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In Retail, Why ‘Agility Is More Important Than Getting it Right’

Many retailer operators are still mired in their outmoded ways of thinking they know best, but that approaches no longer resonates in a world where an informed, connected customer has evolved and moved on from “business as usual.”

Today it’s time for retail to understand that laboring over perfection isn’t the sole goal anymore. According to Pano Anthos, founder of New York-based retail and technology accelerator XRC Labs, “Agility is more important than getting it right.”

So what makes old-school retail thinking stagnant?

Anthos, speaking at the “Future of Retail Conference,” co-hosted by UBS and XRC Labs on Monday in Manhattan, said the old retail culture is based on a “never fail” attitude, one that focuses on perfection and getting it right before an idea or implementation is deployed to the entire store fleet. That thinking was also based on the attitude that retailers knew better what their customers wanted.

“Perfection will kill these brands,” he said of companies that don’t embrace the new shift in thinking.

And how do retailers shift gears?

They need to be more forward thinking, and one way to do that is to test and learn, he said.

“Fail fast, and often,” Anthos said, noting that the learning process is more important because that’s how a company figures out what’s resonating with its customer base.

That conclusion is based on a development technique called MVP, or minimum viable product, which takes a “test often” approach. In retail, companies can develop a product with enough features to make it testable, put it out there and absorb the learnings from customer feedback for future product development.

Design thinking is critical to driving the development process and understanding how to innovate better, and for retailers–and even brands–it’s all about the customer first, second and third, Anthos said. That thinking means retailers must analyze every step along the customer journey, whether that’s probing their reasons for coming into a store or why are they not interacting with products during their visit.