How will you innovate in 2015?

January 26, 2015

The best innovations ring true with consumers and help improve their lives, even in small ways.

What does The Lempert Report mean when we urge retailers and CPG to innovate?

Understand where consumers are heading, then develop better products, services or outreach to meet their needs. The effect should be to improve lives and grow companies.

People may push away from attempts that are too extreme, such as Google Glass, which also raised privacy concerns. The best innovations could be small ones that help customers in their everyday lives – such as easier shopping, healthier products. And they should feel authentic to ring true with consumers.

As always, innovation was a key theme at Retail’s Big Show put on by the National Retail Federation this month. In a presentation, Staples executive vice president of global e-commerce Faisal Masud said, “Innovation slows when businesses are doing well….In a bigger company, it gets harder to innovate. You have to take chances…,” NRF reported.  

Staples [the #3 online merchant in the United States behind only Amazon and Apple, according to Internet Retailer] moved its innovation center to Seattle to attract the best talent to help bring technology in-house – even though it is far from its Boston-area headquarters, adds the NRF account.  

This is part of their way to succeed in the more demanding world of omnichannel shopping, where buyers are better informed.

Since consumers are able to know more about everything for sale, authenticity is a key component of innovation. For example, Diet Coke helps promote its brand and a heart disease charity with a New York Fashion Week event in February. Though the event is well conceived and supports the interest of female health, to The Lempert Report the joint effort of a diet soda (with artificial sweeteners) and a heart disease charity seems like a stretch. A more authentic example, where the color red is a central element, might be a brand such as Hunt’s tomato sauce, which is rich in lycopene and could credibly help to carry a charity message against prostate cancer.  

Here are a few ideas where retailers and brands could innovate in 2015:

  • Work with agricultural suppliers to help protect honeybees, which the USDA says pollinate 80% of the worldwide food supply – yet whose numbers are at risk. (What's Happening to Our Bees?)
  • Online delivery – but enter with caution. There are already lots of competitors. IBIS World forecasts lower profitability ahead for this sector – just 6.9% of revenue by 2018, down from 8.5% in 2014, the Washington Post reports. Also, David Hayes, head of creative strategy at Tumblr, told Bloomberg recently that “People are craving real-life interaction for shopping. There’s a trend going from URL to IRL – in real life.” 
  • Strengthen health image. How? Make retail dietitians more prominent. They are the nation’s #2 trusted source for nutrition information, says the National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru 2015 Consumer Survey Report. Bring in more local foods. Highlight smarter choices for shoppers.
  • Adopt quicker, more secure payment methods to speed shoppers along and help prevent data breaches.