Innovation Strategies to Accelerate Growth and New Product Development: How AWS Helps Retailers Innovate


Many organizations face challenges when trying to create a culture of innovation. A recent survey of more than 500 business leaders conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and AWS shows that innovative organizations “are first about solving their customers’ problems, and that informs how they innovate.” At AWS, we spend a lot of time trying to integrate innovation into our daily work. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the methods we use to innovate at Amazon and AWS. We’ll also cover our service offerings to help customers innovate, and we’ll share innovation success stories.

Amazon Leadership Principles

At Amazon, we hold each other accountable for demonstrating 16 leadership principles in our daily actions, such as “Customer Obsession”, “Invent and Simplify”, “Learn and Be Curious” and “Think Big”. These leadership principles help guide our business decisions and remind us to keep customers and their needs top of mind as the driving force behind our innovation. We teach leadership principles, along with historical examples, to new recruits. For example, an example of thinking big is our two-day Prime delivery, which was an incredible feat in 2005 when Amazon first offered it. Customers didn’t necessarily ask for two-day shipping, but it certainly became clear that they wanted it. This anecdotal point is just one example of how we are obsessed with customers and taking bold steps to innovate. At Amazon, about 90% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us they want. And for the remaining 10%, we pay close attention to pain points and create new features and services to surprise and delight customers.

The six-page story

Here’s another particular aspect of the AWS and Amazon culture: we rarely use PowerPoint presentations for internal presentations. Instead, we use six-page stories. On the surface, it sounds pretty weird – and there’s certainly an investment of time in preparing for this kind of deep narrative. But there is a reason. The perception of a presentation is often heavily influenced by the presenter rather than the idea itself. Using written words forces the presenter to find facts to support the idea, and it encourages people to focus on the basic idea rather than cool graphics and great presentation skills. It also allows the presenter and audience to engage in an in-depth discussion that typically includes diverse opinions and assumption-friendly challenges that help refine and improve the idea, long before a single line of code is complete. written.

Work backwards

To help with execution, we create mechanisms that codify actions so that they are repeatable. We believe that the best mechanisms are self-reinforcing, continuously transforming business inputs into valuable customer outcomes, and transforming good intentions into action. An established mechanism is “work backwards”, where we start with a customer need and work backwards to find a solution. We address key questions that help illuminate the customer and their problem, as well as the needs and benefits of a potential solution. Amazonians across the company struggle with these simple questions when brainstorming new ideas. These are deceptively simple questions that you could answer in five minutes or spend five months researching exhaustively. Either way, these questions sharpen our thinking and approach, and once we’ve answered the questions, we can move on to the next step in the process: writing a press release and frequently asked questions document ( PRFAQ). This mechanism is in the DNA of our culture, so every Amazon employee knows it.

We write a press release, a forward-looking one-page document announcing the new product, service or process using customer-centric language. You’d be surprised how much writing a one-page press release reduces clutter and provides absolute clarity. If the press release is boring or unclear, there is still work to be done to refine the idea. Press releases for Light up, Echo, and Amazon Recognition were all written at the ideation stage, long before the products were actually built. Before hiring a team or getting their hands on the keyboard, PRFAQs have become the living prototype of these new products – the litmus test of customer value and delight.

Net result: Innovation

The result of our Working Backwards approach is better tools, products and services that solve customer problems to constantly innovate and drive ongoing value for customers. It should be noted that customers migrating to AWS reduce their IT infrastructure spending, freeing up budget for reinvestment in other areas. AWS customers also see significant improvements in other areas, including staff productivity, operational resilience, and business agility. Because the cloud facilitates experimentation, innovation is more accessible than ever, especially for retailers.

Digital Innovation Program

Since many retailers don’t know where to start, AWS offers programs to help traders innovate. the AWS Digital Innovation Program is a workshop-like session where our experts help you refine your idea and chart a path to bring your idea to fruition, leveraging over 20 years of Amazon experience. The program offers a variety of engagement opportunities, including one-on-one conversations about our “Culture of Innovation” and “Learning from Amazon” briefings that explain our approach to innovation that led to robotics, AWS, and Amazon Go.

Working Backwards Digital Innovation Program and Success Stories

The AWS Digital Innovation Program also offers Working Backwards engagements to help companies unlock innovation. Here are some examples of successful engagements:

  • AmorePacific—This South Korean beauty and cosmetics company ranks 12and in the world in its class. A commitment from Amazon Digital Innovation led to the development of new innovation streams in the company, including a beauty advisor and a stress management service. To learn more, read the case study.
  • Ferring Pharmaceuticals—This specialty biopharmaceutical company is committed to helping people build healthy families. A commitment to digital innovation with a backwards working approach has helped the company understand the root causes why couples are not seeking help with fertility issues. The session resulted in the Fertility home visits program that has been rolled out across the United States. To learn more, read the case study.
  • Konica Minolta Precision Medicine (KMPM)—Belonging to the Konica Minolta Group, KMPM is dedicated to the detection and treatment of diseases. As part of a Working Backwards engagement, Amazon helped the company redesign its LatticeMT initiative, a breakthrough integrated diagnostic data platform that combines genomic, pathology and radiology data along with other critical information to discover new clinically relevant biomarkers and create the next generation of diagnostic tests. To learn more, read the Press release.
  • Hotels Melia International—As the third largest hotel chain in Europe, AWS’ digital innovation program has helped the company reinvent the check-in experience in the age of COVID-19. Melia has become the first hotel chain in Spain allowed to reopen after lockdowns by launching ‘Face to Go’, a contactless check-in process using facial recognition, ID document scanning and terminals in hotels that recognize actually the client on input. To learn more, read the case study.
  • Superb—This is the largest sports betting operation in Romania offering casino games, live sports, lotteries and much more. In a digital innovation session following the Working Backwards mechanism, the company focused on the customer perspective and created a loyalty program called Super Club for its retail customers. Such was the success that Superbet extended the program to online users as well. To learn more, read the case study.

Other counseling programs and resources

In addition to the AWS Digital Innovation Program, we also offer several other consulting and advisory programs, including:

  • Transforming innovation— Offered by the AWS Professional Services Innovation Advisory team, this program is designed for large enterprises seeking guidance on organizational design, agile development, innovation systems, and talent retention.
  • AWS Migration Acceleration Program—This program is ideal for organizations that want to accelerate innovation through new technologies.
  • business strategists—For large retailers who want to accelerate digital transformation, our business strategists, who are former senior executives from a wide range of industries, can share their expertise and advice. Phil Lebrun, former CIO of McDonald’s, is one of our corporate strategists.

Innovation does not happen by chance. It must be cultivated throughout the organization with mechanisms to support innovation efforts and a willingness to take risks. As you will understand from each of the customer successes included in this blog, there are no shortcuts. And with the few examples here, we’ve only scratched the surface to present some impressive success stories. But as always, AWS is here to help your retail organization innovate. Contact your account team today to get started.


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