Guest Column | December 20, 2013

Retail: Rapid Failure Is Your Only Option

Mark Ledbetter, Global Vice President, Retail Strategy, SAP

By Mark Ledbetter, Global Vice President, Retail Strategy, SAP

In Ron Howard’s 1995 blockbuster Apollo 13, when things go horribly wrong aboard the command module Odyssey, Flight Director Gene Kranz exclaims, “Failure is not an option!”

It’s an unforgettable line. But it isn’t right for every situation. In fact, as retailers adapt to the new normal in their industry, they might want to take exactly the opposite approach. Because if you try to avoid failure at all cost, you’ll become too cautious to experiment with approaches that get you closer to customers.

If, on the other hand, you’re willing to fail early, you’ll have a better chance of identifying strategies that will differentiate you in the marketplace and deliver the brand experience your customers want.

Organization, Logistics, Data

Retailers face challenges in three key areas: organization, logistics, and data. At the organizational level, retail processes historically revolved around the store. Then along came the web, and store processes were simply replicated online. That created a conflict between channels, with store and online fighting over who gets credit for sales.

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