Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast

I gave a retail innovation award to Egil Moller Nielsen in New York this year. As member of corporate leadership team that successfully turnaround the LEGO Company and the innovator behind SmartCentres growth in grocery pickup services, I wanted to discuss the evolving face of the store in a digital economy. What is the future of bricks and mortar?

Egil is a supply chain guru. Currently Senior Vice President & Head of Business for SmartCentres Inc. eCommerce strategy and new line of business ‘Penguin Pick-Up’ & ‘Penguin Fresh’ that combines the ease of online shopping with convenience of Brick & Mortar at more than 250 SmartCentres shopping centres.More

James (@reillytweet) everyone keynotes on the end of one vertical or another. (Myself included.) However the “event” or “conference” itself is an example of an industry in flux. How do you see the future of speakers in a digital economy?
It seems that supply chain management and the (mobile) consumer’s path-to-purchase are indelibly linked in 2016. How do we design stores for this new economy? What are the (lego) building blocks that we need to use?
Consumers path-to-purchase is way more complex than just 15 years ago. Now they have checked reviews, browsed in the store & done a price match on their smartphone fx on Amazon app even before deciding to buy and at which retailer - all this was not possible 10-15 years ago.
So retailers (stores) need to be on the universe where consumers are, that being digital, mobile, social and off-line - because this is the way consumers shop, they are on all medias and all channels.
I like the Nielsen study 1) Integrate Digital 2) Multi-channel insight is critical 3) Cross Platform asset a must - consumers and shoppers live across channels and so must you.
So when you look at the Penguin Fresh business that you have launched in Canada how are you applying these Nielsen insights? And, importantly, how is your initiative differentiated from all the other retailers that may have read the same report?
First of all we are where the customers are i.e. online, digital, mobile, social media and also off line with out staff. We try to differentiate ourself by being unbiased on the customers side, giving them the personal experience and service as well as providing content.
At Penguin Fresh you can find farm fresh high quality food, outstanding freshness and for a good value, because we source direct from farmers and producers, customers love this concept and come with suggestions to products we dont carry, so we engage them and listen to them
Also, Penguin Fresh is best described as Farmers Market online, so when you buy products you know who’s behind the product and on the meat you can even see how it’s raised, fed and from which farm - this information is available when you click on the image.
So for us it’s about being 1) Local 2) Authentic 3) Real 4) Easy - proving the real local quality food from family farms and producers to the city.
Are we doing a good job. I think we are doing a decent job, but we are not where I would like to be yet, we try hard, we learn from the data we gather and we adjust. We always strive for being data driven, not that experience doesn’t count, but use data, experience and opinions.
You have found a needed local niche that the Loblaw leviathans have not addressed. But beyond this retail experience what are the lessons that you brought this solution from your work with LEGO?
Our ambition is though to be more than just a niche player, we have an agressive roll out plan and with the supply chain platform design we can start up local ecosystem fast and effectively.
So coming back to LEGO, that is what I bring from my background, Think Big, Start Small and Scale fast. I have gained a lot of experience designing efficient, complex business & value-chain process/structures from material suppliers to retailers and shoppers; with the end in mind
The benefit I have is being a key player in the LEGO turnaround is that we didn’t ‘leave any stone of the company untouched’ - so during the 7 years at LEGO, we totally turned around the company and turned both the ‘big wheels’ and the ‘small handles’.
But always have the end in mind when doing business process re-enginering or for that sake invent new business and ask yourself, do I need this step and who does it benefit? Does it solve a problem for a key stakeholder like the customer and are they willing to pay for it?
If the answers is no to all - it’s a bad idea. A good idea solves a problem for minimum two stakeholders.
So a very customer-centric approach which is the key insight to your retail work as well. Mobile customer experience is fragile and any unnecessary step drive abandonment in intent-to-purchase.
I love the “Think Big, Start Small and Scale fast” - it should be the credo of every startup and company trying to reinvent themselves. Does the “start small” mean working on pilots with customers proving the solution?
Yes the use of pilots, I have used pilots a lot throughout my career, when you are doing something very innovative, there is no current research, experience or stats to lean against, so the only way to get some prober facts is by doing it, but in a small scale to limit the risk
What are the KPIs. How do you measure success in a pilot?
“One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions.” quote Wernher Von Braun. Obviously you cannot do a pilot when travelling to the moon, but the princip of using pilots where possible, in particular when doing something very new and innovative is the best source you can get.
KPI’s are very important, but depends what you want to achieve, so agree that and then on the KPI’s that measure what you want to achieve i.e. cost per activity (seconds per activity), quality maybe AQL, six sigma, On-time-in-Full, sales/customer acquisition etc
What did your Penguin Fresh pilot show you that helped you launch successfully? Was it that scale and ubiquity mattered? Hence the UPS store partnership to expand your reach?
Several things, that shopping should be easy, that consumers value good quality and images should reflect what they get. The network is important, having urban locations is key and the partnership with The UPS Stores ad on to our own strong suburban SmartCentres network.
Finally, what surprised you the most about the transition from LEGO in Europe with the “Think Big, Start Small and Scale fast” success to your retail work at Penguin in Canada. What learning did NOT carry over?
LEGO is totally different kind of product i.e. plastic toy industry, industrial manufacturing, focused on engineering, automation and precision. Those upstream complexities I dont deal with and in current job more complexity is downstream distribution, retailers & shoppers.
So a lot of learnings from upstream doesn’t apply dealing with the consumer space and new solutions for the shoppers - so here I am in un-touched territory and walking paths nobody else have been on, which makes it very interesting and exiting.
So a lot of learnings from upstream doesn’t apply dealing with the consumer space and new solutions for the shoppers - so here I am in un-touched territory and walking paths nobody else have been on, which makes it very interesting and exiting.
But Think Big, Start Small & Scale Fast is a principle that works across all industries and business - combined with design solutions that solves problems for min. two stakeholders and start with the customer in mind and you have a pretty good formula for success - last use Pilot
Your experience with the product manufacturing UPSTREAM and now the design of the consumer DOWNSTREAM engagement experience make for a power and connected journey. Thanks for sharing your insights and look forward to speaking again regarding your onward going successes.
Thanks a lot Gary, I am learning everyday and appreciate that. Thanks a lot for inviting me to this @mobileshoptalk - anytime in the future and happy to join again.
I just posted a video from Canadian Grocer, talks about what we are doing.