Retail

Innovate your product or follow the leader

Brian Walker /

“I do think there is a lot of potential if you have a compelling product and people are willing to pay a premium for that” — Elon Musk

What do Godfreys, Metalicus, and Esprit have in common?

Perhaps once heroes and the shining stars of their respective sectors? Perhaps once early adopters and possibly even pioneers within their category?

And now? Are they victims of, or deeply injured by, globalisation, online, competition, internal lethargy, or lack of vision in next tier leadership?

Probably all of the above and one other startling similarity: a profound lack of retail product innovation as the central DNA of the organisations.

All the factors mentioned accelerate and magnify the context and need for innovative speed within product innovation.

The pace at which these businesses reach their zenith is now exponentially greater and faster and the casualties fall faster. The weaponry is product innovation, at the core.

Why and how did Godfreys miss the “stick vacuum “revolution? How did Metalicus and Esprit fall back from determining the fashion curve to guessing it?

How do other retail businesses simply falter and fall away, especially those who were clear market leaders in their growth cycle?

It’s not just product ranging and quantity. If this were the case, Myer and its department stores colleagues would be breaking all records. It’s not product per se, it’s product innovation that matters.

It takes creativity and iteration, coupled with deliver-to-market smarts. Take a look at the winners and losers in our turbulent retail climate and you will see that those that fell behind simply, in most cases, relied on what was, didn’t innovate in product and their market went elsewhere.

If strategy is game-changing, then innovation is the game changer.

Dyson innovated the vacuum cleaner game. What did Godfreys do that was innovative in product? Good design itself within the plethora of new products swamping the global consumer markets won’t cut it any more and it’s more challenging, although true product innovation must always be the ‘true north’ of a retail organisation

Recently a prospective client asked me what the spend on marketing should be and my response was that it needs to be 50% of what you spend on product innovation as the foundation piece to a great customer experience.

NOW READ: Alibaba’s future of retail involves QR codes, smart mirrors, and gamified discounts

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Brian Walker

Brian Walker is founder and chief executive of retail consulting and advisory company, Retail Doctor Group and the Australian elected member of the global retail expert's alliance Ebeltoft Group.

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