3 Steps Towards Continuous, Customer-Centric Innovation in Retail

This past year has been a remarkable time for thought leadership in retail. As McKinsey writes, the pandemic brought an end to the notion of “business as usual,” due to people shifting their shopping habits into digital environments. In the blink of an eye, we all transitioned into new ways of life.

3 Steps Towards Continuous, Customer-Centric Innovation in Retail

As a result, retailers are now navigating a new era of innovation as people around the world adapt to their next normal. However, despite early successes with the vaccines, recovery will be a marathon — not a sprint. The pandemic is far from over. 

One of the most impactful steps for businesses to take is to put their customers in the driver’s seat. After all, people on the ground know their own needs best — and retailers can step up to these needs by listening and empowering customers to make their own decisions. Here’s how.

1. First Thing’s First: Strategy

Remember that your data models are only as high-performing as your underlying strategy. The first step that every retailer must take is to commit to being a customer-centric organization. Data is simply the language that connects employees around a shared narrative.

Keeping this perspective in mind, customer-centricity is about culture rather than statistical or technical sophistication. It’s a commitment to connecting financial performance to human interest. In other words, how are you making your shoppers’ lives better? 

You can think of this underlying question as “GPS coordinates” for moving a retail business towards its destination, which is becoming a brand that people respect, value, and rely upon.

2. Choosing Data Sets

One of the shortcomings of the big data movement has been an inability to make sense of the universe of potential insights. You may be tracking data points, but what stories are those numbers communicating to decision-makers throughout the organization?

The purpose of data is to democratize strategic thinking — to empower a heightened level of inclusivity around the judgment calls that impact shoppers. At a minimum, the following data sets can help retailers establish a baseline for customer-centric thinking at all organizational levels:

  • Sales data sets to capture perspectives at the transactional level
  • Marketing data sets to evaluate and understand the human interest drivers that influence transactions
  • Opinion-based data sets to understand the thoughts and feelings that steer human interest

Most likely, this information exists throughout the organization in various forms. The key is to integrate these resources into a comprehensive and cohesive view (perhaps in your customer relationship management (CRM) software) for the entire organization to access as a universal source of truth.

In short, data is the hidden glue that unites a retailer’s culture around a customer-centric narrative.

3. Setting Clear Goals

Our data is only as powerful as our human interpretations. What stories should we seek to surface?

Given that it’s possible to track anything and everything, retail’s new competitive advantage will take place through a process of simplification and focus.

There are 3 simple questions that retailers can focus on to considerably level up the value of their data and insights:

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What’s going to happen next?

A continuous cycle of innovation means asking these questions regularly and keeping them at the forefront of strategic discussions that influence company culture.

Last But Not Least

This innovation journey provides an opportunity to redefine the way we do business and evolve into a conscious form of capitalism that advances sustainability goals towards a more inclusive economy. This potential for transformation extends beyond the physical and digital walls of the storefront and into the role of retail in society altogether. Data is a mechanism for innovation through listening, learning, and understanding.

And at the end of the day, remember that everyone within an organization is shaping the future in real-time. For retailers looking to learn more about how to unlock the secrets to digital transformation and prepare your organization for the future, download our guide, “Welcome to the Agile Retail Era: Mission-Critical Ways to Strengthen Your Digital Acceleration Footing.”


*Chris Daniel was the lead author of a publication team that included Paige Krzysko (editor & lead strategist),  Kylie McKee (editor & contributor), and Ritika Puri (writer).

About the Author

Kylie McKee
Kylie McKee is a Content Marketing Strategist at Maven Wave with more than eight years of tech industry experience and five years of content marketing experience. Prior to joining the Maven Wave team, Kylie worked as a Content Marketing Specialist for WebPT, Inc. and earned an Associate in Applied Science in Motion Picture, Television, and New Media Production with a CCL in Screenwriting from Scottsdale Community College.
August 18th, 2021

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