the Startups

Innovation & e-Commerce

Every day we witness the birth of more and more e-stores, be them from the fashion, technology, healthcare, beauty, lifestyle or food industry. Given that the offer is 4-5 times higher than the demand, how could we possibly succeed to launch or scale our e-Commerce business?

There may be several answers to this question, but there is only one that really stands out from the crowd: i n n o v a t e.

What’s the deal with innovation?

First we need to explain that innovation is not about launching a new brand that sells the same stuff or provides the same services as everyone, but about coming up with a new approach on what that brand is selling.

Innovation is about doing things differently. Better.

Another great thing about innovating is that it makes the competition irrelevant. You don’t have to spend days or weeks trying to analyze and outrank your competitors. The only thing you need to do is to figure out how to switch your perspective and create something that had never even crossed your opponents’ minds. We’ll describe a hypothetical situation so you can better understand what we’re talking about:

Small dogs get lost. Some of them never get found. So the pet care products manufacturers started producing stronger collars, shorter leashes, more flexible harnesses. Literally, everyone got caught in this accessories frenzy, constantly trying to make a better version of what their competitor(s) had just launched. Someone even invented a dog whistle, which seemed like a great idea until it turned out to gather every other dog in the neighborhood, except for the one that went missing.

That’s when an innovator asked three eye-opening questions: what’s really the problem here? What can we do to eliminate that problem? What can we do to also improve our user’s life?

The answers came naturally: we need to create something that will not cut down on the freedom of the dog, while also guaranteeing its owner the comfort of always knowing where the dog is and helping them find the pet, shall it ever get lost. And that’s how the GPS tracking device for dogs was born. The pet lovers could now let their dogs wander freely, knowing that all they needed to do to recover their runaway pet was to use an app on their mobile phone to track down their furry friend. Amazing, isn’t it?

Innovation through utility

If you’re ready to embark on this journey to innovation, you must always remember these two words: utility first. When you think about innovation, you must always have your end user in the back of your head:

  • what problems can you solve?
  • what needs can you cover?
  • what wishes can you fulfill?
  • how can you improve their lives?

There are two ways you can bring innovation through your products/ services:

1. By creating something completely new

2. By improving something that already exists.

Follow us on this one, because things are about to get a little complex.

Dipping your toes into the Blue Ocean Strategy

You can read more on the subject here. Today we’ll only scratch the surface to explain the connection between this strategy, innovation and e-Commerce.

The Blue Ocean Strategy basically teaches you how to rely on the differentiators in your own business or discover new ones in order to reach out to new markets while lowering your costs, identifying new customers, increasing your revenue and making the competition irrelevant. To sum it up, the Blue Ocean Strategy teaches you innovation with no boundaries and no competition.

Things you need to know

1. The Blue Ocean Strategy is only one way you can innovate and it requires an open mind, a very strong desire to grow your business and a few resources you need to be prepared to allocate: time, people and money. The result of learning and applying this strategy is that you benefit from an incredible and irreversible shift in your organization and in the way you perceive and manage your business.

2. The Blue Ocean Strategy comes with a set of extremely useful frameworks, out of which we picked two for today: the ERRC method and the Strategy Canvas (Value Curve).

ERRC

A simple, yet very effective matrix that teaches you to identify your business capacities by figuring out what can you Eliminate, Reduce, Raise or Create to drive changes in your business. At the intersection of these four factors stands everything you can innovate.

ERRC matrix, Blue Ocean Strategy
Image source: www.blueoceanstrategy.com

The Strategy Canvas

A tool that teaches you to extract the differentiators from your business (your competing factors) and compare them to your industry in order to determine their level of strength. As soon as you finish this exercise you’ll get this value curve, which will help you notice which are you true key differentiators and how you can boost them to leave your competitors behind.

Strategy Canvas - Blue Ocean Strategy
Image source: www.blueoceanstrategy.com

3. There are a few experts on the market that can guide your steps through this process, from start to finish. If you’re prepared for a massive change, drop us a line and we’ll know who to connect you with.

Innovation and e-Commerce

You’re probably wondering how can you innovate in your own business. Though there’s no universal answer to this one, we can absolutely guarantee you that every e-commerce business has an unexplored potential for growth, which can be reached through innovation in 99% of the cases.

We’re not gonna’ bring up the giants from the industry, as they obviously had all the means and resources to take the shortcut and hack the market on their way to growth. Instead, we’re going to show you some examples of how you can make a difference if you stop chasing the “biggest-brands-for-the-lowest-price” wet dream that got everyone drowning in the red ocean in the first place.

Innovation through design

If you think there can be no fun and excitement in buying chocolate, you probably didn’t run into this Danish paradise. Unless you suffer from motion sickness, navigating through their homepage can be the best thing that happened to you today.

Go ahead. Strip down the first chocolate that pops up, and scroll your way down through imaginary diabetes. When you’re done fantasizing about dark chocolates that dance around naked among fresh raspberries and molten caramel, tilt your head 90 degrees to the left, click on the “Cocoa Horizons” category in their menu and learn that chocolate presentations are not the only thing they absolutely nailed.

Innovation through services

Chances are, the award for the most fascinating services of all times goes to Zappos.

These guys took the definition of “support” to a whole new level, as there is probably almost nothing in the world they wouldn’t do for their customers.

When you order something online and then, for some reason, you need to reach out to them for support, you would expect them to solve your problem in a professional manner and within a reasonable period of time. What you don’t expect from them, however, is:

– to upgrade your account to VIP version and send you a product for free as a way of saying “sorry” for a delayed transportation;

– to accidentally ship you the wrong pair of shoes and then to not accept your return, while sending you the right product and asking you to donate the wrong pair of shoes to a kid in need;

– to order pizza for you in the middle of the night;

– to send you a large basket of flowers to help you cope with the loss of your mother;

– to engage with you in a 10-hour-long conversation because you needed someone to talk to;

– to grant you and your family VIP membership because you told them about a medical condition that keeps you from wearing regular shoes;

Of course, this is just one example. The point is, if it’s in your culture and values to go the extra mile, there’s an endless range of ways you can improve the services you offer to your customers.

Innovation through technology

The first example we can think of is connected to the AI-driven personalization tools. A bunch of user-oriented (and conversion-obsessed) dudes built some complex algorithms that track users’ every move and then target them with relevant content.

Under the logic: “if you are to flood me with ads, at least show me something I’d dig”, we have them to thank for not being presented with sexy lingerie or an expensive make-up kit if we’re a 40-something bearded guy who’s in search for tickets to this year’s World Cup.

Innovation through .. experience

Last but not least, we’ve got yours truly. Wherever we went we would use a basic – I think we’re safe to call it primitive – technique of drawing on walls to bring out the skeletons in companies’ closets. This technique implied us using a big surface (we chose walls) to draw the current situation of a company. Once we were done, we had the big picture of what goes well and what doesn’t. Then we would redesign the scheme to point out what flows and processes needed improvement, what systems and tools needed to be implemented, how long it would all take before you see the first results and how much it would all cost.

We literally got the same reaction ten times out of ten: “OMG, I had never, ever looked at things this way!”

Without knowing it, we had just given the world something everybody needed but no one knew how to ask: the macro view on their business and a complete strategy for development and growth. We had just innovated through utility.

What once started as a shy and really inelegant personal technique turned out to be a gold mine years later. Our ugly duckling had turned into a framework. It’s called Critical Me and today we use it on all kinds of businesses – old or new, big or small, digital or not – and it’s just as efficient in any of the cases.

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Innovation stands at the core of everything we do here, at theStartups. It’s in our DNA, it helps us grow and develop, it’s our main drive and our highest purpose. We don’t let a day go by without sharing even the craziest ideas we get, because some of those crazy ideas turned into some of our greatest achievements.

If you manage to shift your current perspective to “innovation mode”, we guarantee it will change your life for the better, professional or otherwise.

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