When you’re tasked with coming up with new ideas to innovate your retail business or operation, do you find yourself scratching your head? When you’re asked to generate new ideas, do you find yourself struggling to think of a range of concepts?

If this sounds like you, then you need to find some new inspiration to help you. Inspiration will help give you new thoughts. It will help you think more creatively. It will open your mind and give you those new ideas that you’re in need of.

Where to Find Inspiration

So where do you find this “mind food” of inspiration to help come up with new ideas? Here are 6 sources of inspiration that you can start tapping up today.

1. Talk to customers and colleagues

Engage in conversation with customers and colleagues. Talk to the people who are working around your area of interest. For example, if you’re interested in improving the checkout experience in store, go and speak to cashiers and customers alike. Go and catch up with the manager who is responsible for checkouts.

Perhaps you just think, “well duh”. Well, you’d be absolutely right. Whilst this isn’t rocket science, it is, however, a step that is all too often forgotten or bypassed. Whether it’s a case of using your assumed knowledge or your own experiences, you still won’t have the full picture. Therefore, you must go and talk to the people on the ground who are living and breathing this.

So, when you’re coming up with new ideas and concepts, this is certainly one route you don’t want to miss out on.

2. Talk to experts in the relevant field

Whilst talking to customers and colleagues is useful, it’s also worth engaging people who are purely focused on improving this area, in one way or another. This will include suppliers who produce equipment or solutions. It could include trainers who are preparing people to do the relevant work.

So, sticking with the checkout example, this could include:

  • Till designers and suppliers
  • POS (Point of Sale) suppliers
  • Ergonomic experts
  • Cashier trainers (and those that train the trainers for that matter)

These people are continually taking an in depth look at the checkout experience. Whilst they may not have the ideas themselves, their viewpoint will act as inspiration for you to come up with new ideas.

3. Benchmarking competitors

It is worth looking at how your competitors are approaching the situation. It’s more than likely that they too have to face into the same challenges that you do. Research what they are doing. Read trade magazines or articles. Go to conferences and shows. Furthermore, if possible, go and experience it for yourself.

Whilst you’re doing this, you will find it useful to be able to record and compare the experiences. Perhaps one retailer is leading the way on the customer experience, another could be ahead on cost efficiencies. By seeing the competitive landscape like this, you will be inspired to generate your own new ideas to blend concepts or find a gap in the market.

4. Benchmarking other retailers for new ideas (non competitors)

Whilst you can look at your local competitors for inspiring new ideas, there are other retailers that could help too. These may be in a different geographic market. Or perhaps they could be in a different and non-competing category. Again, trade magazines, conferences, and visits are great sources for this type of inspiration.

Whilst researching these businesses could help, there is also a further opportunity. You could collaborate with these retailers. As you’re not competing with each other, you may find them amenable to have a conversation. You could both learn from each other.

5. Investigating other industries that have solved the challenge in an abstract way

In an even more abstract manner, you could find your inspiration in a totally different place. You need to look at the situation in a conceptual way. This will help dissect the problem so that you could find a similar situation.

Let’s take the supermarket checkout once again. Maybe you view this operation as a checking operation. The cashier has to check or inspect each item and record it (using a barcode). Who else in the world is doing this? You may decide that this is similar to a quality control inspection on a manufacturing line. Find inspiration for new ideas there. Perhaps, you think that this is similar to an accountancy book-keeping operation. Go and find some new creative stimulus there.

By breaking down your area of interest, you can find abstract examples in completely different areas. This may just inspire that new thinking, that new idea that could act as the breakthrough for your business.

6. Advanced problem solving techniques

The final option for getting new inspiration for new ideas is to use advanced problem solving techniques. Methodologies such as TRIZ could help you invent a radical solution. When I was originally in the engineering world, I’d always find myself turning to these toolkits when I needed to solve the toughest problems with new ideas.

Using Inspiration to Come Up With New Ideas

Once you have your inspiration, then what? Should you just wait for a flashy new concept to suddenly pop into your head? Whilst it could happen like this, it’s best to take this insight and direct it to solve a particular problem.

Clarify the problem or challenge

The first stage is to clarify this problem. Maybe the business has set yourself a cost saving target to achieve. Perhaps you need to overcome a challenge that is a particular headache.

The first step to finding all of those awesome new ideas is to clarify what you’re trying to solve. Write out a ‘problem statement’ to describe it. You may also want to do some root cause analysis.

In turn, clarifying the problem will help focus the mind. In fact, it may even give you some new ideas just from thinking about things a bit more.

Brainstorming new ideas

Once you are clear on what you’re trying to solve, you can start looking for the new ideas Brainstorming is one of the techniques you can use to come up with new ideas. You can read more about how to brainstorm in this article.

Prioritising to find what’s best

Once you have a list of new ideas from brainstorming, you must group and prioritise. This will help you to sort the various ideas that you have and select the best or optimum idea.

There are several ways to prioritise new ideas, from simple preferences and voting through to complex decision matrices. How you do this will depend on how critical it is to get the best answer vs a quick answer. Work out how you’ll sort out your new ideas and then get sorting and prioritising.

A-ha! This is the best new idea

Following from the prioritisation work, you now have your best idea selected now. Great work!

However, it’s now actually time for the real work to begin. After all if you’re idea never sees the light of day it’s all a waste of time.

Effective execution and implementation of an idea is essential. Effective project management methods will help you get this done well.

New Ideas and Innovation Ignite Retail Improvements

Ideas are of course an important part of improving the retail landscape. To continue to come up with the best ideas, you’ll need to feed your brain. Do this by giving your mind new inspiration. Encourage yourself to think in new ways and in new situations.

You may also like to read more about what’s expected of Retail Project Managers. (Hint, ideas are expected but they’re only one part of it).

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. He’s led and managed many different types of retail projects, working with a variety of stakeholders. Oliver loves the opportunity to improve and innovate. This brings together his engineering background, his curiosity and his passion for making things better.


project management expert Oliver Banks

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