Innovating Outside the (Retail) Box

We all aspire to find ways to break new ground. To help our companies innovate. We look for new paths to find that place no one in our industry has gone. Sometimes, innovating is the difference between thriving and barely surviving.

Great ideas come from unexpected places. Sometimes someone in IT comes up with the best idea, so that’s the one that should be pursued.  That philosophy should be applied on all levels. For established brands in mature markets, that means looking for inspiration in industries outside your own.

That brings us to benchmarking. Not familiar? Benchmarking is comparing your business to practices and achievements in similar businesses. It’s smart business. It’s also a powerful tool for innovation. Now, if you limit your benchmarking to within your industry, it can quickly become a constraint for you and your team.

Thinking outside normal industry-specific paradigms opens you to opportunities previously unseen, keeps you ahead competitors, and perhaps even staves off disruption. Let’s take a look at three examples of successful out-of-industry benchmarking.

Southwest Airlines became one of the most effective operators in the USA by reducing its turnaround times at airport terminals. The inspiration came not just from studying its direct competitors, but from Formula 1 pit crews. It takes other airlines up to an hour to refuel a plane. It takes Southwest just 12 minutes, helping them reduce costs and improve turnaround times.

What do you think of when you think of Panera Bread? If it’s only soup & sandwiches, you’re missing the picture. The fast-casual lunch spot is taking a page out of Starbucks’ playbook and repositioning its newer stores as third spaces.

According to Forbes, Panera is adding dedicated spaces where customers can sip coffee while typing away on their laptops, host meetings, and hang out. That, combined with aggressively implementing technologies like mobile ordering, have helped revenue grow 5.3% across all stores, according to their Q1 earnings report.

Famously, when Apple set out to create brick and mortar retail stores, it ignored the big box traditions of Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Sears. It sought to design an experience that would be an exemplar of the brand—personal, seamless, and more than a little bit glossy. So it looked to the hospitality industry for inspiration (talk about Ritz-y.)

Employees are taught to value the customer experience above all else, all in an effort to build brand loyalty. The result? Apple Stores have the highest sales per sq. ft. in the world, at $5,546 The next best is Murphy USA, at $3,721 per sq. ft.

What this means is that you can find solutions not only in other industries or spaces but also in non-digital experiences.

This approach can be incredibly challenging from a mindset point of view. It requires thinking abstractly about the problem, separating it into more modular pieces that can be used as common elements to create bridges with completely different spaces.

Thankfully, this is exactly Zemoga’s expertise. Need help rethinking processes and re-building your product to take advantage of your newfound strategy? Please reach out.