Darren Knipp

President & CEO, Balance Innovations
  • Posted on: 11/14/2017

    Is workplace collaboration a drag for headquarters personnel?

    Collaboration is important across an organization as today’s problems involve more data, technologies, and processes than ever before and it usually takes a village to get the best outcome. Having said that, I agree with prior comments on accountability being key. To enable collaboration, a consistent set of tools and usage patterns is important. This requires commitment and on-going training, but in the end it will pay off as the organization will be much more agile to respond to the market. Collaboration with customers should also not be overlooked. Getting real-time feedback as they browse the store can be invaluable.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    Meijer cuts IT staff as it moves to the cloud

    The line between technology and driving world-class customer experiences will continue to blur. As a result, retailers need to make calculated decisions on what functions are part of their “secret sauce” and which ones are not. The “nots” are prime to outsource, while the key ingredients are most likely very collaborative projects between IT and their best-of-breed vendors. The role of IT inside a retail organization needs to become one of orchestrating all the moving parts while driving the vision for the business alongside their colleagues.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2017

    Millennials, not Boomers, say associates are key to shopping experiences

    Knowledgeable, smart, friendly associates make all the difference. To attract and retain employees with these skills they need to be paid well and doing work that they enjoy. To accomplish this, it’s important that rote, manual tasks be eliminated as much as possible so that they can focus on what they like -- being experts about their products and services and engaging with customers -- which in the end will delight the consumer. Millennials and then everyone else.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Is outsourcing a better option for in-home tech help?

    I think the pros and cons of this approach are captured well in the discussions above. I would add that the decision to outsource in-home services should also consider:
    • How robust is the offering? Is it simple enough that the risk of an outsourcer messing up is very low?
    • How differentiated is the offering? If there is “magic” and you can expect a premium, then it might make sense at least early on to invest in internal services for the adoption stage, and then maybe transition to lower-cost options as some of the fairy dust rubs off over time.
    • Lastly, you need to look at the overall margins for the business. If the core business margins are substantially higher than what you could expect for your own service, then you’d have to really be sure it was essential to the success of the offering to do the service in house. Even then, you still might be better off outsourcing, but “bulletproof” the offering further before doing so.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2017

    Why are Target’s small stores much more productive than its big boxes?

    Completely agree with location, convenience, and shopability being key factors for small-format success. Given their history is mostly in large-format stores (greater than 10 lanes), Target will need to carefully consider how they drive payroll productivity in these smaller-format locations while still ensuring exceptional customer experience. It seems automation of background processes will be key to enabling staff to focus on higher-value tasks.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2017

    What bad habits do retail solution providers need to break?

    Solution providers should work alongside their retail customers to deliver quick wins for the business. This doesn’t mean entering long pilots and betas, as retailers need to evolve faster than in the past. It means agreeing on the scope and success criteria upfront while managing the project carefully. In addition, solution providers cannot underestimate the change management curve for the retailer and their associates. Oftentimes it’s not the technology that fails – it’s managing the change given the unique culture of the retailer. Good senior leadership in the business and strong project management by the retailer or their delivery partner(s) are critical. Lastly, solution providers need to listen better and seek to understand while still being a leader. Don’t say yes to every “my business is unique” requirement. This could result in putting the retailer in a technology dead-end, which is worse than the retailer thinking they can create their own solutions and keep up with the pace of change needed to survive today.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    Is Target ready to make a move on the home delivery front?

    Agreed. What would in-store staff stop doing in order to retrain and fulfill these new processes, or would they look to hire additional people?
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    Why is Adidas partnering with a knockoff brand?

    To the question, should brands in other areas consider partnering with other small companies selling "homages" to their products ... I think it's really a case by case decision. On one hand, the shoes above are difficult, for me at least, to relate to iconic Adidas brands so there seems to be everything to gain by associating with this more expensive designer brand that's paying tribute. On the other hand, if someone were to pay "homage" by slightly tweaking the Nike swoosh, that's a different ball game. Overall, imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. Look at the number of golf courses that intentionally mimic design features of a St. Andrews or Augusta National, for example.
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