6-Pointers to Business Innovation in the times of Covid-19
Innovation is helping companies to survive the current pandemic while also laying a solid foundation for future growth. Innovation need not be driven only by the costly time-consuming research or some lucky serendipity, but most often it’s derived by an intimate understanding of customer needs and behavior.
I believe innovation can be engineered, and even expedited, using the following framework of ‘6-Pointers’ to inventions. Of course, the Key is the clarity of changing customer needs and behavior.
1. Product – It offers a large dimension to adjust, adapt, and innovate based on customers’ constraints, changed priorities, or new consumption patterns. For example, a company in the audiobooks market – Audible – started free streaming of children's stories to help executives manage their office meetings while also managing their kids at home. These positive stories helped them engage their young kids in a healthier way than watching TV or spending time on the play stations. Here, Audible adjusted its product offering to solve a key issue imaginatively, thus winning both loyalty and subscription. In B2B markets too, there are ample opportunities to play with the existing product and services to offer engaging options.
2. Price – Most organizations are currently cash strapped. Thus, they would be far more critical to the product/ service ‘values’ than in normal times. One forward-integrated OEM company, which supplies machines as well as raw materials used by these machines for production, recognized the capital constraint of clients and offered machines free for a commitment to buying their raw material for a period. Thus, creating a win-win situation for both parties. Similarly, the value of products can be enhanced by lowering prices or by improving specifications. Service components can be re-engineered in many ways to enhance the overall specs increasing the perceived values of the products.
3. Place – In recent times, we have seen a spate of changes in the delivery methods due to the social distancing requirements. Top retail companies and many grocery shops started offering curbside delivery or even home deliveries. Some restaurants turned into hyper-local delivery partners for food and grocery supplies. In the B2B or industrial sectors too, there could be many ways to simplify the delivery channels. Here, product supplies are often accompanied by pre- and post-delivery requirements. Fulfilling these requirements through easier and transparent transactions can make a huge difference in the overall value proposition. Technology, especially digital and internet-based solutions, is increasingly getting used in enhancing the overall service experience of the customers.
4. Promotion – Today, promotion is all about deepening customer engagement, which means offering specific solutions to solve customer’s needs, challenges, or bottlenecks. It also means effectively reaching out to the right customers to start the conversation. Probably, the easiest way is reaching out to the current customers offering solutions that they are needing the most. It may also mean to identify gaps in the market, probably arising due to competition’s weakness, and proceeding to fill these gaps speedily. Digital marketing can be a great tool in connecting meaningfully to both these groups. But, there is no substitute for keeping ears to the ground for identifying the market gaps.
5. Process – One of the most difficult challenges today is to manage one’s own as well as customers’ costs, as there is severe pressure on revenues and costs in most sectors. Squeezing-in the ‘direct’ costs is an obvious area to work, but a lot of innovation is possible in the ‘indirect’ costs too - processes are required to be re-evaluated and most likely re-vamped to reduce scraps, rejects, damages or returns to maximize the capital productivity. These steps can, in fact, turn the current crisis into a significant long-term advantage for the company.
There could be many paths to process innovations. But, one of the proven ways is lean methodologies and technological upgradations of business processes. As an example from another equipment manufacturer, they integrated IoT into their finished products to reduce operating and maintenance costs of buyers, thereby innovating the products itself. Earlier, they had experimented with their own processes in a similar fashion reaping cost and quality benefits. In another tech-based application, a warehousing company innovated its power grid management by using IoT and analytics to reduce its electricity bill by half.
6. Pace – The speed of identifying opportunities, marshalling resources, and delivering solutions required to be far swifter now than ever as competitive anxiety has heightened due to the crisis. Thus, time buffers generally available for analysis and evaluation are squeezed-out more or less completely. In such a situation, this 6-pointers may help in kick-starting innovation quickly to not only meet the immediate challenges but also grab the emerging opportunities.
I will be happy to hear your success stories of innovations as also happy to join hands in your quest for continuous evolution. We are reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Share with your friends