4 highly effective types of business innovation

September 29, 2022

4 highly effective types of business innovation

The most significant innovations are about the people affected by them, not the particular product or its features. A product doesn’t have to be disruptive, but it does need to improve people’s lives and add value.

When we think of great innovation, we often picture consumer products and services like those from Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Amazon, Zappos, etc. However, those businesses have focused their innovations on a specific area of their business model. They have each decided that they will be the best at: user experience, or distribution, or product or customer service.

It's important to select the right area to innovate in. Look outside and inside your business and find the right problem that needs to be solved. Visualise the future – what system-level disruptions will occur and how you’re going to prepare for them.

Once you’ve have decided where and how you will innovate:

  • Be realistic about the time needed to build/implement the innovation, the cost, and the staff appointments and training to support the innovation.
  • Keep refining your business model to incorporate the innovation – what needs revision, what has changed, what still matters.

4 highly effective types of innovation

(and the South African businesses that have done it well)

1. Marketing innovation

McCain potato smilies

Who is doing it: McCain Foods has grown its frozen food product range to cater for a variety of mealtime needs, for families from all walks of life. Owned by New Media, Food24 is South Africa’s largest food website, generating up to a million page views per month.

What they did: In 2020, McCain undertook a Food24 campaign with a focus on family and meaningful mealtime connections.  The aim was to drive reach as well as “new news” in the form of communication innovation. McCain collaborated with Swipe to deliver an internationally award-winning digital-to-print cookbook that took personalisation to a new level.

Why it was successful: The campaign had the feel of a traditional collection of recipe clippings in an old folder in your kitchen drawer, making it feel highly personal, yet beautiful enough to proudly display in your kitchen. The Cookbook Creator helped position McCain as mealtime thought leaders and developed true utility for Food24’s audience. At the same time, the printed cookbook brought the digital-only Food24 brand. into people’s homes in the form of a physical touchpoint.

How you can do it: The basics apply – knowing your audience persona and understanding their customer journey is vital to any marketing campaign. Other key elements include:

  • Timing: The Cookbook Creator campaign happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most families were spending time cooking at home.
  • Collaboration with a complimentary brand: Your customers need to feel like they’re getting added value. Understand which of your audience needs can be satisfied with a partner brand.
  • The right technology (or technology partner): Building AR to target Gen X will probably not work. Can you combine existing technologies in your business in a new way to delight your customers?

2. Data innovation

Data innovation

Who is doing it: An obvious example of data innovation is Discovery Financial Services, which has a business model intent on delivering value through positive structural changes in the markets the company services.

What they’re doing: Discovery uses gamification and incentives to collect a wide range of insights from all the customer interaction points they are integrated with.

Why it’s successful: Discovery’s core purpose is to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives. What started out as a programme to improve the health of its members has now grown to a full-spectrum wellness system that ranges from physical to financial wellness benefits. Discovery boasts some of the highest customer retention figures, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How you can do it: Create data collection points that you own at every step in your customer journey. There are several off-the-shelf tool and systems that allow you to integrate your internal systems for data collection and processing. Most of these are low/no code.

3. Customer service innovation

Customer service innovation

Who is doing it: Multichoice/DStv is the largest pay TV provider in Africa and its product offering allows customers a variety of options to manage their subscriptions and account. This requires a strong support system.

What they’re doing: DStv launched its self-service chatbot in May 2022. TUMI, as the bot is named, is integrated into multiple platforms. Being AI, it’s constantly learning customer query behaviour and updating itself.

Why it’s successful: The bot supports agents dealing with inbound queries in being consistent with first-call resolutions, which in turn minimises customer and agent frustrations. TUMI also significantly reduces customer service overheads over time, as it encourages customers to move to digital platforms rather than go in-store. Other benefits are that it reduces the amount of time needed for agent training as well as overall call time.

How you can do it: The WhatsApp Business platform integrates with your existing technologies via an API integration. It allows you to run full-scale customer self-service from query management to sales.

4. Channel innovation

Channel innovation

Who is doing it: Checkers Sixty60 app, a division of the Shoprite Group

What they’re doing: At its launch, the retailer said the app’s name captured the service’s main ambition: “For customers to order groceries in 60 seconds and have them delivered in as little as 60 minutes”.

Why it’s successful: Sixty60 has managed to take all of the perks and convenience of shopping in-store while eliminating the stresses and frustrations associated with it. The experience is the same as popping out to your local store, only better because it requires a fraction of the time and energy. Now delivering from nearly 300 stores across SA, the Sixty60 service has created more than 4 000 jobs since it launched three years ago.

How you can do it: In a nutshell, channel innovation is about how you connect your product offering to your customers. In digital, this could be strengthening your process and systems or increasing your accessibility. You can opt to improve and refine either your supply chain, marketing channel, sales platform, or payment methods.

The role of the innovation team

An innovative team

The businesses that deliver the most successful innovations are also the ones that assemble dedicated teams for this purpose. Innovation labs explore many ideas in detail and often build multiple prototypes in order to test, learn and improve. These teams do not work in silos; instead they have an umbrella view and carte blanche to gather insights from all parts of the organisation. They foster a culture of innovative thinking and embrace diverse thinking throughout the business.

Innovation teams don’t necessarily have technical skills. They’re meant to do research and design, and then find the best solution or technical teams to help deliver the innovations.

The Swipe iX team have been transforming businesses through a culture of strategic innovation for more than eight years. We work with you to leverage:

  • your value proposition and strengthen customer relationships
  • technology to drive efficiency
  • insights to drive profitability

Gaynor Johnson

Head of Innovation

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