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Innovate or Die: Why Innovation Matters

Innovation is not only for the tech industry -- it is central to the success of any business and it must be an integral part of a business strategy.
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"The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition -- it only respects innovation." -Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Innovation is not only for the tech industry — it is central to the success of any business and it must be an integral part of a business strategy. Consumers have many choices these days, and brands and retailers need to stand out from the rest.

All industries have to continually innovate, whether its technology or retail. But how?

Birchbox, the popular beauty and grooming online retailer, did something out of the box recently. The popular subscription service — which sends consumers a monthly box filled with deluxe beauty products -- ; opened its first physical store in New York City. The store mirrors its online counterpart, making the shopping experience seamless. "Our goal with Birchbox has always been to make it easy, efficient and fun for people to discover new brands and products fit for their lifestyle," said Katia Beauchamp, cofounder of Birchbox.

Customers can sign-up for Birchbox in the store with iPads, to avoid a waiting list. They can also make Birchboxes in the store. This move will attract more potential customers, ensuring the success of the brand.

The beauty store is not a new concept, but Birchbox is taking it and shaking it up, categorizing products in the store by function instead of brand and offering beauty services and classes.

Hallmark is innovating as well. They are taking their greeting cards a step further by incorporating more personalization. Last year they opened a retail store called HMK, where customers can create unique and personalized gifts that reflect their style, without compromising Hallmark's emotional messaging. Specialists were on hand to help with the creative process, providing services like custom printing, embroidery, laser cutting and engraving, and allowing customers to apply their personal touch on a wide range of gift options. The store was so successful that Hallmark will be incorporating this personalization into other areas of the business, and by the end of 2014, 30 Hallmark Gold Crown stores will offer this service.

Based on personal experience, I can tell you that Maaco is no different -- innovation is in our minds with every move we make. We understand that to remain ahead of the curve, we need to constantly enhance the way we run our business.

We want to continue growing, and to be as accessible as possible to current and prospective customers. That's where the "Maaco Store" comes in. We're embracing the "hub-and-spoke" model, starting with the first store in California, which features our new customer-centric retail image. Inside the store, we've included features that improve the customer's experience, such as innovative kiosks that allow a client to work alongside a salesman rather than dealing from across a counter.

By making the retail experience friendlier, we're building a stronger relationship with the customer and in turn building brand loyalty. We want to be top of mind when a customer needs collision or painting services for their car.

So, what does this all mean for company leaders? The underlying message here is that we have to innovate every day, regardless of our respective industries, and make it part of our strategy. If we don't, we become obsolete and irrelevant to consumers. We've seen many brands that have failed to evolve and are no longer in business. It's a challenge that both businesses and individuals need to take more seriously to stay competitive in a global marketplace.

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