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At the 2015 SAP Retail Forum, Matt Laukaitis, senior vice president and general manager for United States retail at SAP, led a panel discussion on staying Relentlessly Relevant: Spotting the Trends and Out-Innovating the Competition.

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Laukaitis (far right) started by asking the panel how to make innovation real. Sahal Laher (third from left), executive vice president and CIO at Brooks Brothers, noted how critical it is to align innovation to strategy. He said Brooks Brothers set up an innovation lab with a cross functional team that represents all parts of the business. They created formal processes and governance around idea generation and innovation initiatives. Laher said not all ideas are going to be successful. Try the ones that best align to strategy and have executive buy-in, fail fast and move on to the next one. Finding a winning idea is worth it.

Tony Fross (second from right), vice president, Digital Transformation Services at CapGemini Consulting, added that organizations need to clearly define innovation in their own terms. What innovation is and where it is needed most is different for each organization. He also pointed out that innovation doesn’t just happen. It is the outcome of disciplined experimentation. Time and commitment are required to reap rewards.

Vicki Cantrell (second from right), senior vice president at NRF Shop.org, said it’s easy for retailers to get caught up in panic mode because there is always a sense of urgency around what a brand could or should be doing.  It’s important for brands to stay true to their core and align innovation efforts directly to the products or services they deliver to consumers.

Panelists also discussed future trends in retail. They said new in-store technology, the rapid shift to mobile devices, and new retail business models are driving change. Solutions like beacons allow retailers to connect and communicate with consumers in stores via their mobile device as they browse the isles. This is key to making in-store offers highly personal, contextual, and real-time, like they are when shopping online.

Laher pointed out that retailers like Amazon are setting the bar very high when it comes to convenience, a simple user experience, and fast fulfillment. As a result, retailers must stay focused on supply chain innovation, in addition to consumer facing innovation, to ensure they can deliver the immediate gratification that consumers have grown to expect. A customer will soon forget a great ordering experience if product delivery is slow or incorrect.

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Noted author and entrepreneur, Josh Linkner (left) moderated the next keynote, Transforming and Reimagining Retail – The Incredible Success of the Honest Company, featuring Jessica Alba (center), actress, author, and co-founder of The Honest Company, and Brian Lee (right), CEO and also co-founder of The Honest Company.

Founded in 2012, The Honest Company’s mission is to be a trusted resource for safe, effective, accessible, and stylish non-toxic family and household products. In just under four years, the company has grown to US$1.7 billion in value, making it a great example of entrepreneurial growth. With a customer-centric strategy and focus on innovation, the brands popularity and value continues to rise.

Alba said she was inspired by her daughter to start the business and is very hands-on in the day to day activities. When it comes to innovation, she says to look forward, not sideways. Lee said the company culture is based on strong beliefs. Belief in a cleaner, safer, and healthier world and belief in each other.

Such rapid growth proves that consumers also believe in The Honest Company and its products. Both Alba and Lee said their goal is to get The Honest Company’s products and values into as many homes as possible to help make a difference in the world.

Throughout these sessions, and others at the SAP Retail Forum, similar messages emerged: mobile has and will continue to dictate how consumers interact with brands; real-time data and agile supply chains are critical to compete and meet consumer expectations; and consumers care about what a brand stands for and what it’s doing to make the world a better place.


Related content:

SAP Retail Forum 2015 (#SAPRF15): Opening Keynote Highlights

SAP Retail Forum 2015 (#SAPRF15): The Intelligent Retail Enterprise

Brooks Brothers Closes In on Omnichannel Retail

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