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If it isn’t broken, fix it anyway

By Charlotte Amos

February 27, 2012 | 4 min read

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Does that phrase make you feel uncomfortable? It suggests that you shouldn’t change, shouldn’t innovate - shouldn’t bother trying to improve, in fact? This sums up the view of some high street retailers at the moment with regards to their communications. But can you blame them? As income is squeezed, retail footfall is down and consumer expenditure is low, retailers are reluctant to make any sort of change, despite how unradical that change may actually be. They are loathed to try something different. Scared of the unknown. Unwilling to take a risk. They stick to what they know and embrace the ‘YOY matching’ strategy, scared of what change might actually do. This, for some, can result in ‘safe’, middle of the road retail activation.

But not everyone falls into this risk-adverse retail gang – there are some retailers actively experimenting with change and embracing the new to create a point of difference for themselves.

Take John Lewis for example, who embraced ‘virtual’ by extending the use of their mobile commerce by launching virtual window displays in seven stores. Consumers could use their iPhones to scan the barcodes of clearance products featured in shop windows to buy the product there and then. This not only allowed them to build on their multi-channel approach but also simplified the path to purchase and even drove sales at times when the store wasn’t even open, including footfall-heavy Boxing Day. In a similar vein, Argos used interactive pop-up stores sited in two London rail stations to drive impulse sales by commuters – they could buy products from the retailer’s catalogue by scanning QR codes with their smartphones. Customers could make their purchase and then collect their goods later that day from their local store. It has even been reported that online retailer Amazon is set to move into the offline space by opening it’s first bricks and mortar boutique store in Seattle in a bid to test the waters for a chain of high street stores. Given the well documented troubles of specialists within the entertainment territory, this is a bold move which could prove the point for highly targeted stores. Let’s watch this space.

But it’s not just by exploring different purchase paths that retailers can innovate and create differentiation - some retailers are exploring how the instore environment can work harder to sell products and are embracing the technological advances that allow you to do this. Tesco have launched their first augmented reality programme that allows customers to view 3D images of more than 40 products from the electronics and entertainment sections both in-store (initially 8 stores) and online. By holding a Tesco Direct catalogue or a product key up to webcams placed in the supermarket’s aisles, shoppers can generate life-size 3D projections of products and learn more about their specifications before making a purchase.

With shopper habits and technology moving at such a pace, you can’t stand still. You always need to be one step ahead, looking at how you can build on what’s working in order to evolve and grow. So let’s re-word the old idiom: if it isn’t broken, fix it anyway.


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