Retail businesses that have innovation hardwired into their DNA have a greater chance of thriving in today’s competitive landscape
Innovation is absolutely vital to the success of modern-day retailers, helping them to establish a strong USP that sets them apart from their competition. From our unique party-planning business that was launched in the early 1980s to the recent launch of our new dating app Rabbit, innovation has always been at the heart of everything we do here at Ann Summers.
We made the decision to create a dating app because I wanted us to be more than a brand; I wanted us to be part of our customers’ lifestyles. I could also see the synergy between a dating app and Ann Summers, a brand that is all about relationships. From speaking to experts who had launched dating apps previously – and by also speaking to our customers – we very quickly realised there was so much more that we could do with our product. Our goal was to create an experience that truly responded to users’ needs and addressed the frustrations they had with other dating apps.
Following our research, we developed a number of unique features for the app. For example, by partnering with a number of venues, we gave users a choice of dating locations other than the local pub. Not only does this bring some much-needed variety to the world of first dates but it also gives our partners an opportunity to offer a discount and draw more people to their venues. This helps increase brand awareness and sales, while also providing vital customer data.
Whilst we have innovated at the right time and for the right reasons, other businesses have suffered because they have either failed to innovate or have done so just for the sake of it. We’ve all heard the old expression ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ It’s important not to meddle with the aspects of your business that really work. Instead, you need to listen to your customers, understand who they really are and give them what they want.
So, how can a business maintain a commitment to innovation? Some people argue that companies should have a team that is dedicated to innovation but I don’t agree with this. Instead of segmenting innovation in this way, I believe it needs to be part of your culture. This means encouraging an innovative way of working among your people, not just in one department but in all departments. Our own experience has taught us that innovation is not just about product; it’s also about the way you do things.
Put simply, the retailers that are focused on innovation are the ones that will succeed. Think about it this way: if you don’t innovate, what’s the alternative? It’s to imitate. And no one wants a business that’s based on imitation.