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From recession into a prosperous new normal

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Entrepreneurialism is about tackling fundamental problems and trends that the world faces today, says billion dollar investor and leading internet entrepreneur, Kevin Ryan, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

Ryan has founded and sold several billion dollar businesses, including Gilt Groupe, Business Insider and MongoDB. He credits his success with taking a problem-centric approach, directing his attention next to crystal meth, autism and maternal health with his new ventures. He advises entrepreneurs and business leaders to do the same – focusing on long-term trends, great products and consumer needs, as opposed to short-term pressures, something he believes traditional retailers have failed to address.

“Creative destruction is an important part of our economy. And it’s working,” he explains. “If you’re in football, and you’re down two touchdowns, you’re gonna have to throw the ball. You may not win, but it’s the right move to start throwing the ball. And Macy’s didn’t throw the ball. And so I think they really deserve where they are.”

Moreover, during a time when we’re surrounded by stories of retail’s struggle to adapt – it’s easy to feel despondent. But as long as you focus on creating a great product, you will win in the long term, he notes.

“The number one priority is don’t run out of cash. […] The reason that traditional retailers don’t win is their products are not very good. And so that’s what they didn’t focus on – the basics. Batten down the hatches, get through a difficult year, because next year, we’ll be back.”

During this conversation, Ryan explains why, in light of the global pandemic, creative destruction is an important part of our economy, how businesses can survive by focusing on building better products, and despite feeling like life is contracting, we’ll actually end up with more choice.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. Get in touch to recommend a guest you’d love to hear from. 

 

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Podcast Retail

MedMen on overcoming the barriers of selling cannabis

Cannabis consumers are not as black and white as medicinal versus recreational, says MedMen CMO, David Dancer, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

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This cannabis retailer is currently valued at over $1.5bn. Its challenge however is to design an experience that removes the anxiety of consuming cannabis that the majority of casual users still carry, as well as appease local authorities hungry to ensure strict legislations.

The consumer piece can be easily facilitated by knowledgeable store associates, who Dancer refers to as sommeliers and who play a huge role in demystifying the experience, from branding to education. “We want to make sure that people feel comfortable and can ask the questions they need answers to,” he explains. It also helps that curiosity around consumption is at an all-time high, largely thanks to the wellness movement.

But the bigger challenge for the retailer is dealing with legislations even stricter than those reserved to selling alcohol and tobacco. Although there may be an intentional Apple-like design sensibility and minimalism to MedMen’s 17 stores nationwide, much of it has to do with regulations: many products have to be displayed under locked casing – hence the beautiful display tables – while it is not allowed to have any signage or marketing on its windows. It is also restricted on locations due to zoning, such as near schools, and instead chooses areas that are friendly and feel safe, including LA’s Santa Monica Boulevard and New York’s Fifth Avenue.

The MedMen experience then becomes a clever ballet of branding and communications, combined with a retail experience that aims to allow customers to discover and try at their own pace, or to meet their own individual needs.

As the US audience begins to become more at ease with cannabis becoming a common part of their everyday lives – from smoking to CBD-infused cocktails and spa treatments – the retailer continues to navigate challenges by listening intently to what its customers and staff have to say. During this conversation, recorded with Liz Bacelar at this year’s NRF Big Show in New York, Dancer also shares the retailer’s heavy investment on the education piece, which includes a published magazine, and how the ever-evolving, and hyper-local, legislations pushes it towards constant innovation.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by The Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast Retail

Lego on the importance of play at retail

Lego's Martin Urrutia with Rachel Arthur
Lego’s Martin Urrutia with Rachel Arthur

Lego’s most important feedback often comes from six year-olds, says the brand’s head of retail innovation, Martin Urrutia, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur at this year’s World Retail Congress in Madrid, Urrutia says focusing on the relationship between the user and the brick, and constantly listening to consumers’ wants and needs, has been pivotal to the Danish brand’s longevity.

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“Prior to rolling out anything important in our stores we actually sit at a table and present this to children and listen to them. And of course sometimes you say ‘Am I going to let a six or eight year old child tell me what to do in store?’ and the answer is yes, of course. If you present this to them, if you listen to the feedback, it’s going to be interesting,” he explains. “I’ve seen so many companies changing their essence and changing many things,” he says, “and the only question that comes to my mind is – have they really asked their core users what they want?”

In order to serve all types of consumers with the right interaction, the brand prides itself on being truly shopper-centric. Understanding the consumer is particularly key to a brand that is in the unique position of having such a vast fanbase – from small children to much older adults. This means engaging with core fans through a continuous conversation informs not only R&D, but also store design and interactive experiences. There have been many ideas that looked good on paper but were scrapped when they received negative feedback from real consumers or partner retailers, Urrutia explains, for instance.

Lego's AR in-store
Lego’s AR in-store

During the episode, he talks to the idea of store experiences that engender memories, and always bringing in an element of play to everything the brand does. Such is the importance of the physical toy for the 85-year-old company, in fact, that it is often found in its meeting rooms worldwide, and its workforce takes one day a year to put work aside and play with the brick themselves. This internal strategy feeds into a larger purpose that encourages customers to play and engage with the toys at any given moment – be it at home or in any one of the brand’s increasing retail spaces.

Throughout the conversation, Urrutia also explains about the importance of choosing the right technology for retail; both that which is easy for staff and customers alike to interact with, but also simple to update and scale. He also notes other imperative brick-and-mortar retail tools, such as an invested and knowledgeable staff, as well as ensuring that there is something for everyone within that physical space.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.