From the Innovation Gap to the Knowledge Gap

From the Innovation Gap to the Knowledge Gap

Gary Hawkins, CEO, Center for Advancing Retail and Technology


I have often written about the growing innovation gap - the divide between the exponential growth of new tech fueled capabilities and the much slower deployment of new solutions in brick & mortar retail. This growing innovation gap is a major challenge to traditional retailers.

A number of solution providers are working hard to help retailers close that gap, leveraging the cloud, AI, machine learning, and other tech to bring advanced capabilities to regional and even smaller independent retailers. The problem is that while retailers can avail themselves of new solutions, they are sometimes lacking the resources, knowledge, and skill sets to make use of these new capabilities.

We are seeing this in many different areas. From sophisticated AI powered forecasting solutions that are able to ingest store-level events that impact product movement to cutting edge marketing personalization systems that challenge retailers to think differently about how they go to market.

The challenges we see are four-fold. First, retailers lacking resources skilled in data analytics needed to take advantage of the explosion of big data. Second, retailers lacking the discipline to modify operations or data gathering needed to power new capabilities. And three, retail executives being challenged to think outside the box, and envision doing business differently.

The fourth challenge is retailers not understanding the how tech-fueled innovation is growing exponentially. I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from traditional supermarket retailers that they have withstood the initial rush to online shopping. The problem is that we’re just getting started, massive disruption is coming fast across all areas of the supply chain, driven by automation, the ability to promote to each individual customer more effectively than mass promotion, and far more. 

There is no easy answer to these challenges. It is one thing to have access to new innovative capabilities and quite another to have a company culture that embraces innovation and new ways of doing things. It is this issue that is perhaps the most important in looking ahead to who will win and lose in future retail battles.

About the Author

Gary Hawkins is the founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) and leverages his unique knowledge and view to new technologies to shape the future of FMCG retail. He can be reached at

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