Innovation  simply meeting a need

Innovation simply meeting a need

I am fascinated by a new technological device – The Zomm. (It sounds pretty high tech, doesn’t it?) It won a ton of awards at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) this year and has not even yet been released into the marketplace! First of all – check it out – The Zomm, about the size of a poker chip, is a “wireless leash” for your cell phone. If you walk off without your phone, your Zomm will sound an alarm. Obviously, it will do the same if someone steals your phone. It also serves as a Bluetooth device, working as a speaker phone and as a way to make an emergency phone call by pushing a single button.

Pretty cool! Pretty high tech! Brilliant! But – created to meet a real need. A family kept losing their cell phones and wanted to find a way to avoid the hassle and expense of replacing them. They didn’t set out to be brilliant – but to meet a need. The brilliance followed!

Multi Vitamins – what can be new there, other than squeezing a new ingredient or two into a capsule or tablet? Enter Hallie Rich. Hallie’s dad, Mel, was one of the great pioneers in the natural products industry, in the areas of vitamin formulation and manufacturing and in retailing. A great man, who shunned the spotlight, he influenced more brands and stores than most people imagine. In Hallie’s case, she had quite a role model. And, in her case, she couldn’t swallow pills – so she was unable to take most dietary supplements. (Problems swallowing pills apparently are common – with about 40% of the population having challenges in this area.) Hallie focused on meeting a need – and Alternavites was born! ( Powdered supplements – with a very good flavor profile and packed full of nutrition! To have quality vitamins in a powdered form, with enough potency to be worth taking and to taste great – there was some brilliance somewhere along the line! The idea didn’t start with brilliance, but with a focus on meeting a need. (This line launches officially later this year – I’m looking forward to seeing how it does!)

I am reminded of a workshop that I did at Expo West a few years ago. It was a great interactive session with 40-50 retailers! Our topic was to talk about how to foster customer loyalty for local stores. We talked about a variety of strategies and ideas. Part of the time was devoted to a discussion about a formal “loyalty program.” These things work well for grocery stores, airlines, etc. – and are now being offered with some pretty impressive features for smaller chains and single stores. One retailer in attendance said that she had looked at formal programs, and then invented her own! It involved 3” by 5” cards at her cash register. Anyone wanting one could have their name put on a card. Each time they checked out, they could ask that their purchase be noted on their card. At certain dollar or frequency levels, prices were made available. Brilliant – and, in this case, lo-tech! A focus on meeting a need – and brilliance came about!

It is said that our space program spent millions of dollars in the 60’s trying to find a pen that would write in zero gravity so that it could be used by astronauts in space. How about using a pencil?!?! Brilliance doesn’t mean that you came up with something new and fancy – but that you met a need!

What do your customers need from you? Focusing on meeting their needs will lead to you unleashing some brilliance in your store!

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