Blog Post

For Kohl’s, keeping relevant means continuous innovation

“It actually worked really well, until now.” Those were Kohl’s SVP of Digital Innovation Ratnakar Lavu’s words during a Thursday talk at Structure 2013, and they might be the truest words anyone could speak about businesses anchored in the physical world and now disrupted by the digital one.

Lavu was talking about the company’s traditional methods of doing IT. It was a past in which spending the better part of a year building something was the norm, and you’d better hope consumers liked it because it wasn’t going to change for a while.

Today’s consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips, he explained, and they can get it — and products, too — from myriad sources other than Kohl’s. If a retailer wants to win that battle for attention and for dollars, it has to build a brand that consumers can relate to.

“It is imperative when we’re in retail to start thinking about how to attract [the consumer] to our brand,” Lavu said. “… How do we want her to resonate with our brand?”

Technologically, this meant Kohl’s had to switch to a model of  innovating quickly and failing fast. It’s constantly building, testing and deploying new features, keeping what works and killing what doesn’t. Kohl’s wants to build a standard experience across the entire spectrum of digital media, as well as its thousands of physical stores.

Customers just demand a lot more, and the speed of innovation needs to change, Lavu explained. Organizationally, businesses need to get better at figuring out how to do things faster.

“We can’t be the same traditional company that we were,” Lavu said.

Check out the rest of our Structure 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:
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A transcription of the video follows on the next page