Why innovation keeps businesses thriving
Product, service and workflow innovation can elevate a business to new levels, but does that really mean having to constantly invent something new?
By Tilly Farrands
Consumers’ needs constantly change, and so does the environment we live in, so it’s vital that businesses stay relevant by responding to these fluctuations. Added to this, the market is full of products that look like each other, so it’s also necessary to differentiate your offering to the rest. This is where we see the most innovative businesses consistently show themselves to be the more successful ones.
Innovation increases chances of success – but it doesn’t guarantee it, so you need to also make sure you’re the best option in your field and educate your customers on why that is.
What does ‘innovation’ really mean?
Innovation is often associated with the most advanced and leading brands, so you might be asking yourself ‘is innovation even necessary for me?’ Particularly if you aren’t in a technological sphere.
There’s also a common belief that innovation means ‘groundbreakingly new’. But if that were true, then, taking Apple, one of the most advanced brands of our time – their airpods wouldn’t be considered ‘innovative’ – they’re just earphones afterall. They are, however, an improvement on our existing technology.
If you take a look at much of our industries and companies that are considered the most innovative, it’s actually ‘incremental innovation’ they’re taking part in. The creation of an existing item in a new way. It could be new in presentation or process, and often it’s only new to the customer, as it usually already exists in a market. It doesn’t have to be drastic, it just needs to differentiate you. It’s not just for the tech industry either – the food industry has been incrementally innovating for years.
Why innovation works
Innovation creates new opportunities and allows you to stay in demand, stopping your product becoming irrelevant compared with the other options in the market.
Incremental innovation is the most important tool to fulfill customer needs and stay profitable. Take a look at Woolworths. A few years ago they were a highstreet giant, but they failed to make important incremental changes that would have guaranteed longevity. Their biggest failure was neglecting the demand for online purchasing, ultimately leading to their downfall.
More recently, the Coronavirus pandemic created an urgent need for those with previously low requirements to be accessible online. Many of these being indie retailers, restaurants and others relying mostly on footfall for survival. Countless businesses were pushed to find more innovative ways of meeting buyers and trading, and they needed to act fast.
However, it is vital you understand your customers needs first. How you innovate has to fit these, so you don’t waste resources on the wrong areas, running down capital without seeing profit.
The theory of innovation
The theory behind innovation is also incredibly useful for businesses, allowing them to visually see where they’re failing to innovate. The four Ps of innovation all focus on different areas of business: product, process, position and paradigm, creating defined areas of focus in order to create a well rounded and needed business. The space then creates a visual, such as the one to the left, mapping them onto a chart to see where they are lacking in innovation.
Open innovation is increasingly important in expanding the understanding of your areas. Sharing knowledge with other businesses, as well as learning new things from universities and other cutting edge enterprises.
Innovation can even be applied to your marketing, creating new and engaging ways for customers to interact with you. Your marketing should make you look enticing and unmissable and reach as many people as possible, something which requires constant updating and refining to achieve. Pret mastered this during the pandemic, reaching a wide audience on a new platform through online challenges and hashtags.
Even your website should be innovative, giving consumers a stand out experience on a platform that makes them want to explore more and come back again. You really want to stay away from web platforms that are merely replicas of everything else out there.
Elon Musk – not really groundbreaking
Elon Musk is arguably the most innovative entrepreneur of recent years. Yet many of his greatest achievements haven’t been radically new, just better. Electric cars already existed before Tesla, but Tesla made them popular, rockets existed before SpaceX, but now they’re commercial and so on. He is the perfect example of how innovation doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be effective. Furthermore, the reason Tesla continues to be so successful is that they’re constantly updating. Their new models of car are a blend of recent trends and customers’ wants, and this way they manage to sustain a demand for their cars, bringing in big money for Musk, and making him look highly innovative at the same time.
Innovation is more about progression than being radical
Effective innovation simply means companies adapt to their customer needs – this way, they stay relevant and gain new knowledge. So if you thought innovation was for the radical then think again. As long as you listen to customer needs and allow time to capitalise on income then it will boost your business into being more successful than ever.
Written by Tilly Farrands, Sales and Events Coordinator at Phlashweb
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