Blog Series

Innovation, By Chance

Peter Breen
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Anyone looking for a silver lining in the unprecedented upheaval the retail industry has undergone in the last few months need look no further than our report titled "The Future Unfolding."

That’s where 33 of the industry’s foremost subject matter experts begin to provide insights into the lessons they’ve learned during the coronavirus pandemic. According to this illustrious group – recruited from the ranks of the Institute’s Advisory Board, League of Leaders and Distinguished Faculty, along with sister publication CGT’s Executive Council (and 2019’s CIO of the Year to boot) – the lessons have been plentiful and more than a little inspiring.

We specifically did not ask anyone to “predict” the future. That seemed contradictory to one of the lessons we most definitely learned in the first half of 2020: that predictions are a dangerous thing on which to rely. Instead, we asked everyone to tell us what recent change in shopper behavior or retail operations they most hope will continue after the crisis ends.

And that’s where we uncovered all the silver linings, because it seems pretty clear that our industry hasn’t just responded to the changes that were necessary during the pandemic, it has embraced them as catalysts for progress and innovation. Rather than sounding like they’ve resigned themselves to the current circumstances, our experts are all genuinely excited about leveraging them to propel the industry forward. 

What are they particularly ready to embrace? Perhaps most notably, they sense a new spirit of innovation within an industry that too often has been slowed by rigid, traditional practices and “anniversaried” strategic thinking. Correspondingly, they’re excited about retaining the agility that has helped them respond quickly and effectively to rapidly changing market conditions. 

To a person, they’re also thrilled with the accelerated growth in e-commerce, a shopper trend that will require organizations to continue the aforementioned innovation and agility that has helped them get through the crisis. They’re also ready and willing (and soon able, we hope) to listen more closely to shoppers, and to respond to evolving needs in more relevant but also more efficient ways.

It’s been an inspiring experience for us to collect these thoughts from our industry leaders and realize that, despite the exceptionally dark period we’re still working our way through, there is plenty of reason to be looking forward to a very bright future.

But please note that the subject matter expertise doesn’t end in this month’s print edition. We actually asked these 33 SMEs (plus a few more notable executives) four questions related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business, and we’re showcasing all of their answers on the Institute’s website at Because we feel their insights will be so valuable to the future of the industry, we’re making this particular content free to non-members as well.

Elsewhere in this issue: It’s not quite clear how many silver linings shoppers themselves have discovered during the crisis. (I, for one, wouldn’t mind permanently keeping store aisles one-way.) But we are sure they’ve learned some new ways of finding and buying products, as the proprietary research presented on page 16 will attest. The data points to five key shopper behaviors that brand and retailers should be watching closely.

It’s a good thing our industry seems up to the challenge.

More Blog Posts In This Series

  • ​​​​​​​How (and Where) We Shop

    To help our readers keep the pulse of the new, ever-evolving consumer, we polled 1,000 primary household grocery shoppers to understand their purchase activity.
  • ​​​​​​​Hello … and an Ode to Retail

    It’s nice to “meet” all of you, our readers! My name is Jessie Dowd and I recently joined the Institute and Path to Purchase IQ as Editorial Director.
  • Introductions Are in Order

    I’d like to use some space here to introduce everyone to a couple of new initiatives that the Path to Purchase Institute will be rolling out this month. We hope you’ll be as excited about participating in them as we are about bringing them to our industry.