Innovation in store brands - more than just design

All retailers say they want innovation. But very few really translate the desire into an achievable strategy and execution that ultimately means something real to the consumer.

An electric car is innovation. An autonomous delivery vehicle is innovation. Streaming high quality video is innovation. iPhones were innovation years ago. iPhones 8 and 10 are not. Sustainable seafood is innovation. Compostable coffee pods are innovation. Non-plastic shopping bags are innovation. Meal Kits are innovation. Pink KitKat is not. Slimmer cans of Coke are not. Cans of sparkling flavored water with messages like “Yo” and “Love at first phssst” are not. I could go on.

Re-designing the package is not necessarily innovation but many think it is and get caught in the trap of thinking spending a lot of money on new design as well as a lot of marketing expense will re-vitalize flagging sales. In some instances, this can be true, but in most, putting lipstick on a pig does not solve the problem of being a pig…you know the story.

So where do we really find innovation and how do we get there? And who are we targeting? And what resources do we have in our organization?

My focus in this blog is on the area of developing products that represent seeing change in our offering to the new demanding and developing consumer. Everyone is after the new millennial consumer, the emerging Gen Z and the existing Boomer. But most are not sure of the roadmap to get to them.

One of my most favorite retailers recently launched their own store brand “Cricket Powder”. No, this is not a product to improve the grip on the bat and ball! This is, at retail, a real revolution that exemplifies the results of close collaboration between innovative and entrepreneurial manufacturer and a retailer that really understands product development for their target consumers.

It may not sell. But it may. But this is true innovation from which so many lessons will be learnt. A new product which in many different forms has the potential to replace traditional protein and able to be produced in a very environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. Not only is it high in good “stuff”, with great nutritional value and benefit. It is versatile; it replaces meat protein and addresses much of the extreme negativity that we are learning to associate with the production of meat. It has a myriad of uses from snacking to baking to drinks to ingredients as replacement for meat protein and for feeding farmed fish and other animal life. All these channels and uses add up to what millions of people around the globe already know. That insects are good food and feed!

So how do we translate the innovation of Cricket Powder to our businesses?

If we look at the basics of great retailing, we need to examine every aspect of our business. From farm to fork, from manufacture to merchandise, from customer to consumption and from taste to trust.

Taking the lesson of how this retailer got to launching a retail package of Cricket Powder and adapting that path of idea to product gives us all the opportunity to apply this to every aspect of our business.

If we examine every key area of retailing from supply to merchandising, staffing, store operation, quality management, product development, store format, corporate social responsibility and customer engagement and then we ask our teams to give us three “Cricket Powder” equivalents in terms of innovative actions, we would be looking at a real opportunity to move our business ahead at a far faster rate than in simply embarking on a brand and package re-design. And do we ever need speed?!

The speed of change in our industry is too fast for many to swallow. Click and Collect to one or two hour home delivery has taken three years.

Fully automated shopping and checkout has been 3-4 years in development. And now there will be trials for 3-5 retailers in competition with the original version in as little as 6-12 months.

Aldi has taken 40 years to get to 1800 stores in the US. Who even knew they were there? Lidl has just arrived. Watch this space.

Aldi took almost 30 years to grow to 600 stores in the UK. Lidl passed that number in less than 25. And in Australia, Aldi reached almost 600 stores in 16 years!

Store closures are fast and furious in many countries. Woe betide any of us that are sitting on yesterday’s systems to manage our future.

Using the methodology of S4RB’s One Team, One View through their Affinity ™ Platform to increase the resources of the retailer’s internal team to deliver faster and better information is an important consideration.  Vastly improved transparency and collaboration delivers a significant advantage towards becoming a truly innovative business.

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Tags: Customer experience, Product development, Packaging innovation

Tom Stephens

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