When it comes to considering the next big trends in retail innovation, Matthew Lawson – Chief Digital Officer at Ribble Cycles – whose career has been almost entirely within ecommerce and digital, is well-placed to give plenty of insight on the topic. And that was exactly what he did when he appeared as a guest on our ‘The Retail Revelation’ podcast.

It’s no big secret to suggest that the next big trends in retail are likely to come in the digital space, and as Matthew Lawson explains: “It’s been important for me to try and think about not only where I’ve been, but how and where it’s going, because as we all know, ecommerce and digital, it changes every day.”

Lawson notes that the seemingly unstoppable rise of ecommerce means that: “We’re seeing department stores struggling because they can’t drive the footfall because the internet is the new department store, where we’ve got all the concessions rolled up into one.”

However, the challenge of moving to digital and doing it successfully is only one of the many challenges that retailers face. Because of the ease of access for customers and the opportunities it creates, Lawson feels that ecommerce has become bloated. There is so much going on in the space that it is sometimes difficult to master and perfect something before the next thing comes along

Innovation in ecommerce

When it comes to innovation, Lawson expands on a popular saying of the moment: “If you’ve got an idea or you need something, there’s an app for it, but in ecommerce, there’s a SAS for it.” He believes that the plethora of SAS companies – all niche and all offering something exciting – is something to be inspired by. As he says, “it could be brilliant.”

Lawson then argues that innovating isn’t always about moving onto the latest tech developments in the space. He recognises that it is human instinct to want to do so, but suggests that sometimes when it comes to software, companies are simply not getting all they can out of a package – even though it might be very costly. He likens this to having a number of Ferraris but only travelling at 30mph. In fact, he argues that some tech software is like having a “Ferrari sat in the garage doing nothing.”

Lawson is at pains to point out that he is not ‘ant-tech’. The most forward-thinking and innovative retailers will, of course, be using tech. However, as he explains: “It’s not all about the tech.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about people. And that means not just customers, but employees too. Matthew Lawson believes that innovation is also about thinking creatively about and with teams, and sees team building as pivotal to business growth.

He quotes the company-wide mantra that Ribble have: “Just because it is doesn’t make it right.” Lawson also believes that this goes for teams and team structure. Innovation can be about not just accepting existing report and lines, but questioning them instead.

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