Retailers need to adopt ‘fail fast’ attitude to technology

Retailers experimenting with digital technologies must take a “fail fast” approach so they can deliver new innovations quickly

Retailers experimenting with digital technologies must embrace the attitude of “fail fast” so they can get new innovations quickly out to the market.

Retailers such as Amazon, eBay and Alibaba.com have all come from the world of e-commerce and have moved rapidly into new business models by adopting this mantra. These businesses are becoming more agile in their innovations and are open to failure if they can quickly move on to the next digital project.

“Like IT development, gone are the days of 18-month projects – these businesses don’t have time to do that,” said Pat Bakey, global head of retail at SAP. “The quicker you put something out there and get customer feedback, the quicker you’ll get a home run, or move on. You don’t waste any time.”

Speaking at an SAP customer event, Bakey said around 80% of retail IT spend goes into managing legacy environments.

“But that doesn’t help drive innovation,” he added.

He pointed to companies such as Nespresso, which 25 years ago decided that its business wasn’t about selling coffee, but creating an experience for the customer. Bakey said the company had to move its entire business, product innovation, B2B and B2C business practices to meet this new attitude.

But one traditional retailer which has embraced the “fail fast” ideology is footwear specialist Clarks. 

David Grant, director of strategy and infrastructure at Clarks, said the company has played around with concepts like digital signage and virtual interactive surfaces, but they have not been implemented into the shops because they didn’t quite work. Instead of spending vast sums of money on the concepts, Clarks moved on to different technologies with more potential.

Grant told Computer Weekly that digital signage had been pushed further down the priority list while it experimented with other ideas. One such idea was its iPad foot measuring system, which was implemented this year.

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