I’m not a Buddhist, but I love one of the core tenets of Buddhist philosophy: the illusion of permanence is the root of all suffering. Nothing lasts forever, and the more we cling to the notion that something does last forever, the more we suffer over the inevitable change. In business and in our personal lives, the more we can anticipate change, accept it when it happens, and be nimble in our response to change, the more content we will be AND the more we can thrive.
Retail is the perfect example of an industry grappling with rapid, unsettling change. Overall, retail sales are up 3.8%, according to the National Retail Federation, driven almost entirely by online sales, with nearly two-thirds of the online growth coming from Amazon alone. Traditional brick and mortar retailers are suffering their worst losses since the 2008-2009 recession. Clearly, those who are clinging to old retail models and business practices are suffering in both sales and employment terms, and those who are accepting and adapting are thriving.
So what is a retailer to do? Cling to a “tried and true” business model, or change with the changing times? Best Buy is an interesting example of a company trying to adapt to new realities and innovate their offering. Like many retailers, Best Buy has seen consistent declines in foot traffic. Best Buy has also been losing sales as some of the feet that did make it in store walked out after examining products, ultimately purchasing items online.
Unwilling to suffer the onslaught of “showrooming” or from a spate of “buy and return” trialing, Best Buy is rolling out a product rental program. This program will allow customers to pay a small fee to take a product home for a certain length of time to try out and then return it with the option to buy the same product new for a discounted price. This clever strategy will allow them to repurpose their open box stock in a way that encourages both customer engagement and increases the likelihood of keeping the final purchase in their brand. Best Buy is responding to an unprecedented business challenge with an innovative solution.
Researchers in retail or other industries under siege should take a page from Best Buy’s playbook, augmenting traditional methods with newer approaches. Here are a few ideas to help you change with the changing times:
Peter Drucker, a “Buddha” of business, said, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” Now is as good a time as any to put philosophies old and new into practice: expecting and seeking the change in business, research, and life that will allow us to collectively thrive.