smith, New Look’s digital director, says it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to have trouble filtering out what may suit your business and what could just prove an expensive distraction. “One of the biggest challenges is the pure volume of companies out there that have what can be really great solutions. It takes time working out what’s good and what’s not good and where you should place your focus,” he says.

It’s a distraction that Robin Phillips, director of omnichannel and development at Boots UK, says, requires a ruthless mind. “Be really rigorous about what you are trying to achieve and what is the business case for it. If you don’t do that and you aren’t ruthless then you won’t be successful at it and you won’t deliver benefits,” he says.

Wise words indeed. We have shown that there is a strong demand for digital innovation and that it needs to be embraced across the business rather than in isolation. This is a strategy that touches everything from people to process and technology and as our Zalando case study in particular shows, works best when retailers reinvent their thinking in order to best embrace its benefits.

It’s a subject that is changing fast and as such we will return again to look again at the state of innovation in 2016.

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