If I were a CEO of a retail business?

Posted: Tuesday 8th May 2012 in Retail Strategy, Thought Leadership.

Don't let your great ideas end up on a to do list

The answer is clearly not as simple as the question because in the retail world even though things change in a day, companies don’t. There have been many changes in the online space since I first started out in marketing. Snake was the only game available on mobiles, Facebook existed under the guise of Facemash and free delivery was unheard of in the business. Today we have come to a point where 1.2 billion people use mobile web worldwide and account for almost 8.5% of global website hits. The online retail business on the other hand has been unable to match pace with technological innovation.

Although many things have improved in the world of retail over the years, some have still not and for me the biggest is the perception & credibility of the online medium.Technological innovation or customer satisfaction is not the culprit here but the lack of interest and passion shown by traditional marketers for this powerful medium.

A big reason has also been a lack of resources to innovate and develop the online eCommerce platform, which inevitably impacts performance. We at Summit have experienced it many a times when our clients say that they have just enough online resources to get through requirements even with 70 hour weeks. This leads to a significant increase in staff turnover, which in turn means that true understanding of brands within organisations is reduced. True innovation and passion are thus also drowned out by the mundane “business as usual” tasks. And my belief is that retailers, who understand this problem and are willing to act on it, will certainly find themselves ahead of the curve.

The digital merry-go-round that is created also means that those in-charge of these online platforms are rarely present long enough in the board rooms to create a real impact – which allows traditional, lower-risk marketing to take the forefront of planning and budgeting.
Many great ideas end up on to-do lists month after month. If made the CEO, I would instantly hire a ‘dream catcher’ to ensure all ideas with potential are put through appropriate analysis and launched “before” and not “after” the competition, or in many cases not at all. The lackadaisical attitude of many retailers to maintain status quo might help ensure that they keep a job, but marketing should be about breaking the mould and there are only a few companies focusing on innovation in retail to help drive their business forward.

A part of Summit’s retail consultancy team’s role is to challenge retailers on how they adequately resource in order to lead and cause change rather than hide away from it.


This is one of a series of blogs that were generated following one of our regular retail workshops. Chaired by Robin Terrell, the Executive Director Multi-channel and International, at House of Fraser, attendees were asked to answer two questions:

  1. What must retailers do to embrace and take maximum opportunity of impact online is having on retail?
  2. If you were the CEO of retail brand that you have worked for (either as a client or as Summit) what would you change and why?

Conversation inevitably strayed.