The retail sector is bearing the full force of the digital storm. At a time when traditional players are struggling at the trough of the waves, more agile newcomers are surfing the crest of the relentless move towards a more digital world – hence all the discussions about digital transformation and the need to refocus strategies on consumers. But don’t be too hasty to pronounce in-store sales dead and buried.
A fast-changing sector
Mass-market products are sold in huge volumes, but competition is fierce and the customer base is fickle. Retail businesses are faced with major challenges including consumer movements, behaviour analysis, the in-store and on-line customer experience, and the transition to e-commerce.
Through participatory approaches to innovation such as open innovation challenges, companies can now benefit from disruptive, highly developed solutions to speed up their transformation. The retail trade’s digital transformation is an inevitability – so it’s both necessary and wise to make the change as soon as possible.
Using digital to improve in-store sales
Is the advent of new technology eliminating physical sales? The digital world has led to radical changes in traditional retail practices, but it hasn’t put an end to in-store sales – quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, digital technology both supports and simplifies physical trading and allows businesses to collect additional information on consumers.
By going digital, companies become more flexible and can be more spontaneous when realigning their marketing strategy. A collaborative innovation challenge is an opportunity to address issues such as the best attitude to adopt in the face of this constant change and the best way for stakeholders in the sector to transform themselves.
Why the retail sector is changing
Businesses are turning to this new innovative method in response to two key factors that will only grow in importance in the coming years. Firstly, the number of newcomers to the market boosts worldwide competition. Businesses need to compete with groups that have a range of comparative advantages as well as production and distribution methods that are often more favourable. In today’s world, consumers have choice – so it’s essential to capture their attention and maintain their interest in the brand.
Secondly, the sudden arrival of new technologies has turned the way that goods are produced, sold and consumed on its head. To stand out in the face of increasingly fierce competition, major companies need to stay one step ahead of – or at least keep up with – the new practices of our time.
Here are four case studies that show the power of open innovation and its ability to help bring about the changes the retail sector needs.
Case study 1: Galeries Lafayette
When Galeries Lafayette, the ultimate department store, threw itself into the participatory innovation adventure, the company wanted to bring its customer experience into the digital sphere. It launched a major crowdsourcing campaign and called on the collective intelligence of an international community of students – almost 2000 participants – to design new solutions.
Among other aims, the brand wanted to give a more digital side to its stores. One of the objectives was to make the experience more digital so customers could use their smartphone and digital tools to simplify their shopping experiences.
Improving the in-store customer experience is becoming a priority both for the retail sector and for a range of other industries. The more dynamic the point of sale, the bigger the increase in traffic, which in turn boosts conversion rates. The ultimate aim is to encourage customers to buy more items by using all kinds of sales assistance tools to make the purchasing process as easy as possible.
Case study 2: Franprix
Franprix also had a similar aim in mind. The convenience store brand wanted to reinvent its payment experience. Through an online hackathon, Franprix wanted to remove the obstacles faced by consumers by making the payment process as simple as possible. The challenge was to develop a solution that could preserve the human dimension while using new technology – but something other than contactless payment.
The second challenge that the retail sector needs to tackle is its transition into the world of e-commerce – a necessity that is increasingly present in companies’ strategies. This transformation – now crucial for retail businesses’ long-term sustainability – can be accelerated through open innovation challenges.
Case study 3: the E-Commerce Challenge
Like many companies that had moved into providing online services, FEVAD, JDN, Sales Force and e-commerce retail association Les Enjeux du E-commerce joined forces to highlight the e-commerce solutions of tomorrow.
During a major crowdsourcing campaign, the brands put over 50 startups to the test, challenging them to find the e-commerce solutions of the future. The startups proposed a wide array of possibilities, from payment and delivery systems to product recognition. The wide range of solutions put forward gave the 600 e-commerce and retail managers a more optimistic outlook for the future of online business.
And what’s more, providing a digital customer experience that’s just as high-quality as the in-store experience is an essential challenge for any business. The transition between the two sales environments has to take place smoothly and in a way that’s clear to the consumer – it’s the only way for companies to stay in the race.
Case study 4: Future Store Challenge
That’s why Defacto, Breuninger and Adler Modemärkte called on the expertise and creativity of a range of startups, asking them to reinvent the shopping experience of the future. The Future Store Challenge, their large-scale collaborative innovation challenge, aimed to create an original multi-channel customer experience that could either start or finish online. The proposed solutions resulted in efficient sales tools that encourage customer retention.
The use of new technologies and the transition to e-commerce have now become a question of survival in the retail sector. By offering consumers a range of ways to make their purchases, companies can be sure that there’s a future for them. And as consumers have become fickle and retaining their loyalty has become a challenge, it’s essential for brands to cement their bond with their customers by ensuring the goods and services they offer are 100% available – anywhere and at any time.