How to make sense of trending business innovations

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Whether it’s the metaverse, shoppable social media, or cryptocurrency, brands are competing to determine which trend best aligns with their technology capabilities and customer value proposition.

During the rush, it’s easy to misjudge how a given trend may or may not connect with its audience. For example, earlier this year, Hostess unexpectedly announced the launch of “$TWINKcoin,” a cryptocurrency-inspired coin version of its classic Twinkie pie.

Hostess not only received backlash from the LGBTQ+ community for its careless use of the offensive term, but also severely confused its customers. The connection between the baked goods conglomerate and the world of cryptocurrency was not made clear in its announcement.

That said, Hostess’s desire to insert herself into the crypto conversation that often grabs the headlines was understandable. Several consumer brands like Nike, Sotheby’s, and Coca Cola made the same leap in 2021, meeting with success and positive headlines for weeks and months to come. But several months after its launch, no one outside of Hostess understands the point of the brand’s foray into cryptocurrency, but we do remember that it was a flop.


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Avoiding an innovation mistake

Interest in business trends like the ones mentioned continues to grow. In fact, metaverse-related companies raised more than $10 billion last year, nearly double the amount raised in 2020. And that trend isn’t slowing down: the size of the metaverse market is projected to reach nearly $700 billion by 2030.

However, as evidenced, opting for these trends fails when it lacks a clear connection to your brand and business model. In the Hostess example, if we put the campaign offensive aside, the value of the company’s product, customers, and this new foray still didn’t match up.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sephora has found success by embracing modern business innovations as part of its omnichannel experiences. The beauty supply retailer adopted technology that allowed its customers to make purchases, communicate with live representatives and gain access to exclusive discounts, all on its mobile app.

In stores, as well as on its app, Sephora customers benefit from virtual augmented reality (AR) trials and Color IQ technology to find the right foundation shade for their skin tone. Sephora uses data generated through both in-person and virtual interactions to provide personalized customer communications, recommendations and experiences. This is tech trend adoption done right: Sephora prioritized its customer behaviors and sought experiences that complemented its business model.

To achieve similar results, organizations need to analyze whether a new innovation aligns with their brand identity and customer behavior. In addition, it is important to build a company culture that prioritizes continuous experimentation. For example, Sephora launched an innovation lab in 2015 to test in-store experiences before rolling it out widely, reducing operating costs and garnering real feedback.

Prioritize brand authenticity and customer relevance

Fashionable business innovations often look impressive, especially from a distance. But it’s critical to identify a clear business case before committing resources.

Start by determining how a new innovation will generate revenue and reinforce your brand values ​​and image. Just as important, make sure your customers are interested in, or can be convinced to be, in the experiences that the innovation offers. Customer surveys, consumer personas, and other feedback mechanisms can help you gauge audience sentiment and needs.

On track to become the most digitally connected generation by 2024, Gen Z is drawn to engaging and relevant content, having grown up in the video-first social media and streaming era with a plethora of options. of content at your fingertips.

A good example of this was the 2020 Roblox VR concert with rapper Lil Nas X. The platform is built on the premise of community, social commerce, and gaming, and they smartly didn’t abandon these core elements that contribute to its success. continuous. Roblox stuck to what it does best and delivered an experience that mattered to its audience.

Ultimately, integrating modern business innovations requires both self-awareness and experimentation. Self-awareness about whether these innovations are a good fit for your organization’s brand and values ​​is vital to successful implementations. The ability to experiment to determine if your customers are interested in these key innovations.

Create a culture of experimentation, then build an agile technology stack to match

A culture of experimentation is critical to achieving success with business innovations. Suppose you are interested in implementing an NFT component into an existing offer. Instead of rushing to add NFT capabilities to your offer in a disjointed way, experiment and iterate with several rounds of A/B testing. Over time, this test-and-try approach fosters an organizational culture of experimentation that increases the likelihood that innovations will resonate with new and existing customers.

But even with the right culture, a rigid technology stack can quickly stifle any innovation. By contrast, an agile technology stack enables your employees to prioritize innovation by making it easy to launch, learn, iterate, and potentially scrap business innovations with minimal risk or loss. Additionally, agile technology stacks often include applications that don’t require extensive IT expertise, allowing non-technical team members to fully participate in an organizational culture rooted in experimentation.

Work smarter

Despite the increased appetite for business innovations among brands, 45% of non-technical business decision makers allocate only a minimal amount of their annual budget to improve or expand their company’s business capabilities. That’s particularly interesting, considering that a majority (59%) of decision makers say they’re more likely to buy from companies that offer modern commerce experiences.

Closing this gap begins with evaluating current and projected business innovations and how they align with current technology capabilities, brand vision, and changing customer needs. By fostering an agile culture and investing in technologies that enable that agility, an organization can relentlessly innovate and tap into the right business trends.

Jen Jones is Director of Marketing at commercetools.

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