Promises vs Delivery: What really counts as innovation?

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Will the real innovators please stand up?

The world has changed drastically in the past two years and both luxury and travel retail need real newness and innovation, possibly more than we ever have before. But what is innovation today?

Our market is full of people claiming to be innovators and disruptors. The words are thrown around so much that they have almost lost meaning. If there is so much cutting-edge innovation taking place, then the retail world must be vibrant and flourishing. But that is not quite the case. The reason for this is that most of what people claim is innovative and disruptive is simply not.

Simply claiming that you are an innovator or disruptor does not make you one.

Will the real innovators please stand up?

So often, we see companies shout that they have an “innovative” or “disruptive” digital campaign with social media engagement. Social media posts are not innovation. Most of our consumers have social media accounts that they post to. They expect more from brands and retailers – and we should expect more of ourselves too.

In truth, actions speak louder than words and true innovation and disruption are not judged by us, they are judged by our customers. They are things which make shoppers stop and say “wow” or which create a lasting impression.

As in all things, shopper reaction is the true mark of success.

There are examples of actual innovation in practice today – and true innovation will almost always be disruptive by its very nature. Balenciaga has been doing excellent work with innovative collaborations with names like Fortnite and The Simpsons which are creative crossovers that generate breakout appeal. That is making a mark. When your campaign is being photographed by bystanders in London’s Piccadilly Circus then you are disrupting.

Such disruption should, as I have said before, be a guiding light to travel retail to look for actual innovation in collaboration and create something in the market which cannot be found anywhere else.

It is not just products that this applies to either. True innovation in store design is desperately needed in the travel retail market. Once more, Balenciaga has shown excellent examples of true creativity with its brutalist new store in London which looks like an unfinished warehouse. It made international headlines. That’s disruptive.

20partners PHOTO-2022-05-02-09-36-51 Promises vs Delivery: What really counts as innovation? Uncategorized  luxury innovation experiential retail

Moncler’s Genius stores are another great example, and Meta’s new ‘hands-on’ store in California shows that digital players are bringing their expertise to physical stores. They are true destination retail for shoppers and bring the brand to life in a novel and memorable way. This must be the aim.

Too often we can see brands and companies trying to copy & paste ‘innovative’ ideas and be disruptive in a way that is accepted as disruptive. This is the opposite of innovation and disruption.

True innovators do not seek the change the game. They seek to deliver excellence that is true to their brand or company. The first question for everyone as our markets rebuild must not be ‘How can we deliver disruption?’ It should be: How can we deliver our story in the most unique and excellent way?

Bring your brand story to life. Work with those who will help you to do so. Create something new. Then we will see true innovation and the rise of some more real disruptors – and not a moment too soon.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.