Winning retail: The characteristics of industry leaders

By Luke Griffiths, General Manager at Klarna UK

Retail thrives on innovation, and new technology implementation and adoption in particular is critical to surviving in today’s competitive retail environment. It’s no longer an option for retailers to stand on the sidelines as others take the first step into discovering the next big thing.

In a recent white paper Klarna produced in association with Internet Retailing, we investigated some of the key qualities that retail leaders possess, and which are integral to success. Here’s what we found:

Fortune favors the bold

Bravery is crucial. Leaders must think outside the box and be prepared to do something different and new to make sure that they keep pace with their customers’ wants and needs.

First mover advantage is huge, particularly in the crowded retail space. Not only does it mean that they’re entering a market with no existing competition (meaning there’s a huge customer base there for the taking), it also enables them to create behaviours rather than having to follow a model that may not fit their business.

Key to success lies in recognising the need for change and keeping a constant focus on ‘could do better’ – seeing how they can improve their services to appeal to existing, as well as would-be customers.

Think outside the box

Possibly the most important characteristic of a retail leader is that they have a thirst for innovation.

Today, where consumers can turn towards competitors at the click of a button, you need to innovate to stay relevant. With game-changing technologies like mobile wallets, augmented reality and virtual reality reshaping the retail landscape, merchants must stay on top of tech and work out which products will give their customers a better shopping experience.

But while innovation is key to success and staying relevant for today’s consumers, retailers mustn’t innovate just for the sake of it. Instead, any new technology has to solve a customer problem. Retailers must understand the importance of focusing on the basics first – such as user experience and payments – before turning to more flashy technology such as smart mirrors or AR.

Being inspirational is integral

While driving innovation is vital, retail leaders must remember that it will only stick if it’s embraced by the business as a whole.

Success will only happen if employees at all levels are engaged and involved, and the entire organisation is part of the journey of change. Empowering employees to make decisions, show initiative and propel innovation will help drive change and yield significant dividends.

Change isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It relies on a host of different factors including anticipating and understanding the need for change, bravery to make change happen, and a big dose of collaboration to see it through. These are the secrets for success.

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