Why innovation keeps businesses thriving
Innovation of product, services and workflows can elevate a business to new levels, but does that really mean being a constant groundbreaker in your field?
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.
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, one of the most advanced brands of our time wouldn’t be considered innovative at all – Apple airpods are just earphones. They are, however, an improvement on our existing technology.
If you take a look at all the 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.
This could take form in a 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 as other options in the market appear.
Incremental innovation is the most important tool to fulfil customer needs and stay profitable. It’s this constant improvement and refinement of what you offer that will help you stay ahead of competitors.
Take a look at Woolworths. A few years ago they were a high street giant, but they failed to make important incremental changes that would have guaranteed longevity. By far their biggest failure was neglecting the demand for online shopping, ultimately leading to their downfall.
More recently, the Covid pandemic created an urgent need for indie retailers, restaurants and others relying mostly on footfall for survival. These businesses always had low requirements to be accessible online, but they were pushed to find new ways of being available to customers and they needed to act fast.
It’s vital you understand your customers needs first, so you don’t waste resources on the wrong areas, running down capital without seeing profit. How you innovate must fit around what your customers require of you.
The theory of innovation
Innovation theory is incredibly useful for businesses, allowing them to visually see where they’re failing to evolve. 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 produce a well-rounded and needed business. The space then creates a visual, like the one to the left, mapping them onto a chart to see where they’re lacking in innovation.
Open innovation, whereby external cooperation and education is embraced, is increasingly important in learning how best to advance. Sharing knowledge with other businesses, as well as learning new things from universities and other cutting edge enterprises has been widely recognised for some time.
Even in your marketing you must create new and engaging ways for customers to interact with you. Everything you create should be geared to make you look enticing and unmissable, something which requires constant refining to achieve. Pret mastered this during the pandemic. They reached a new audience by capitalising on the opportunities presented by TikTok, creating successful online challenges that were highly engaging.
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 creating a web platform that is merely a replica of everything else out there.
Elon Musk – revolutionary, or a good listener?
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 the list goes on. He’s the perfect example of how innovation doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be effective.
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.
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.
It’s also worth remembering that innovation increases chances of success, but it doesn’t guarantee it. You need to make sure you educate your customers on why you’re the best option in your field. Innovation must always go hand in hand with a good marketing strategy that educates, informs and resonates with audiences needs.
Written by Tilly Farrands, Sales and Events Coordinator at Phlashweb
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