Lessons in Innovation from the Future of Shopping

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Photo_RGB_R_NL_JA_00637.jpg A grocery store is a retail store that primarily sells food. A grocer is a bulk seller of food.

Guest post by Juan-carlos Morales

In the next few years, the IoT will hit its stride and it’s arguable that no other industry will be more affected than the retail sector. Awash in “things” that can collect, store and communicate information, retailers will have opportunities at every turn of the shopping cart to win the hearts and minds of consumers. To envision the future of shopping today, we created KART. In the process, we racked up valuable lessons learned in how to innovate.

Conduct Field Work

Like scientists in a lab, we camped out in retail outlets and examined how customers experienced shopping. We observed people struggling to push shopping carts with one hand while carrying phones in the other. It was nerve racking to watch people attempt to lift heavy items high enough to clear their carts and then balance them precariously on top of a mountain of other products. In particular, the incessant in and out and up and down of moving products from shelves to carts to conveyor belts to trunks of cars made us wonder: why do they do that and is there a better way? Our fieldwork informed and inspired us like nothing else.

Keep Core Teams Tiny, Tenacious and a Tad Ignorant

When innovating, small is beautiful and ignorance is bliss. The smaller the group, the greater chances you have at convincing people to take big risks. You also don’t want to get bogged down by people who are going to over think and get mired in detail. We kept our team comprised of generalists. However, we did draw on the expertise of subject matter specialists from across the company to inform our understanding of various technologies and standards.

Imagine No Limits

We thought about the shopping problems in the context of IoT, but we didn’t let the infancy of IoT technologies and standards limit our ideas. Improving the customer experience was more of a priority than the maturity of the technology. This way, we didn’t tie ourselves to past creations. Instead, we broke free into the green field of the future.

Co-Create with Iterative Prototyping

In the age of disruption, you can’t innovate in isolation. You don’t have time to remain holed up in a back room working in secret only to emerge with something that won’t please the end user. Instead, you want to involve end users in the creation of the product from the beginning to the end. We created a little bit, got feedback, tweaked it and asked for more input. If you aim to please the end user every step of the way, you can take your product to the marketplace with confidence that it will be well received.

Call Your Innovation into Existence with a Compelling Story

Once you label something, people will understand it, as we found with KART. Without effective branding, it’s simply a collection of amorphous ideas. Name it and you will call it into existence.

People claim that the process of innovation is mysterious and complicated. But, when you boil it down, it’s simple. Innovation is about asking why things are done the way they are done and wondering if there’s a better way. At the heart of the matter, innovation is about empathizing with people who are frustrated and making solving their problems more important than sticking with the status quo.

This post also appeared on the PwC Emerging Technology blog.

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