Innovate to grow
It is often said that the driving force behind continuous improvement in a business is innovation.
Innovation requires three basic skills:
- Sensitivity to the marketplace - being able to read the trends and identify emerging needs
- Inventiveness - the ability to develop a creative response to those needs, either by introducing a new product or service or by adapting existing ones
- Positioning and timing - the art of introducing the new product or service into the marketplace in the right place and at the right time
One of the most significant trends to emerge in the marketplace in recent years is that of increased time pressures combining with greater spending power among the working population. In other words, people are increasingly cash-rich, but time-poor.
Here are some examples of the way the retail sector has adapted to meet these new needs:
- Supplying high-end prepared foods, such as microwave dinners or oven-ready meals, for busy consumers for whom both the convenience and the brand add value. Though targeted at narrower sectors of the market than traditional 'convenience foods' are, these products can command premium prices and so provide higher margins. Examples include Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' and Tesco's 'Finest' ranges.
- Taking advantage of convenient locations or existing 'fast trade' to create one-stop shops where busy consumers can avail themselves of a number of fast track services under one roof. Again, the speed and convenience are often combined with top brands to leverage premium prices. A good example is a petrol station selling top-of-the-range grocery items, CDs and so on.
It is not difficult to see how these principles can be applied to other sectors - the key point is to stay in touch with your market and be flexible enough to adapt to its needs.