Managing innovation? It isn't easy

3-D-printed tools

Las Vegas -- These are exciting times for retail technologists, and the IT guys are in demand. The flip side of that coin shows that change is coming, and somebody is going to have to manage it.

During the Presidents Council lunch here during the National Hardware Show, Robert Howard, a partner at consulting firm Kurt Salmon, delivered a presentation on managing innovation, and kicked it off with the caution: "It's kind of fuzzy."

(Check out some of the innovation spotted at the National Hardware Show.)

What's clear, he reported, is expectation of dramatic changes. For instance, he pointed to statistics showing that in the next five years:

• 41% expect to provide personalized offerings, based on previous behavior, to a shopper's smartphone;

• 35% expect to recognize their customers in the store with geofencing or presence technology;

• 42% expect to send coupons based on a customer's location in the store;

• 56% of all transactions will be completed via mobile point of sale self-checkout at a terminal or on a shopper's mobile device; and

• 42% of sales will come from online, mobile and social commerce sites.

That's a lot to think about, not even counting 3-D printing and its disruptive possibilities. This technology he described as a trend in its infancy, but also a frontier in its "Wild West" stage. "It has a long way to go, but it's coming," Howard said.

The stakes are high, as the economy moves from a service economy to what he described as "an experience economy," and customer retention can be difficult.

There is a wide gulf, he said, between the percentage of company executives who said customers might switch after having a bad experience (49%) and customers who say they have actually switched after bad experiences (89%). 

Those numbers show an urgent need for companies to get the experience right.

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