Asda has continued to thrive in a rapidly changing retail environment by using innovation to make customers’ lives easier.

Knowing how to make customers’ lives easier is the big challenge in retail.

Last weekend the Tour de France got off to its start in Yorkshire, where Asda is headquartered. I am proud that the tourmakers, who demonstrated the meaning of a real Yorkshire welcome, had been trained by Asda.

It strikes me that riding a bike is the same as being in business. If you stand still, you fall over. That’s why innovation is vital to keep moving forward.

There are lots of exciting things we could do – but what are the things we should do?

Innovation should make things better and more efficient. Then it should challenge the norm, lead the way but also learn from previous success. It should be simple, easy to use and make lives easier.

At Asda, innovation is about listening to what customers tell us they need and understanding how we can deliver it. It’s about thinking about what they don’t even know they need yet but when we offer it, it hits the mark.

Most of all, it’s about delivering for our customers – making their lives easier and giving them more reasons to shop with us.

“Retail is exciting, it’s changing and the industry looks nothing like it did five years ago”

Andy Clarke, chief executive, Asda

An example of giving people something they didn’t even know they need is 3D models of themselves. We’re testing this in our Trafford store.

Who needs a 3D model? How about a bride and groom as a unique memento of their wedding day? Or a woman whose husband is serving abroad in the Forces?

Brilliant innovations like this represent the way ahead because they recognise that to succeed today you have to think differently.

When I started in retail, stores were open from 9am until 5.30pm and closed on a Monday afternoon for training. Now, customers want to shop 24/7.

Online shopping has changed the face of our industry. Our multichannel home shopping operation is still performing ahead of the market and we’ve seen huge growth in areas such as click-and-collect.

Customers don’t want to be told how they can shop. They know what they want and they aren’t afraid to ask for it.They are savvier, more demanding and more able to seek out great deals than ever before.

This challenge is why I love retail. Being a retailer is exciting. It’s an industry of adapt or die – and the struggle of those who have been slow to adapt is well documented.

In today’s retail world if you don’t innovate, you’ll fail.

At Asda, I’m proud we’re a test bed for innovation globally. Our relationship as part of the Walmart family means we’re able to access some of the best brains in mobile innovation through Walmart’s global ecommerce platform to make sure our offer is the best it can be. And Walmart is trialling lots of Asda innovation.

Retail is exciting, it’s changing and the industry looks nothing like it did five years ago. We all need to be thinking about what it’s going to look like in the next five years.

What are customers going to want and how do we service that need? How do we make their lives easier?

That’s the challenge.

From a speech given to the Leeds Retail Innovation Summit.

  • Andy Clarke, chief executive, Asda