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How to build your own innovation hub

Chris Field
Chris Field

Unless, like Amazon, you have $13 billion lying around to spend on R&D each year, clearly you need another strategy for bringing innovation into your business.

You might think Amazon is sharing, but it really isn’t – it scours the world for the best of what it needs, and works with it until it becomes part of its heart; there aren’t even any leftovers.

However, consider that Iterate.ai, a platform for enterprise that enables companies to use AI to find the right partners, had 167,000 innovators on its books at last count. Finding ones you might like is nigh-impossible; then you have to work out if they can actually contribute something useful to your business.

Last week, at the Validify Retail Panel Dinner, eight of these innovators were chosen on the basis that their technology will really ‘turn the dial’ for retailers. What is amazing about all these companies is how they are using a deep understanding of some of retail’s biggest challenges to provide solutions that, in some cases, can deliver results within days of implementation – a far cry from the usual six months-plus.

We know that most of the larger retailers have already pursued some kind of labs model – some have built in-house, some have developed with partners such as digital agencies, and some simply keep a watching brief on what is going on around them.

What is clear is that time is not on their side; most need a more accelerated process in the face of Amazon continuing to challenge the status quo (and, with many markets beginning to tighten, upping the competitive pressures).

So, what made these eight (four of which were visiting the UK for the first time from the US) innovators stick out from the 167,000? In short, they are all addressing the limitations of point solutions, enabling mass optimisation online and in-store, and are able to replace and improve on at least four of five existing products.

This is where we need to be now – questioning the current wisdom that puts every software product into a niche, able to address a single need but no more. By following this logic, retailers will not get the innovation they need, and they risk ending up having to manage multiple tools that do not work well together.

APIs are one thing, but having a single view of performance is quite another, and this is definitely part of the mission that these innovators are on – this isn’t just about being marginally better than the next guy, but in bringing about dramatic changes in the way retailers do business.

And as we hear about Amazon swallowing up Whole Foods and going seriously into stores, time is running out for those trying to keep pace.

If you are not already a member, join our retailer network here, and get early access to innovation, as well as finding out how to attend our events.

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