This week we lost an amazing innovative thinker, whose company showed us how dramatically retail experience could be changed. Steve Jobs, all I can say is thank you for decades of progressive thinking. I will miss your inspiration.
I have frequently wondered what Steve Jobs would have done in CPG retail if he had sold apples instead of Apples? The Cupertino company’s retail approach really epitomises the type of revolution – not evolution – that grocery retailing needs if it is going to survive as a profitable industry for all players.
Apple (whether Jobs was directly involved or not) broke the mould in technology retailing when it created the Apple retail experience. They didn’t just make a sexier looking store – as Jobs himself once opined: design is not just about the veneer. Apple changed the way you browse, the way you buy, the way you experience an Apple product at the retail store. They ditched the rows of dormant laptops with stock photo screen savers and added open, active, internet-connected models that you could play with for 3 hours (if that’s what it took for you to get to know Mac). Apple asked, hey, why do you need to go line up to check-out? Couldn’t we check you out anywhere in the store with a mobile device? And what if instead of a handful of unknowledgeable staff that have too much to do, we provide enthusiastic Apple ‘geniuses’ floating around with plenty of time to chat with you about your uncertainty about switching from a PC, or helping you with editing tips for your iMovie project?
Apple re-engineered the retail experience to make it fit the way that shoppers wanted to shop – even if shoppers could not articulate it exactly that way.
Buying an iPod or a MacBook at Apple – or just browsing there – became an experience that made PC buying at your average electronics store seem like a life sentence in Siberia. So what would Apple do with the desolate and uninspiring canvas that is the American grocery store?
We could speculate on Jobs’ specific ideas, but probably fall embarrassingly short of where he might have taken us. Instead, I’ll turn to Jobs’ own words to issue a challenge to CPG innovators to change the way we think:
“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.”
How often do we look to “shoot holes” in the current experience of grocery retail? Big ideas in grocery retail are few and far between… lately we just seem to try to augment the current (broken?) experience with ‘innovative’ trimmings. Jobs once told a programmer, “You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog shit for frosting”… in grocery retail, I wonder if we’re trying to frost a stale cake to start with?
So here’s the challenge: SHOOT A HOLE! What is the glaring short-fall you see in grocery retail today? Post your thoughts below.