Thursday Jun 20, 2013

The Innovation Pivot

One of the things our Retail Applied Research team tries to do is "fail fast."  That doesn't mean we're trying to fail, but we want to arrive at a failure or success assessment quickly so we minimize investments in failures.  But just because a project isn't deemed a success doesn't necessarily mean its a failure.  In many cases we can pivot, reusing some of the knowledge and technology but applied in a different context.  In some circles, entrepreneurs are encouraged to run with an idea until it fails, then pivot in a different direction.  There are many famous examples of pivots, like the emergence of Fab.com from a social app targeting gay men or the pivot of Tote into Pinterest.  Sometimes the original idea just didn't fit, and other times the market changed and required re-assessment.

The Austin-based start-up Digby has pivoted twice. Digby first created a mobile marketplace on the Blackberry where consumers could order products from multiple retailers in a single application.  I once used it to order flowers for my wife.  This was in the early days of smartphones when mobile commerce was in its infancy.  Then when the iPhone was released, retailers wanted their own dedicated app so Digby moved away from the marketplace app and focused on mobilizing e-commerce sites, providing mobile apps to retailers supporting iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone. While that was a successful business, the market was shrinking because e-commerce vendors, like Oracle ATG, started offering mobile extensions so that third-party software was no longer needed.

Wanting to leverage all their experience with mobile technology, Digby next pivoted to Localpoint, a product that enables retailers to easily create geo-fences and provide direct marketing to consumers via their mobile devices.  CIO.com recently gave them an honorable mention in their 7 Hot Mobile Startups to Watch in 2013.  They seem to be making great inroads with retailers using this latest approach.

Conventional wisdom says you don't know what you don't know, so its best to dive in but be prepared to pivot.  (Idea-driven vs Outcome-driven is an interesting debate and something retail labs should consider.) Agile retailers need to test (a step Ron Johnson skipped over) lots of concepts before finding the ones that work, and then not stay married to those concepts forever. And don't think this advice is limited to small companies -- large companies can pivot too.

Tuesday Jan 31, 2012

Curated Commerce

As we create more and more digital information, it becomes harder to find exactly what we're looking for.  Google has done a fantastic job of enabling search, but it still takes work to comb through the matching results to find the right answer.  And if you're not really sure what you're looking for, Google is probably not the right tool.

If you're looking for products, choosing your favorite retailer's site is a good start.  There, you can browse using facets to figure out options.  Retailers will often group items together, as if they were designing a store window, to show related items together.  However, that approach may be difficult to scale.  A better approach might be to allow customers to do the curating themselves.  This is not unlike the crowd-sourcing I described in this post about Polyvore.

The latest in curated commerce is Pinterest, a site that let's people "pin" interesting things they find online to thematic "bulletin boards."  When those interesting things are products, its possible to make browsing the collections seem like shopping in a boutique.  This helps consumers discover and share, which in turn elevates sales.

According to Mashable, Pinterest is becoming a significant referrer to retailer sites, especially fashion ones. With 7.5M users, 58% of which are women, this trend is expected to continue.

This is yet another consideration for any retailer's social strategy.

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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