Why Co-Creation is Your Ticket to Success in the New Retail Economy
The new retail economy, spurred by a digital revolution that has put the power in the hands of consumers, has created an ever-widening chasm between the way we shop as consumers and the way we work as retailers and suppliers. The new standard — social, tribal, digital and instantaneous — has traditional retailers struggling to stand out, capture consumer attention and ring up sales.
With more and more digital players in the industry, it will only get more difficult for retailers to differentiate themselves. Therefore, how can retailers stand out in a crowded landscape? According to a recent IDC survey of retailers, it’s time to go back to the basics and focus on making great products. Fifty-eight percent of retailers believe product innovation is the key to success, which is driving retailers and suppliers to focus on creating the next big thing.
The New Retail Economy: How to Survive Under the Pressure
Consumers are spending, but regardless of the channel they use, they will only choose to put their hard-earned dollars toward products they really want. For example, an apparel brand offering brightly colored T-shirts when the market is craving flowy, neutral-colored, off-the-shoulder tops won’t attract fashionistas who are ready to spend.
Accurately predicting market trends, understanding what consumers want and incorporating these assessments into the development of high-quality, low-production-cost products is a difficult task. To get it right, retailers need to reinvent their approach to creating products — stop thinking so linearly about development and instead take a page from social media sharing models.
Crowdsourced inspiration means being able to better stay on top of trends and leads, and form innovative products with the input of the entire retail community, including partners, suppliers, designers, agents and mills.
What Does This Collaborative Development Model Look Like?
Let’s say a retailer’s apparel designer is inspired by the peonies in her garden, so she snaps a photo and shares it as an idea for the next design. Her colleagues can offer their insight. Soft pinks and purples would work best to achieve the right overall aesthetic for the current market demand, the fit should be flowy to stay on trend, and the flowers themselves should be on the smaller side to avoid ending up with a shirt that looks like it’s straight out of the seventies. At the same time, suppliers can chime in and offer their take on which fabrics would work best to ensure quality and explain how different fabric options will impact the overall cost. Ultimately, the retailer is left with a unique design that's on trend, good quality and priced right.
Co-creating with an entire retail community allows for broad idea sharing, and involves the different stakeholders in the development process right from the start. This approach offers a multitude of business benefits, but most importantly, the design-to-delivery window is dramatically shortened by speeding the timeline between inspiration and product in-market, saving both time and money. It’s a model that not only works for consumers, who get a product they actually want to buy, but also allows retailers to bring a bit of passion and excitement back into the creative process, which is likely why they got into the business to begin with.
Retail isn’t dying, but it's certainly changing. While more traditional brick-and-mortar stores may lose ground to digital players, the real winners in retail will be those that focus on the most basic elements of customer experience: offering a great, unique product consumers can’t get anywhere else. Through co-creation, retailers can more easily and efficiently develop the types of products that will help them be successful in the new retail economy.
Sue Welch is chief executive officer of Bamboo Rose, a digital B-to-B marketplace for product and supply chain management.