Notwithstanding the importance innovation scholars have accredited to design-driven innovation (DDI), no attempts have been made so far to systematically study whether and how this innovation strategy can be used in the retail context in order to gain and nurture competitive advantage. The purpose of this paper is to make a first step towards closing this gap, and therefore understand whether and how companies involved in retail service can create competitive advantage by the adoption of a strategy based on innovation of meanings.
Due to the complex ecosystem of variables that inevitably influence the problem, the case study approach represents the best option to grasp the different aspects highlighted by the research objectives. The analysis undertook a thorough and systematic comparison with the use of an ad hoc “paired comparison method”, in which common systemic characteristics have been intended as a controlled variable in order to minimise the variance and quantity of factors that can have an impact on the selected case studies; intersystemic differences have been understood as explanatory variables to decree the contribution in terms of novelty in relation to the current paradigm.
The paper provides empirical insights about how radical innovation in meanings can be a very important lever on which retail firms can act to gain and nurture their competitive advantage.
Of course the study has several limitations, which represent however opportunities for future research. The authors say that the findings, given the exploratory nature of the study, cannot be generalised to any population of firms or markets, rather they should be used as a basis to develop theoretical understanding of a complex phenomenon and draw research propositions and hypotheses to be tested in subsequent deductive empirical research.
This paper highlights the importance to think, beyond shopping experience, at the role of new meanings when designing service innovation in retail firms. Although the findings do not have statistical relevance, given the exploratory nature of the study, they suggest that DDI can be a viable option for retail firm managers to improve their firms’ competitiveness.
The study presented in this paper has merit to broaden the generalisability of the DDI model to other industries, different from those where it was initially studied and applied. This is an important step toward conceptualising DDI as a novel management paradigm.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Lombardy Region fund “Dote Ricercatori e della Dote Ricerca Applicata per lo sviluppo del capitale umano nel sistema universitario lombardo”.
Pinto, G.L., Dell’Era, C., Verganti, R. and Bellini, E. (2017), "Innovation strategies in retail services: solutions, experiences and meanings", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 190-209. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-06-2015-0049
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