I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a retail ICT leader describe himself as “a fast follower.”
Must admit – at least at first blush – there is a lot to admire about fast followers.
They’re risk averse. Not given to over-hyped fads (especially RFID). Careful with the budget. They’re don’t make a scene in management meetings, and accept with a nod the usual flat-to-five-percent down allocation.
And, of course, they’re certainly smart enough to catch up quickly to any big innovation the competition might bring to the industry.
Which leads us to the issue for fast followers in today’s retail climate: Who, specifically, do you follow?
Is it your traditional competition? Circuit City for Best Buy? May Co. for Macy’s? (Oops – guess not.)
Is it the new competition? Amazon for Best Buy? Amazon for Macy’s?
Is it the new tech-shaped shopper? Facebook? Twitter? Smart phones? Does a Best Buy follow Google? Macy’s follow Apple?
In a retail world that is being completely re-shaped by digital commerce and personal technology, by product commoditization and globalization, the old rules simply don’t apply.
Fast follower? In this day and age, that means simply being a follower. And nothing more.
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