Online Retailer: Roadblocks to growth

Head of Walmart Canada’s innovation community Fareena Contractor.

While much of the first day of the 2019 Online Retailer conference focused on defining a business’s purpose, day two focused far more on other ways businesses have achieved growth.

According to the head of Walmart Canada’s innovation community Fareena Contractor, “never again will the pace of change [within retail] be so slow”.

Contractor pointed to the theory of evolution, that it’s isn’t the strongest or fastest that necessarily survive, but the most adaptable. The same is true in business, she said.

To Contractor, the retailers who are not able to adapt are the ones closing stores. These retailers are the ones who have failed to innovate. 

Innovation is about saving money, saving time, and living better, said Contractor, and it is the job of a business to provide this for its customers. Walmart has done this with the implementation of its ‘scan and go’ technology.

Before launching the service, Contractor and a team of developers went into a store to interview customers about the checkout experience to find out what the major pain points were, and how they could be addressed.

Within a few hours the team had a solid idea of what the issues were, and how they could integrate these pain points into their scan and go technology to make the checkout experience not only faster, but easier and more seamless.

To be truly innovative, Contractor said businesses need to truly understand the underlying problem a customer is facing, focus on progress, not perfection, deliver value early and often and create a safe space for associates to test, make mistakes and to learn.

That is easier said than done, however, and retailers often run into roadblocks. For instance, online beauty brand Adore Beauty managed to increase revenue 62 per cent year on year in FY18, but it wasn’t a straightforward process.

“Growth like this is less about the steep climb, and more about the bumps,” said Adore Beauty’s chief marketing officer Dan Ferguson.

Ferguson shared some tips on how to navigate these ‘bumps’. The first is to sweat your tech – “don’t buy a ferrari for school drop offs”. Don’t get distracted by shiny, but irrelevant, technology. Invest in solutions that align with the brand’s purpose and provide value for your customers.

The second is to ensure you are always scaling faster than your competition. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you’re in the lead – that’s when your brand will be left behind.

The final point Ferguson made is to ensure that everyone on the team has the opportunity to contribute to growth. Recognising that people outside of the marketing team or growth initiative are willing and able to provide ideas to grow the brand is important – it’s a wider team effort.

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