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The Art of Agility

I’ve been back just over a week now from Chicago where we participated in Forresters’ Consumer Forum 2011 as a Silver Sponsor. During the two-day event, I attended a few informative sessions covering the forum theme “Delivering Optimized Product Experiences Across Customer Touchpoints”.

Probably the most compelling statement I heard was that we are now living in the era of the empowered consumer—the digitally empowered consumer. It is also the era of agile commerce, where channels no longer exist, and replaced by the explosion of the internet which has created so many different customer “touch points” in such a short period of time.

So how do companies optimize their business in the era of agile commerce?

According to Brian Walker, Forresters’ VP, Principal Analyst, these are the four keys to agile commerce transformation:

  1. Develop a cross touch point integrated customer experience
  2. Transform your organization and culture
  3. Enable with technology to be able to run all touch points – with digital disruption you must fail fast and fail forward to succeed
  4. Evolve the metrics and measurements you are currently using

How Walgreens has been agile over the last 110 years

One particular keynote, delivered by Sona Chawla, Walgreens’ President of E-Commerce, described how they’ve been agile for over 110 years—agility is the cornerstone of Walgreens’ success.

In 1901, Walgreens opened their one and only store. It has taken a lot of agility to span 110 years and transform with the times to get to where they are today with 7,700 stores across the nation. They are continuously changing, reinventing, and transforming to move from being a convenient drug store to a convenient health and daily living destination across all consumer touch points.

Convenience has fueled Walgreens growth over the past few decades and they are sitting at the intersection of retail, healthcare and digital. Sona described this as possibly the best position to be in to take advantage of becoming that convenient health and daily living destination.

3 components to their strategy of becoming a retail health and daily living destination:
  1. ENHANCE core experiences – always improving and enhancing the customer experience. Customers aren’t just thinking of them as a transaction, but that they’re also engaging them and winning their minds.
  2. EXPAND beyond core business into adjacencies – offering retail health clinics (flu shots, immunizations, etc.), therefore having the ability to have more customer touch points and produce more products/services.
  3. CONNECT by taking existing touch points and really connecting them to provide a differentiated experience for the customer.

Then there is the DIGITAL aspect which spans across all three buckets and the reason businesses must move away from traditional channels and move towards understanding the many different customer touch points.

James McQuivey, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester summed it up best in his keynote about becoming a “digital disruptor”.

The rise of the digital consumer is the driving force for becoming digital disruptors. When consumers adopt technology they do old things in new ways. When people internalize technology they find entirely new things to do—they’ve become a digital disruptor. We’re all changed because of digital consumers and amplified by technology to build better products, create stronger customer relationships, and bring products to market faster.

Digital disruption is the key to survival in today’s business landscape. You’ll know you’re headed for digital disruption when you:

  • Build a bridge to your consumer
  • Measure early, measure often
  • Fail frequently, fail cheaply

Do not just adopt digital technology in service of your product, but be the company that internalizes digital technology to create entirely new product experiences!

Are you on your way to becoming a digital disruptor? Tell us in the comments how you’re doing it.

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