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Retail Forward, the management consulting and market research firm, has released a new report saying that “despite fast-changing customer expectations, shortened product and retail life cycles and rapid technological advancements, many retailers have not taken advantage of opportunities to innovate. By applying new perspectives to established ways of doing business, a retailer can strengthen its competitive and financial position, improve the customer experience and create a new life cycle of growth.”

The company has come up with what it calls “10 innovation opportunities” for retailers to take advantage of and that will create both consumer benefit and stakeholder value. Among them, as detailed by Retail Forward:

  • Retailers that apply innovative thinking to a growth market opportunity created by demographic, societal, economic and technological trends can generate significant growth and financial performance. The needs of an aging population, ethnic consumers and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle provide fertile ground for innovative solutions.

  • A consumer-centric approach creates opportunities to add value to the shopping experience. This requires adding services, information and support to the product mix to provide a complete solution for task-oriented shoppers. Presenting products in context and bundling products and services retailers create consumer value and competitive differentiation.

  • Demographic shifts and lifestyle changes are driving former DIY consumers into the do-it-for-me (DIFM) market. Retailers are responding to consumers’ increasing demands with innovative services and conveniences. Installation services from home improvement and consumer electronics retailers and home meal replacement options are fast-growing examples of do-it-for-me innovations.

  • Information overload, too many choices, more complex products and a lack of knowledgeable sales assistance create opportunities for retailers to develop innovative solutions for consumers. Allowing shoppers to sample the merchandise before buying, utilizing on-demand information kiosks, partnering with celebrities to provide a seal of approval and creating online communities provide consumers the help they need.

  • New distribution models are allowing retailers to connect with consumers wherever they are—at home, at work or in the car. Mobile retailing and target marketing are gaining in popularity as time-pressed consumers seek greater convenience. New-style direct-to-consumer rental concepts also are serving an important consumer niche.

  • Retailers increasingly will differentiate themselves by using experiences to sell the dream—as well as the product—and bring the brand to life. By making stores “super-immersive” and integrating branding into entertainment and other customer experiences, retailers are exploring ways to create memorable brand interactions that resonate with their target consumer.

  • Innovative process, service and design solutions that are simple, intuitive and in tune with shoppers’ needs—along with new technology tools—can save consumers time and effort. Retailers that implement easier and more rewarding customer experiences will realize sales growth and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • As shopping becomes increasingly individualistic, innovative retailers will seek ways to provide more unexpected gratification to shoppers and allow them to express themselves in unique ways. In addition to mass customization and personalization, retailers are offering opportunities for customers to participate in the development of new products and services.

  • Social networking fosters community among consumers who share a common interest. Retailers are forging stronger relationships with consumers and earning their patronage by helping them to connect in ways that are important to them and by responding to their emotional and physical needs.

  • Consumers want it fast; they want it now; and, they want it first. The need for speed in the shopping process will continue to drive changes in store concepts, design, location, merchandising, transaction processing and payment.

“Going forward, retailers will address the unique needs and desires of individual consumers and provide a more rewarding and memorable shopping experience,” said Tom Rubel, president of Retail Forward. “They will innovate around new formats and distribution models, product and service offers, marketing and customer communications and other components of the retail business model.”
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