retail news in context, analysis with attitude

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune has a piece about how Target is trying to develop a nimble culture of innovation: "the Minneapolis-based retailer has gone on a digital tear, dramatically transforming a store-based culture ruled by marketers and merchandisers into an integrated innovation machine. The company that normally needs a year to plan collections of clothes and accessories now wants to roll out mobile apps and social media tools in just weeks."

Here's how the story frames the changes taking place at Target:

"At times, Target seems to be operating at 4G speed. Over the past several months, the company has retooled Target Mobile, launched a digital coupon program via Facebook and live streamed the doings of YouTube millennials residing in dorm rooms outfitted with Target merchandise that consumers could purchase by just scrolling over the products.

"Such ambitious efforts come at a pivotal time for Target. The retailer has struggled to grow sales at its 1,784 stores in the United States as impatient and digital-savvy consumers flock to the Internet in search of deals, entertainment and convenience. As a result, retailers are searching for new sources of growth through online, mobile and social media.

"Behind the scenes at Target, the cultural changes have been dramatic. Teams of executives regularly evaluate new technologies, whether they have originated from Target’s newly minted innovation center near Silicon Valley or from corporate employees. A dedicated group of technology and business strategists now try to quickly test inventions in individual stores. Every day, about 50 employees flock to Hi Tech, a Genius Bar-like support center where specialists offer personal IT help."
KC's View:
Great story ... and you can read the whole thing here.

The thing about the new competitive environment is, companies like Target have to learn to grease the innovation wheels from within and develop cultures that nurture a level of inventiveness. Companies can't allow themselves to be in a position where they create a kind of force field around traditional ways of doing business, preventing change and challenge because somehow they are under the delusion that these methods represent "core values."

I often suggest that Walmart is genetically engineered to protect its supercenter business, and that one of its biggest challenges is to re-engineer that culture so that it is able to commit to internal initiatives that could put its supercenters out of business. Same goes for Target. And the same goes for every company.