‘Agile’ and ‘lean startup’ are the latest project management buzzwords. What they really mean is we can work in fast development cycles, test out ideas and either move on quickly if they don’t work or build a use case for wider rollout – very useful if you’re not sure whether a new technology is worth investing in or not.

The key is to focus on small initiatives that target small, measurable sub-sections of customer. These will prove the business case for broader changes. If you can show the business what relevant, targeted innovation can do for your uptake and conversion, you’re more likely to get agreement to bigger initiatives.

5 steps to innovation:

Step 1 – choose an area relevant to the customer

  • Focus on something which definitely has an impact on customer behaviour
  • Who uses the retail app is a good place to start, as the data is ‘owned’ by the retailer, it’s easy to access and customers have opted in to providing information by downloading it. This is important – there’s a fine line between providing a personal service and ‘stalking’ your customer

Step 2 – analyse the data to identify customer profiles and activity:

  • When and where they access the app – when they’re out shopping, in-store, in the changing room etc
  • What they use it for – product comparison, special offers, price checks, advice and so on

Step 3 – use the results to segment customer behaviour

  • When and how they are most likely to make a purchase
  • Which initiatives they are most likely to respond to – does the data indicate that they like receiving product-specific offers when they’re in-store, do they look for additional product information when making big-ticket purchases?

Step 4 – experiment with small initiatives and swift iterations

  • Select one or two areas where you can make changes based on customer behaviour – if the data shows that they respond to alerts about product offers, trial in-aisle deals and discounts related to previous purchases. If they tend to make significant purchases based on special occasions, trial birthday offers related to wishlists. Limit activity to a couple of stores so that the data and results can be managed easily and without too much disruption to the business as a whole.
  • Focus on where customers are likely to buy (context) and when they buy (chronology) to pinpoint the best time and place for data-led initiatives

Step 5 – gather the results to make a business case

  • Small, swift iterations allow you to quickly access the outcomes, analyse the results and get a sound idea of the impact of your initiative
  • Make sure you have a control group, so that the business can easily see the impact your initiative has made outside of the wider business conditions
  • Impact analysis and implementation results can be built into an evidence-based business case in advance of full rollout – ‘try before you trust’ can be key to selling in a concept as it minimises risk and investment.