Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The AAR Fightback podcast: How Boots is winning at innovation

New Digital Age has proudly partnered with the AAR for the launch of its Fightback podcast.

Robin Charney is director of digital and innovation at AAR, and host of the Fightback podcast.

Innovation always involves the risk of failure. That’s why I was so impressed with the way Boots is driving innovation by building permission to fail into its culture.

Boots is the subject of this AAR Fightback podcast, the first in a series running over the next six weeks on New Digital Age. Fightback is where I chat with the people transforming the UK’s heritage brands from the inside. It’s about giving listeners real-world examples of how these brands are fighting back against the disruptions they’re facing. It’s short and pacy and full of useful insights.

This first episode is a really fun chat with recently appointed Director of Innovation Rich Corbridge, and Head of Loyalty and Personalisation Dave Robinson. They talk about the cultural change happening in the retailer, its relationship with the NHS, and how its work with start-ups extends to putting new products on its shelves.

Culture change is crucial. Boots’ leadership team is pushing permission to try, evaluate, fail and evolve into the whole organization. This means operationalising ideas quickly as minimum viable products and going live with them in-store within four months.

Partnerships are also a vital element. Boots is trying to get away from what Corbridge describes as the “ego-driven” way big retailers traditionally work with other companies to be more creative and to build an ecosystem of partners both large and small. Among the biggest is the NHS, which Boots is working with on its in-store Virtual GP video consultation service. This has been predominantly a private marketplace, but Boots decided to work with the NHS to allay customer fears around creeping privatisation.

At the other end of the scale Corbridge admits that working with Boots has been a challenge for start-ups in the past, but now “the door is open and we want to hear and understand ideas”. This extends beyond operations to the kind of products the company will stock in the future with the ambition to foster more sustainability.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed chatting with Boots. Click below to listen on iTunes or Spotify.