Category Archives: marketing

Is it Free or Unlimited?

Is it Free or Unlimited?

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

My friend Norman Beck sends me interesting articles and newsworthy information regularly. This one is worth talking about here. A grocery store chain had a sign in front of its entrance that read:

Free Delivery – $99 a Year!

I had to smile – even laugh out loud – thinking of how many people would roll their eyes when they read that sign. It’s not free if you have to pay $99 for it! But some brilliant marketers must think the public won’t know the difference. Perhaps a better sign would have read:

Unlimited Delivery – $99 a year!

I’ve shared similar information about this in the past. How often are we told a company offers free delivery, free returns, free refills on soda … you get the idea. It’s not really free. It’s in the price you pay.

I’m okay with that, and it’s actually a pretty good marketing strategy that works. As an example, if I order a soda at a restaurant, I like the idea of refills. But are they free refills? Or are they unlimited refills? Either way, I’m happy. It’s just that one is a more accurate description of the value provided.

So, consider this simple concept. For any business to make money, it has to charge for whatever it sells. By giving too much away, it would lose money. But if the company leaders know how much they can give away without losing money and incorporate it into a competitive price, they may have a value proposition that gets and keeps customers.

Southwest Airlines is the perfect example of this. It markets the heck out of Two Bags Fly Free®. Southwest knows that when other airlines charge for something that they don’t, it can be perceived as free. By keeping operating expenses low, they can charge a competitive price for an airline ticket that doesn’t require the customer to pay extra for checked baggage.

After reading this, some of you may think I’m against free. On the contrary, I’m a huge fan of free. Even if I have to pay for it, if the perceived value is that it’s free, that works for me. I just think that we should be careful about putting a sign in front of a store that basically says you have to pay $99 for “free” delivery.

And, while I’m talking about free, there is one other form of free that I love, and that’s hassle-free, something I know your customers will love too.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023After a week of torrid voting and much passionate support, along with a lot of gut-wrenching consideration and jostling during the judging round, I am proud to announce your Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023:

  1. Robyn Bolton
    Robyn BoltonRobyn M. Bolton works with leaders of mid and large sized companies to use innovation to repeatably and sustainably grow their businesses.

  2. Janet Sernack
    Janet SernackJanet Sernack is the Founder and CEO of ImagineNation™ which provides innovation consulting services to help organizations adapt, innovate and grow through disruption by challenging businesses to be, think and act differently to co-create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.

  3. Greg Satell
    Greg SatellGreg Satell is a popular speaker and consultant. His first book, Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age, was selected as one of the best business books in 2017. Follow his blog at Digital Tonto or on Twitter @Digital Tonto.

  4. Mike Shipulski
    Mike ShipulskiMike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

  5. Braden Kelley
    Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Human-Centered Experience, Innovation and Transformation consultant at HCL Technologies, a popular innovation speaker, workshop leader, and creator of the Human-Centered Change™ methodology. He is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons and Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

  6. John Bessant
    John BessantJohn Bessant has been active in research, teaching, and consulting in technology and innovation management for over 25 years. Today, he is Chair in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Research Director, at Exeter University. In 2003, he was awarded a Fellowship with the Advanced Institute for Management Research and was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Management. He has acted as advisor to various national governments and international bodies including the United Nations, The World Bank, and the OECD. John has authored many books including Managing innovation and High Involvement Innovation (Wiley). Follow @johnbessant

  7. Pete Foley
    A twenty-five year Procter & Gamble veteran, Pete has spent the last 8+ years applying insights from psychology and behavioral science to innovation, product design, and brand communication. He spent 17 years as a serial innovator, creating novel products, perfume delivery systems, cleaning technologies, devices and many other consumer-centric innovations, resulting in well over 100 granted or published patents. Find him at pete.mindmatters@gmail.com

  8. Geoffrey A. Moore
    Geoffrey MooreGeoffrey A. Moore is an author, speaker and business advisor to many of the leading companies in the high-tech sector, including Cisco, Cognizant, Compuware, HP, Microsoft, SAP, and Yahoo! Best known for Crossing the Chasm and Zone to Win with the latest book being The Infinite Staircase. Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners. Chairman Emeritus Chasm Group & Chasm Institute

  9. David Burkus
    David BurkusDr. David Burkus is an organizational psychologist and best-selling author. Recognized as one of the world’s leading business thinkers, his forward-thinking ideas and books are helping leaders and teams do their best work ever. David is the author of five books about business and leadership and he’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, CNN, the BBC, NPR, and more. A former business school professor turned sought-after international speaker, he’s worked with organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

  10. Shep Hyken
    Shep HykenShep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

  11. Build a common language of innovation on your team


  12. Howard Tiersky
    Howard TierskyHoward Tiersky is an inspiring and passionate speaker, the Founder and CEO of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, innovation consultant, serial entrepreneur, and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. IDG named him one of the “10 Digital Transformation Influencers to Follow Today”, and Enterprise Management 360 named Howard “One of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers That Will Change Your World.”

  13. Dennis Stauffer
    Dennis StaufferDennis Stauffer is an author, independent researcher, and expert on personal innovativeness. He is the founder of Innovator Mindset LLC which helps individuals, teams, and organizations enhance and accelerate innovation success. by shifting mindset. Follow @DennisStauffer

  14. Stefan Lindegaard
    Stefan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is an author, speaker and strategic advisor. His work focuses on corporate transformation based on disruption, digitalization and innovation in large corporations, government organizations and smaller companies. Stefan believes that business today requires an open and global perspective, and his work takes him to Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia.

  15. Douglas Ferguson
    Douglas FergusonDouglas Ferguson is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist. He is the founder and president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based change agency that helps enterprises spark, accelerate, and sustain innovation. He specializes in helping teams work better together through participatory decision making and design inspired facilitation techniques.

  16. Teresa Spangler
    Teresa SpanglerTeresa Spangler is the CEO of PlazaBridge Group has been a driving force behind innovation and growth for more than 30 years. Today, she wears multiple hats as a social entrepreneur, innovation expert, growth strategist, author and speaker (not to mention mother, wife, band-leader and so much more). She is especially passionate about helping CEOs understand and value the role human capital plays in innovation, and the impact that innovation has on humanity; in our ever-increasing artificial/cyber world.

  17. Soren Kaplan
    Soren KaplanSoren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

  18. Steve Blank
    Steve BlankSteve Blank is an Adjunct Professor at Stanford and Senior Fellow for Innovation at Columbia University. He has been described as the Father of Modern Entrepreneurship, credited with launching the Lean Startup movement that changed how startups are built; how entrepreneurship is taught; how science is commercialized, and how companies and the government innovate.

  19. Diana Porumboiu
    Diana PorumboiuDiana heads marketing at Viima, the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software in the world, and has a passion for innovation, and for genuine, valuable content that creates long-lasting impact. Her combination of creativity, strategic thinking and curiosity has helped organisations grow their online presence through strategic campaigns, community management and engaging content.

  20. Robert B Tucker
    Robert TuckerRobert B. Tucker is the President of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.

  21. Dainora Jociute
    Dainora JociuteDainora (a.k.a. Dee) creates customer-centric content at Viima. Viima is the most widely used and highest rated innovation management software in the world. Passionate about environmental issues, Dee writes about sustainable innovation hoping to save the world – one article at the time.

  22. Accelerate your change and transformation success


  23. Arlen Meyers
    Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, an instructor at the University of Colorado-Denver Business School and cofounding President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameyers/

  24. Ayelet Baron
    Ayelet BaronAyelet Baron is a pioneering futurist reminding us we are powerful creators through award winning books, daily blog and thinking of what is possible. Former global tech executive who sees trust, relationships and community as our building blocks to a healthy world.

  25. Leo Chan
    Leo ChanLeo is the founder of Abound Innovation Inc. He’s a people and heart-first entrepreneur who believes everyone can be an innovator. An innovator himself, with 55 US patents and over 20 years of experience, Leo has come alongside organizations like Chick-fil-A and guided them to unleash the innovative potential of their employees by transforming them into confident innovators.

  26. Rachel Audige
    Rachel AudigeRachel Audige is an Innovation Architect who helps organisations embed inventive thinking as well as a certified Systematic Inventive Thinking Facilitator, based in Melbourne.

  27. Art Inteligencia
    Art InteligenciaArt Inteligencia is the lead futurist at Inteligencia Ltd. He is passionate about content creation and thinks about it as more science than art. Art travels the world at the speed of light, over mountains and under oceans. His favorite numbers are one and zero.

  28. Paul Sloane
    Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

  29. Phil McKinney
    Phil McKinneyPhil McKinney is the Author of “Beyond The Obvious”​, Host of the Killer Innovations Podcast and Syndicated Radio Show, a Keynote Speaker, President & CEO CableLabs and an Innovation Mentor and Coach.

  30. Ralph Christian Ohr
    Ralph OhrDr. Ralph-Christian Ohr has extensive experience in product/innovation management for international technology-based companies. His particular interest is targeted at the intersection of organizational and human innovation capabilities. You can follow him on Twitter @Ralph_Ohr.

  31. Jeffrey Phillips
    Jeffrey Phillips has over 15 years of experience leading innovation in Fortune 500 companies, federal government agencies and non-profits. He is experienced in innovation strategy, defining and implementing front end processes, tools and teams and leading innovation projects. He is the author of Relentless Innovation and OutManeuver. Jeffrey writes the popular Innovate on Purpose blog. Follow him @ovoinnovation

  32. Dean and Linda Anderson
    Dean and Linda AndersonDr. Dean Anderson and Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson lead BeingFirst, a consultancy focused on educating the marketplace about what’s possible in personal, organizational and community transformation and how to achieve them. Each has been advising clients and training professionals for more than 40 years.

  33. Get the Change Planning Toolkit


  34. Shilpi Kumar
    Shilpi KumarShilpi Kumar an inquisitive researcher, designer, strategist and an educator with over 15 years of experience, who truly believes that we can design a better world by understanding human behavior. I work with organizations to identify strategic opportunities and offer user-centric solutions.

  35. Scott Anthony
    Scott AnthonyScott Anthony is a strategic advisor, writer and speaker on topics of growth and innovation. He has been based in Singapore since 2010, and currently serves at the Managing Director of Innosight’s Asia-Pacific operations.

  36. Anthony Mills
    Anthony MillsAnthony Mills is the Founder & CEO of Legacy Innovation Group (www.legacyinnova.com), a world-leading strategic innovation consulting firm working with organizations all over the world. Anthony is also the Executive Director of GInI – Global Innovation Institute (www.gini.org), the world’s foremost certification, accreditation, and membership organization in the field of innovation. Anthony has advised leaders from around the world on how to successfully drive long-term growth and resilience through new innovation. Learn more at www.anthonymills.com. Anthony can be reached directly at anthony@anthonymills.com.

  37. Paul Hobcraft
    Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Follow @paul4innovating

  38. Jorge Barba
    Jorge BarbaJorge Barba is a strategist and entrepreneur, who helps companies build new puzzles using human skills. He is a global Innovation Insurgent and author of the innovation blog www.Game-Changer.net

  39. Chateau G Pato
    Chateau G PatoChateau G Pato is a senior futurist at Inteligencia Ltd. She is passionate about content creation and thinks about it as more science than art. Chateau travels the world at the speed of light, over mountains and under oceans. Her favorite numbers are one and zero.

  40. Jesse Nieminen
    Jesse NieminenJesse Nieminen is the Co-founder and Chairman at Viima, the best way to collect and develop ideas. Viima’s innovation management software is already loved by thousands of organizations all the way to the Global Fortune 500. He’s passionate about helping leaders drive innovation in their organizations and frequently writes on the topic, usually in Viima’s blog.

  41. Alain Thys
    Alain ThysAs an experience architect, Alain helps leaders craft customer, employee and shareholder experiences for profit, reinvention and transformation. He does this through his personal consultancy Alain Thys & Co as well as the transformative venture studio Agents of A.W.E. Together with his teams, Alain has influenced the experience of over 500 million customers and 350,000 employees. Follow his blog or connect on Linkedin.

  42. Bruce Fairley
    Bruce FairleyBruce Fairley is the CEO and Founder of The Narrative Group, a firm dedicated to helping C-Suite executives build enterprise value. Through smart, human-powered digital transformation, Bruce optimizes the business-technology relationship. His innovative profit over pitfalls approach and customized programs are part of Bruce’s mission to build sustainable ‘best-future’ outcomes for visionary leaders. Having spearheaded large scale change initiatives across four continents, he and his skilled, diverse team elevate process, culture, and the bottom line for medium to large firms worldwide.

  43. Tom Stafford
    Tom StaffordTom Stafford studies learning and decision making. His main focus is the movement system – the idea being that if we can understand the intelligence of simple actions we will have an excellent handle on intelligence more generally. His research looks at simple decision making, and simple skill learning, using measures of behaviour informed by the computational, robotics and neuroscience work done in the wider group.

If your favorite didn’t make the list, then next year try to rally more votes for them or convince them to increase the quality and quantity of their contributions.

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022

Download PDF versions of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020, 2021 and 2022 lists here:


Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020 PDF . . . Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2022 . . . Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2023

Happy New Year everyone!

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Harnessing the Scarcity Principle: Driving Innovation through Consumer Psychology

Harnessing the Scarcity Principle: Driving Innovation through Consumer Psychology

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s fast-evolving business landscape, innovation has become the lifeblood of success. In order to stay ahead of the competition, companies must continuously find new ways to captivate consumers and create lasting impact. One powerful strategy that businesses can employ is leveraging consumer psychology, specifically the scarcity principle. By understanding and harnessing this principle, companies can drive innovation and maintain a competitive edge. This article will explore the scarcity principle and its application in two compelling case studies, highlighting how it can be effectively utilized to spur innovation.

The Scarcity Principle:

The scarcity principle, rooted in human psychology, states that people perceive scarce resources as being more valuable and desirable. When a product or service is scarce or perceived as limited, it creates a sense of urgency and triggers a fear of missing out (FOMO). This psychological phenomenon drives consumers to take immediate action, leading to increased demand and a willingness to pay a premium.

Case Study 1: Apple and Limited Edition Products

Apple Inc. has mastered the art of harnessing the scarcity principle to drive innovation and maintain a fiercely dedicated consumer base. Their approach revolves around the strategic release of limited edition products. For instance, they frequently launch new iPhone models with specific color variations, available in limited quantities. This scarcity tactic generates enormous buzz and compels consumers to line up outside Apple stores, eager to get their hands on the exclusive product. By leveraging the scarcity principle, Apple continues to innovate and maintain remarkable consumer loyalty.

Case Study 2: Supreme and Streetwear Hype

Supreme, the iconic streetwear brand, has garnered a cult-like following by skillfully exploiting the scarcity principle. Their business model revolves around producing limited quantities of products and maintaining an aura of exclusivity. Supreme creates an air of frenzy through limited drops of apparel items and accessories, coupled with secretive release information. This meticulously crafted approach creates scarcity, leading to long queues outside their stores and an immediate sell-out of their products. The brand’s masterful utilization of the scarcity principle fuels innovation in every collection release.

Harnessing the Scarcity Principle for Innovation:

The scarcity principle can be harnessed beyond the release of limited edition products. Companies can tap into this psychological phenomenon to drive innovation across various aspects of their business.

1. Limited Time Offers: Implementing time-limited promotions or discounts can be an effective strategy to create a sense of urgency and drive sales. Businesses can offer exclusive deals to a limited number of customers or for a specific timeframe, leveraging scarcity to spur innovation in marketing tactics.

2. Membership Programs: Implementing a membership-based model with exclusive benefits can tap into consumers’ desire for exclusivity. By offering limited spots or restricted access to events, content, or perks, companies can foster innovation by continuously enhancing the membership experience.

Conclusion

Innovation is critical for businesses to thrive in the competitive marketplace. By understanding and harnessing the scarcity principle, companies can drive innovation through consumer psychology. The strategic application of scarcity can create a sense of urgency, trigger FOMO, and lead to increased demand and loyalty. Through case studies on Apple and Supreme, we observed how brands effectively employed the scarcity principle to maintain their competitive edge and inspire innovation. By implementing limited-time offers and membership programs, businesses can successfully leverage scarcity, fostering innovation across various facets of their operations. Embracing the scarcity principle allows companies to tap into the power of consumer psychology and take their innovation game to new heights.

SPECIAL BONUS: The very best change planners use a visual, collaborative approach to create their deliverables. A methodology and tools like those in Change Planning Toolkit™ can empower anyone to become great change planners themselves.

Image credit: Pexels

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Manage Every Moment

Manage Every Moment

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

I just heard an excellent motivational speaker, Antonio Neves, and one of his messages was called “The Last 30 Days.” He talked about visiting a marriage counselor with his wife, where they were asked to consider the question: Looking back over the last 30 days, if you asked your spouse to marry you again, would they say yes?

He then spun that question to business and specifically talked about employment. That version goes like this: Looking back over the last 30 days, would your boss rehire you?

When I do annual reviews of my team, one of the questions I ask myself is, “Based on the past year, would I be excited to hire this employee again?” It’s the same type of question. The point is that we validate our decisions based on our experiences in both our personal and professional lives.

So, let’s take it to the customer service and CX world. However, we aren’t going to look back for a year or even 30 days. We aren’t going to look back at all. We’re going to look at what’s happening right now, at this very moment. My version of this is what I refer to as the Loyalty Question: What am I doing right now that will make this customer want to do business with us again the next time they need what we sell?

Every interaction with a customer becomes your CX judgment day, especially when there is a problem or complaint. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve done business and how perfect the experience has been. The moment there is a negative issue, it becomes judgment day. Someone could have done business with you for 10 years, but when a problem or friction arises, that moment is your opportunity to earn the right to continue to do business with that customer for another 10 years.

The point of all these ideas – 30 days, one year, or even today – is about managing the moment, whether it be multiple moments over an extended period or the moment you’re experiencing right now. We must be focused and attentive to what’s happening at that moment. Jan Carlson, who I’ve written about and talked about since the beginning of my career, came up with the ultimate concept for successfully managing these interactions. He calls it the Moment of Truth, and this is how he defines it: Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression.

Manage every moment! These are the interactions that make our customers say, “I’ll be back!”

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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Don’t Waste Your Time Talking to Customers

(until you answer these 3 questions)

Don’t Waste Your Time Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You know that customer insights are important.

You spend time and money to collect customer insights. 

But are you using them?

And by “using,” I don’t mean summarizing, synthesizing, discussing, PowerPointing, and presenting the insights.  I mean making decisions, changing strategies, and rethinking plans based on them.

I posed this question to a few dozen executives.  The awkward silence spoke volumes.

Why do we talk to customers but not listen to them?

In a world of ever more constrained resources, why do we spend our limited time and money collecting insights that we don’t use meaningfully?

It seems wild to have an answer or an insight and not use it, especially if you spent valuable resources getting it.  Can you imagine your high school self paying $50 for the answer key to the final in your most challenging class, then crumpling it up, throwing it away, and deciding to just wing the exam?

But this isn’t an exam.  This is our job, profession, reputation, and maybe even identity.  We have experience and expertise.  We are problem solvers.

We have the answers (or believe that we do).

After all, customers can’t tell us what they want.  We’re supposed to lead customers to where they should be. Waiting for insights or changing decisions based on what customers think slows us down, and isn’t innovation all about “failing fast,” minimal viable products, and agility?

So, we talk to customers because we know we should. 

We use the answers and insights to ensure we have brilliant things to tell the bosses when they ask.

We also miss the opportunity to create something that changes the game.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

What do you NEED to learn?

It’s easy to rattle off a long list of things you want to learn from customers.  You probably also know the things you should learn from customers.  But what do you need to learn?

What do you need to know by the end of a conversation so that you can make a decision?

What is the missing piece in the puzzle that, without it, you can’t make progress?

What insight do you need so badly that you won’t end the conversation until you have it?

If the answer is “nothing,” why are you having the conversation?

Will you listen?

Hearing is the “process, function, or power of perceiving a sound,” while listening is “hearing things with thoughtful attention” and a critical first step in making a connection.  It’s the difference between talking to Charlie Brown’s teacher and talking to someone you care about deeply.  One is noise, the other is meaning.

You may hear everything in a conversation, but if you only listen to what you expect or want to hear, you’ll miss precious insights into situations, motivations, and social dynamics.

If you’re only going to listen to what you want to hear, why are you having the conversation?

Are you willing to be surprised?

We enter conversations to connect with others, and the best way to connect is to agree.  Finding common ground is exciting, comforting, and reassuring.  It’s great to meet someone from your hometown, who cheers for the same sports team, shares the same hobby, or loves the same restaurant.

When we find ourselves conversing with people who don’t share our beliefs, preferences, or experiences, our survival instincts kick in, and we fight, take flight, or (like my client) freeze.

But here’s the thing – you’re not being attacked by a different opinion. You’re being surprised by it. So, assuming you’re not under actual physical threat, are you willing to lean into the surprise, get curious, ask follow-up questions, and seek to understand it? 

If you’re not, why are you having the conversation?

Just because you should doesn’t mean you must.

You know that customer insights are important.

You spend time and money to collect customer insights. 

But are you using them to speed the path to product-market fit, establish competitive advantage, and create value?

If you’re not, why are you having the conversation?

Image Credit: Pexels

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Reinventing the Retail Store

Online orders are increasingly fulfilled through stores, making retailers much more efficient and competitive

Reinventing the Retail Store

GUEST POST from Howard Tiersky

I’ve worked with a lot of online retailers over the years, and a frequent question I’ve received is, “When you have physical stores and you also have an online presence, where should you be shipping goods from?”

In the early days, a lot of retailers were trying to ship from their stores because that’s where the merchandise was.

Further, these retailers didn’t necessarily have the infrastructure or process in their warehouses to ship directly to the consumer. Their warehouses were just for shipping goods to the store.

But when e-commerce started to take off in a major way and orders jumped, those retailers that we’d think of as traditional large brick and mortar stores started to do the vast majority of their e-commerce shipping from centralized distribution centers, so much so that some actually had quite different inventory from their stores.

As a result, there was a period where chains were shipping from centralized distribution centers for the most part.

In some cases, these chains didn’t even expose you to what was available in the store when ordering online.

BUY ONLINE, PICK UP IN THE STORE

After that, retailers started trying to show us alternatives.

“Buy online, pick up in the store” became increasingly prevalent, with retailers creating more integrated systems that allow us to see the online merchandise that may not be available in the store, as well as the store merchandise that might not be available online.

Some of the merchandise was available in both places, and you could at least see the full universe through these systems.

You would know if an item was carried in the retailers’ stores, then you could find out if your local store had it, buy it online, and arrange to pick it up there.

Once retailers got to that point, it became more and more logical to have the store ship at least some merchandise out, as they did in the early days.

And today, we’re seeing even more shipping from stores because e-commerce orders that are “order online, pick up in the store” have risen substantially with Covid.

With more and more orders being fulfilled this way, it’s imperative that stores are able to handle e-commerce effectively.

NEWFOUND ADVANTAGE

In fact, Best Buy reported recently that 60% of their e-commerce orders are either buy online, pick up in store or buy online, pick up curbside.

More than half of their online orders are not only being fulfilled through the store, but they’re actually being physically picked up at the store.

As physical retailers continue their effort to compete with Amazon, they realize that one of the assets that they have that Amazon does not have at that scale is a physical store location.

It makes sense to use this shift as an opportunity to either make it convenient to pick up items that are ordered online or even start to use stores as distribution hubs to permit faster delivery for items that are ordered to the home.

In their recent announcement, Best Buy also reported that of their thousand stores, they have designated 250 of them as distribution hubs.

This means that they will be using those stores not only as physical showrooms but also as fulfillment centers for e-commerce orders.

So if you order something on the Best Buy website, it’s increasingly likely to come from the back room of your local Best Buy.

DISRUPTIVE CHANGE

This shift is interesting because it’s not just Best Buy—we’re seeing it across the industry.

And when you have a lot of retailers repurposing their physical locations as e-commerce hubs, there are bound to be greater implications.

For one, this change is going to affect store design, as stores will need larger storage areas and shipping facilities.

As a result, the ratio of the back of the store to the front of the store will probably shift.

It may also make a shift in terms of how stores think about real estate.

A location that may not have been viable due to a lack of foot traffic may all of a sudden make sense if it’s in a convenient spot for pickup or in a central location that allows online orders to be distributed to a large geographic area.

In focusing more and more on fulfilling orders through their store locations, Best Buy may see additional, industry-specific benefits.

In the electronic space, we know that there are a lot of SKUs, and it’s hard to keep some items on stock, particularly the ones that are popular.

The opportunity to leverage not only the inventory at a warehouse or distribution center but all the inventory sitting in their stores expands Best Buy’s ability to provide a great customer experience.

Today’s top retailers are making sure that if they’ve got that new iPhone, or camera lens, or obscure cable, or whatever it is that you’re looking for anywhere in their ecosystem, they are going to find a way to get it to you one way or the other.

This article originally appeared on the Howard Tiersky blog
Image Credit: Unsplash

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Las Vegas Formula One

Successful Innovation, Learning Experience or Total Disaster?

GUEST POST from Pete Foley

In Las Vegas, we are now clearing up after the Formula 1 Grand Prix on the Strip.  This extremely complex event required a great deal of executional innovation, and one that I think as innovators, we can learn quite a lot from. 

It was certainly a bumpy ride, both for the multi-million dollar Ferrari that hit an errant drain cover during practice, but also with respect to broader preparation, logistics, pricing and projections of consumer behavior.  Despite this, race itself was exciting and largely issue free, and even won over some of the most skeptical drivers.  In terms of Kahneman’s peak-end effects, there were both memorable lows, but also a triumphant end result.   So did this ultimately amount to success?

Success?:   For now, I think it very much depends upon your perspective and who you talk to.  Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but in Las Vegas, the race was extremely polarizing, with often heated debates between pro- and anti- F1-ers that were often as competitive as the race.

The reality is that it will be months, or more likely years before the dust settles, and we know the answer.  And I strongly suspect that even then, those who are for and against it will all likely be able to claim support for their point of view.  One insight I think innovators can take from this is that success can be quite subjective in of itself, and greatly depends upon what factors you measure, what period of time you measure over, and often your ingoing biases.  And the bigger and more complex the innovation, often the harder it is to define and measure success.  

Compromise Effects:  When you launch a new product, it is often simpler and cheaper to measure its success narrowly in terms of specific dollar contribution to your business. But this often misses its holistic impact.   Premium products can elevate an entire category or brand, while poorly executed innovations can do the opposite.  For example, the compromise effect from Behavioral Economics suggests that a premium addition to a brand line up can shift the ‘Good, Better, Best’ spectrum of a category upwards.  This can boost dollar sales across a line up, even if the new premium product itself has only moderate sales.   For example, the addition of high priced wines to a menu can often increase the average dollars per bottle spent by diners, even if the expensive wine itself doesn’t sell.  The expensive wines shift the ‘safe middle’ of the consideration set upwards, and thus increase revenue, and hopefully profit.      

Money, Scope and Intangibles:  In the case of F1, how far can and should we cast the net when trying to measure success?  Can we look just at the bottom line?  Did this specific weekend bring in more than the same weekend the previous year in sports betting, rooms and entertainment?  Did that difference exceed the investments? 

Or is that too narrow?  What about the $$ impact on the weeks surrounding the event?  We know that some people stayed away because of the construction and congestion in the lead up to the race.  That should probably be added into, or subtracted from the equation. 

And then there’s the ‘who won and who lost question’? The benefits and losses were certainly not homogeneous across stakeholders.  The big casinos benefited disproportionately in comparison to the smaller restaurants that lost business due to construction, some to a degree that almost rivaled Covid.  Gig workers also fared differently. I have friends who gained business from the event, and friends who lost.  Many Uber drivers simply gave up and stopped working. But those who stayed, or the high-end limo drivers likely had bumper weekends.   Entertainers working shows that were disrupted by F1 lost out, but the plethora of special events that came with F1 also provided a major uptick in business for many performers and entertainers.

There is also substantial public investment to consider.  Somewhat bizarrely, the contribution of public funds was not agreed prior to the race, and the public-private cost sharing of tens of millions is still being negotiated.  But even facing that moving target, did increased (or decreased) tax income before, during and after the race offset those still to be determined costs?

Intangibles:  And then there’s the intangibles.  While Vegas is not exactly an unknown entity, F1 certainly upped its exposure, or in marketing terms, it’s mental availability.   It brought Vegas into the news, but was that in a positive or negative light?  Or is all publicity good publicity in this context? News coverage was mixed, with a lot of negative focus on the logistic issues, but also global coverage of what was generally regarded as an exciting race.   And of course, that media coverage also by definition marketed other businesses, including the spectacular Sphere. 

Logistics:  Traffic has been a nightmare with many who work on the strip facing unprecedented delays in their commutes for many weeks, with many commutes going from minutes to hours.   This reached a point where casinos were raffling substantial prizes, including a Tesla, just to persuade people to not call in sick.  Longer term, it’s hard to determine the impact on employee morale and retention, but its hard to imagine that it will be zero, and that brings costs of its own that go well beyond a raffled Tesla

Measuring Success?  In conclusion, this was a huge operation, and its impact by definition is going to be multidimensional.  The outcome was, not surprisingly, a mixed bag.  It could have been a lot better, or a lot worse. And even as the dust settles, it’s likely that different groups will be able to cherry pick data to support their current opinions and biases. 

Innovation Insights:  So what are some of the more generalized innovation insights we can draw?

(a) Innovation is rarely a one and done process.   We rarely get it right first time, and the bigger and more complex an innovation is, the more we usually have to learn.  F1 is the poster child for this, and the organization is going to have an enormous amount of data to plough through. The value of this will greatly depend on F1’s internal innovation culture.  Is it a learning organization?  In a situation like this, where billions of dollars, and careers are on the line, will it be open or defensive?  Great innovation organizations mostly put defensiveness aside, actively learn from mistakes, and adopt Devils Advocate approaches to learn from hard earned data. But culture is deeply embedded, and difficult to change, so much depends on the current culture of the organizations involved.  

(b) Going Fast versus Going Slow:  This project moved very, very quickly.  Turning a city like Las Vegas from scratch into a top of the line race track in less than a year was a massive challenge.  The upside is that if you go fast, you learn fast.  And the complexity of the task meant much of the insight could pragmatically only be achieved ‘on the ground’.  But conversely, better scenario planning might have helped anticipate some of the biggest issues, especially around traffic disruption, loss of business to smaller organizations, commuting issues and community outreach.  And things like not finalizing public-private contracts prior to execution will likely end up prolonging the agony.  Whatever our innovation is, big or small, hitting that sweet spot between winging it and over-thinking is key. 

(c) Understanding Real Consumer Behavior.  The casinos got pricing horribly wrong.  When the race was announced, hotel prices and race packages for the F1 weekend went through the roof.  But in the final run up to the race, prices for both rooms and the race itself plummeted.  One news article reported a hotel room on the strip as low as $18!  Tickets for the race that the previous month had cost $1600 had dropped to $800 or less on race day.  Visitors who had earlier paid top dollar for rooms were reported to be cancelling and rebooking, while those locked into rates were frustrated.  There is even a major lawsuit in progress around a cancelled practice.  I don’t know any details around how pricing was researched, and predicting the market for a new product or innovation is always a challenge.  In addition, the bigger the innovation, the more challenging the prediction game is, as there are less relevant anchors for consumers or the business to work from.   But I think the generalizable lesson for all innovators is to be humble.  Assume you don’t know, that your models are approximate, do as much research as you can in contexts that are a close to realistic as possible, don’t squeeze margins based on unrealistic expectations for the accuracy of business models, and build as much agility into innovation launches as possible.  Easier said than done I know, but one of the most consistent reasons for new product failure is over confidence in understanding real consumer response when the rubber hits the road (pun intended), and how it can differ from articulated consumer response derived in unrealistic contexts. Focus groups and on-line surveys can be quite misleading when it comes down to the reality of handing over hard cash, opportunity cost, or how we value ur precious time short versus long-term term.

Conclusion: Full disclosure, I’ve personally gone through the full spectrum with Formula One in Vegas.  I loved the idea when it was announced, but 6 months of construction, disruption, and the prospect of another two months of tear down have severely dented my enthusiasm.  Ultimately I went from coveting tickets to avoiding the event altogether.  People I know range from ecstatic to furious, and everything in between.  Did I mention it was polarizing? 

The reality is that this is an ongoing innovation process.   There is a 3-year contract with options to extend to 10 years.  How successful it ultimately is will likely be very dependent upon how good a learning and innovation culture Formula One and its partners are, or can become.  It’s a steep and expensive learning curve, and how it moves forward is going to be interesting if nothing else.  And being Vegas, we have both CES and the Super Bowl to distract us in the next few months, before we start preparing again for next year. 

Image credits: Pexels

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LEGO Knows Why Companies Don’t Innovate

LEGO Knows Why Companies Don't Innovate

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“Lego’s Latest Effort to Avoid Oil-Based Plastic Hits Brick Wall” – WSJ

“Lego axes plans to make bricks from recycled bottles” – BBC

“Lego ditches oil-free brick in sustainability setback” – The Financial Times

Recently, LEGO found itself doing the Walk of Atonement (see video below) after announcing to The Financial Times that it was scrapping plans to make bricks from recycled bottles, and media outlets from The Wall Street Journal to Fast Company to WIRED were more than happy to play the Shame Nun.

And it wasn’t just media outlets ringing the Shame Bell:

  • In the future, they should not make these kinds of announcements (prototype made from recyclable plastic) until they actually do it,” Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics
  • They are not going to survive as an organization if they don’t find a solution,” Paolo Taticchi, corporate sustainability expert at University College London.
  • “Lego undoubtedly had good intentions, but if you’re going to to (sic) announce a major environmental initiative like this—one that affects the core of your company—good intentions aren’t enough. And in this instance, it can even undermine progress.” Jesus Diaz, creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, writing forFast Company

As a LEGO lover, I am not unbiased, but WOW, the amount of hypocritical, self-righteous judgment is astounding!  All these publications and pundits espouse the need for innovation, yet when a company falls even the tiniest bit short of aspirations, it’s just SHAME (clang) SHAME (clang) SHAME.

LEGO Atlantis 8073 Manta Warrior (i.e., tiny) bit of context

In 1946, LEGO founder Ole Kirk Christiansen purchased Denmark’s first plastic injection molding machine.  Today, 95% of the company’s 4,400 different bricks are made using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a plastic that requires 4.4 pounds of oil to produce 2.2 pounds of brick.  Admittedly, it’s not a great ratio, and it gets worse.  The material isn’t biodegradable or easily recyclable, so when the 3% of bricks not handed down to the next generation end up in a landfill, they’ll break down into highly polluting microplastics.

With this context, it’s easy to understand why LEGO’s 2018 announcement that it will move to all non-plastic or recycled materials by 2030 and reduce its carbon emissions by 37% (from 2019’s 1.2 million tons) by 2032 was such big news.

Three years later, in 2021, LEGO announced that its prototype bricks made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles offered a promising alternative to its oil-based plastic bricks. 

But last Monday, after two years of testing, the company shared that what was promising as a prototype isn’t possible at scale because the process required to produce PET-based bricks actually increases carbon emissions.

SHAME!

LEGO Art World Map (i.e. massive) amount of praise for LEGO

LEGO is doing everything that innovation theorists, consultants, and practitioners recommend:

  • Setting a clear vision and measurable goals so that people know what the priorities are (reduce carbon emissions), why they’re important (“playing our part in building a sustainable future and creating a better world for our children to inherit”), and the magnitude of change required
  • Defining what is on and off the table in terms of innovation, specifically that they are not willing to compromise the quality, durability, or “clutch power” of bricks to improve sustainability
  • Developing a portfolio of bets that includes new materials for products and packaging, new services to keep bricks out of landfills and in kids’ hands, new building and production processes, and active partnerships with suppliers to reduce their climate footprint
  • Prototyping and learning before committing to scale because what is possible at a prototype level is different than what’s possible at pilot, which is different from what’s possible at scale.
  • Focusing on the big picture and the long-term by not going for the near-term myopic win of declaring “we’re making bricks from more sustainable materials” and instead deciding “not to progress” with something that, when taken as a whole process, moves the company further away from its 2032 goal.

Just one minifig’s opinion

If we want companies to innovate (and we do), shaming them for falling short of perfection is the absolute wrong way to do it.

Is it disappointing that something that seemed promising didn’t work out?  Of course.  But it’s just one of many avenues and experiments being pursued.  This project ended, but the pursuit of the goal hasn’t.

Is 2 years a long time to figure out that you can’t scale a prototype and still meet your goals?  Maybe.  But, then again, it took P&G 10 years to figure out how to develop and scale a perforation that improved one-handed toilet paper tearing.

Should LEGO have kept all its efforts and success a secret until everything was perfect and ready to launch?  Absolutely not.  Sharing its goals and priorities, experiments and results, learnings and decisions shows employees, partners, and other companies what it means to innovate and lead.

Is LEGO perfect? No.

Is it trying to be better? Yes.

Isn’t that what we want?

Image Credit: Pixabay

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The Best Way to Impress Your Customers

The Best Way to Impress Your Customers

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

We have the privilege and honor of working with some amazing clients. One of them asked us to work with her team on a customer experience initiative that included every company employee. One of the regular assignments for employees there is to share examples of how they created a Moment of Magic® for a customer or colleague. They do short write-ups and share them with their managers. Here is a great example of the power of this exercise.

The client is a travel company and had a VIP client that had worked with them for more than 20 years. His agent, Katie, referred to as a relationship manager, made a hotel reservation for a trip to Europe to work on a very important court case.

Katie decided to surprise him with a unique gift that she knew would have more impact than a bottle of champagne or a bottle of wine, which is the typical room gift her agency sent her VIP clients. Instead, she arranged for a pair of boxing gloves to be placed in his hotel room when he arrived with a note saying, “Knock them out!”

The client wrote Katie a thank-you note:

I had a busy day, as you would expect, but this is the most thoughtful and creative present I have ever received. And after a long day, I can’t stop laughing. They (the gloves) are going in a glass box and will be kept in my house with your card, so I can look at it every time I have a fight on my hands. Katie, you have no idea how this made me feel. Thank you!

Wow! The client referred to this as “the most thoughtful and creative present” he had ever received!

There are several lessons here:

1. Surprise Appreciation – It’s nice to surprise a customer with a gift for the right reason. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it needs to show you care. It just has to be unexpected, appreciated and memorable.

2. Make it Unique – It’s customary for travel agencies to send clients a surprise welcome gift in their hotel room. It’s usually a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine or something the hotel can provide. This gift was unique and, at the same time, very appropriate. It’s doubtful that Katie will send a pair of boxing gloves to a client again – unless there is a perfect reason to do so.

3. The Note Is Important – Katie’s note was just three words, but they were the right three words. It proves Katie was listening to her customer. That’s why her title is “relationship manager.”

Gifts don’t have to be extravagant to impress. They have to be appropriate and meaningful. If you want to learn more about how to properly gift your customers, read this article about my friend John Ruhlin and his book Giftology.

Image Credits: Pexels, Shep Hyken

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Avoid These Four Myths While Networking Your Organization

Avoid These Four Myths While Networking Your Organization

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In an age of disruption, everyone has to adapt eventually. However, the typical organization is ill-suited to change direction. Managers spend years—and sometimes decades—working to optimize their operations to deliver specific outcomes and that can make an organization rigid in the face of a change in the basis of competition.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the idea of a networked organizations have come into vogue. While hierarchies tend to be rigid, networks are highly adaptable and almost infinitely scalable. Unfortunately, popular organizational schemes such as matrixed management and Holacracy have had mixed results, at best.

The truth is that networks have little to do with an organization chart and much more to do with how informal connections form in your organization, especially among lower-level employees. In fact, coming up with a complex scheme is likely to do little more than cause a lot of needless confusion. Here are the myths you need to avoid.

Myth #1: You Need To Restructure Your Organization

In the early 20th century, the great sociologist Max Weber noted that the sweeping industrialization taking place would lead to a change in how organizations operated. As cottage industries were replaced by large enterprises, leadership would have to become less traditional and focused on charismatic leaders and more organized and rational.

He also foresaw that jobs would need to be broken down into small, specific tasks and be governed by a system of hierarchy, authority and responsibility. This would require a more formal mode of organization—a bureaucracy—in which roles and responsibilities were clearly defined. Later, executives such as Alfred Sloan at General Motors perfected the model.

Most enterprises are still set up this way because it remains the most efficient way to organize tasks. It aligns authority with accountability and optimizes information flow. Everybody knows where they stand and what they are responsible for. Organizational restructures are painful and time consuming because they disrupt and undermine the normal workflow.

In fact, reorganizations can backfire if they cut informal ties that don’t show up on the organization chart. So a better path is to facilitate informal ties so that people can coordinate work that falls in between organizational boundaries. In his book One Mission, McChrystal Group President Chris Fussell calls this a “hybrid organization.”

Myth #2 You Have To Break Down Silos

In 2005, researchers at Northwestern University took on the age old question: “What makes a hit on Broadway.” They looked at all the normal stuff you would imagine to influence success, such as the production budget, the marketing budget and the track record of the director. What they found, however, was surprising.

As it turns out, the most important factor was how the informal networks of the cast and crew were structured. If nobody had ever worked together before, results were poor, but if too many people had previously worked together, results also suffered. It was in the middle range, where there was both familiarity and disruption, that produced the best results.

Notice how the study doesn’t mention anything about the formal organization of the cast and crew. Broadway productions tend to have very basic structures, with a director leading the creative team, a producer managing the business side and others heading up things like music, choreography and so on. That makes it easy for a cast and crew to set up, because everyone knows their place.

The truth is that silos exist because they are centers of capability. Actors work with actors. Set designers work with set designers and so on. So instead of trying to break down silos, you need to start thinking about how to connect them. In the case of the Broadways plays, that was done through previous working relationships, but there are other ways to achieve the same goal.

Myth #3: You Need To Identify Influentials, Hubs And Bridges

In Malcolm Gladwell’s breakaway bestseller The Tipping Point, he wrote “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts,” which he called “The Law of the Few.” Before long, it seemed like everybody from marketers to organizational theorists were looking to identify a mysterious group of people called “influentials.”

Yet as I explain in Cascades, decades of empirical evidence shows that influentials are a myth. While it is true that some people are more influential than others, their influence is highly contextual and not significant enough to go to the trouble of identifying them. Also, a study that analyzed the emails of 60,000 people found that information does not need rely on hubs or bridges.

With that said, there are a number of ways to network your organization by optimizing organizational platforms for connection. For example, Facebook’s Engineering Bootcamp found that “bootcampers tend to form bonds with their classmates who joined near the same time and those bonds persist even after each has joined different teams.”

One of my favorite examples of how even small tweaks can improve connectivity is a project done at a bank’s call center. When it was found that a third of variation in productivity could be attributed to informal communication outside of meetings, the bank arranged for groups to go on coffee break together, increasing productivity by as much as 20% while improving employee satisfaction at the same time.

Myth #4: Networks Don’t Need Leadership

Perhaps the most damaging myth about networks is that they don’t need strong leadership. Many observers have postulated that because technology allows people to connect with greater efficiency, leaders are no longer critical to organizing work. The reality is that nothing can be further from the truth.

The fact is that it is small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose that drive change. While individuals can form loosely connected small groups, they can rarely form a shared purpose by themselves. So the function of leadership these days is less to plan and direct action than it is to empower and inspire belief.

So perhaps the biggest shift is not one of tactics, but of mindset. In traditional hierarchies, information flows up through the organization and orders flow down. That helps leaders maintain control, but it also makes the organization slow to adapt and vulnerable to disruption.

Leaders need to learn how to facilitate information flow through horizontal connections so people lower down in the organization can act on it without waiting for approval. That’s where shared purpose comes in. Without a common purpose and shared values, pushing decision making down will only result in chaos. It’s much easier to get people to do what you want if they already want what you want.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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