How Innovation and Focusing on Millennials Can Fuel Growth
by Bonnie Janzen
We know innovation is important. Let’s say management has determined that your company needs to evaluate how Millennials currently impact your business and how they will impact your business in years to come. How can you design innovative products and services for Millennials?
Innovation or change, just for change’s sake, is not sufficient to drive business. In fact, changing products, processes, and strategies can actually be a detriment to your business. The trick is to keep your current customers who love you just as you are (which makes them resistant to change), while simultaneously attracting new customers.
The Right Foundation
To ensure your innovation efforts are profitable, you need to have the right definition of your business. You need to think about the benefit that your business provides the world. Think very broadly. Perhaps you are providing comfort, empowering women, or delivering the best outdoor experience for families. By defining your business broadly, you might see other opportunities, including other delivery vehicles, other channels of distribution, brands with which you could partner, etc.
It is also important to consider how consumers define your business, as they might have a different definition of your business than the one you have. Even among consumers, different generations may see your brand/company differently; Millennials, may have a different definition of your products and services than Gen Xers or even Baby Boomers. These different definitions can provide additional business opportunities that you might not have considered otherwise.
Once you have the right foundation and right definition of your business, you need to develop a deep understanding of your consumer—their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors—and how they relate to your business/product/services. This understanding of the market and consumer takes into account underlying trends in society and the marketplace.
Innovation or change that has the potential to fuel growth is based on these underlying trends. The best innovations are built on a foundation of true insight into consumers’ minds, emotions, and behaviors.
Companies that do the best job at innovating have innovation in their DNA. Employees should feel empowered to recognize innovative opportunities and be able to communicate those ideas to upper management. Brilliant ideas can come from the store floor, from the factory, and from assistant managers, engineering, marketing, finance—from every corner of the organization.
Ideally, an Innovation Department would be empowered to harness consumer understanding and combine that knowledge with that of other key influencers (employees, distributors, experts, etc.) in order to identify the best opportunities for growth. It can also be applied to new markets, new customers, new advertising, and new uses of existing products. The Innovation Department needs to have freedom to evaluate concepts that could be 5, 10, 20 years out, as well as concepts for next year, and to redefine current products and services.
Consumer Driven Innovation
Innovation not only comes from employees, but also from consumers who have experience with your product or the product category. At Decision Analyst, we offer the Imaginators®, a community of innovative consumers who have the ability to generate large numbers of highly original ideas for new products and services. They are an online creativity community that is comprised of everyday people who have been tested for high levels of “idea-centric creativity”—the ability to generate large numbers of highly original ideas for new products and services. To date, more than 250,000 people have been tested using our proprietary testing system. Each panelist ranks in the top 4% of the general population in terms of idea-centric creative abilities. As a result, the ideas conceived by the Imaginators’ are truly unique and breakthrough in nature.
In order to be forward-looking, one market to focus on may be Millennials. They see the world and interact with it differently than their parents did. Millennials are different from previous generations in that they have grown up in an “on demand” world. They are looking to satisfy their needs with the least amount of effort, and they obviously won’t wait to get the products of their choice. Businesses are changing delivery methods and distribution channels, creating experiences, and creating communication pathways specifically designed for Millennials. Millennial Imaginators® are a unique set of highly creative consumers who provide the creativity to fuel innovation for Millennials and other generations.
It’s not enough for an innovation process to be creative, companies must also harness that creativity and consumer insight into relevant products and services that consumers will buy. Successful innovation requires focus and understanding. Just because you can build it, design it, or chemically engineer it doesn’t mean that you should offer that product or service. First, determine if it fills a gap or need in the consumer’s world. The process should begin with the appropriate foundation, be steeped in consumer insight, and utilize a very broad definition of your organization’s benefit to the consumer. Imaginators® (especially the Millennial Imaginators®) and your internal teams can collaborate to drive innovation that will fuel growth for your business.
About the Author
Bonnie Janzen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Executive Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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