Steffan Aquarone

Steff is a film producer and technology entrepreneur who speaks internationally on innovation, entrepreneurship and digital marketing

If only the High Street could understand innovation

I remember being distinctly underwhelmed by a recent talk by someone with a fancypants innovation title in a major high street retail group. It sounded like ‘innovation’ was shorthand for’ interruption’. Tricks and charlatans do attract people to the fair, but circuses come and go and I doubt whether even Barnham and Baily worried about loyalty.

It’s obvious that few retail startups would invest in physical estate so if you’re running a big national retailer looking to give people a reason to come to your store, why not try some of these free ideas:

1. Get rid of the merchandising and turn your shop into a learning and discovery centre for customers. Make sure the wifi is free and the coffee good.

2. Bring other real world services people need under your roof – parcel collection, ID verification, childcare. Ann Summers could do with sex therapy what Boots did with dispensary services. And on a topical subject for today: it beats me why on earth banks haven’t cottoned on to offering free financial advice seminars and drop-in sessions.

3. Offer on-site repairs. Sending precious personal kit away for 2 weeks – or binning it altogether – is surely a thing of the past for commercial as well as environmental reasons.

4. Try paying twice as much for store staff and see whether this gives customers a reason to come in rather than trawl the abyss of opinions online.

5. Use mobile to bring the benefits of the web to the real-world that even heavy web users enjoy. But make sure the experience is beautifully crafted and the mobile experience truly value-adding.

6. Shut it all down and move online. Although a start-up, you’ll have the advantage of existing brand awareness and customer data. The poor people at Comet all lost their jobs in the end anyway- I wonder how many of them would still be employed if they’d cut-and-run online sooner.

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