Innovation

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Innovation: Pivoting, Product Exposure and Flexibility, 3 keys to survival 

Author: Eva Acton

Thinking back on where we were in 2008, there was very little disposable income in the economy and products which were perceived as luxury items fell off a cliff metaphorically speaking. Our products were in this category.  Companies were making staff redundant, so it would be incongruous to have a floral design at reception at the same time.

Reflecting on my experiences I see innovative strategies I used which resonate with today’s climate, Here I have outlined 3 such strategies.

Pivoting

My plan for the shop was to focus on high-end corporate clients, the area I knew best, however given the environment that was suddenly emerging it was obvious that this customer profile would not be sufficient to sustain the business.

I was lucky to have sufficient cash-flow to sustain me through most of Year 1 which allowed me time to readjust my business plan and target customer. Today’s Microfinance loans or Covid 19 Business loans may help create this buffer to re-target and refocus.

In today’s parlance we pivoted to get businesses from other sources with the same product. We approached hotels with a scaled down / lower budget version of our product. This is where innovation was a key. How do we win business when the budget is significantly less, but the product still needs to be of high quality??

We worked on a variety of options and provided examples to the clients. We provided low, medium, and high cost options for them to review. Event business, though hard hit, was still very important to hotels so they needed to provide their client with a good experience. We worked on the following areas:

·        What was critical to the client? (In our case event flowers)

·        What was the minimum product offering they required? (min budget / max effect floral designs)

·        How could we make this work to generate an income? (innovate / create / provide choice)

Small businesses are nimble, flexible, and willing to adjust. A key part of this is finding out exactly what your customers unmet needs are, and these may be different to before Covid 19 hit us.

Product / Service Exposure

The obvious way to get your product seen is online and shop front. With a shop front it is about attracting customers into your premises, even more of a challenge now. So, in addition to getting people in, we investigated getting our product out?

Bundling: Is it possible to bundle your product with a complementary product? E.g. We investigated delivering our products as part of a hamper offering with a Hamper company. An artisan food offering would be well suited to this.

Another outlet / Pop-up: We set up a Floral stand in a local supermarket to showcase our products and visited each day to ensure the quality of the product was as good as in our shop. Look into the opportunities to partner with a complimentary product or service provider?

A clever example of how a business has started up in this environment is StuffUNeed.ie. They have teamed up with local businesses so people can still avail of their favorite products and meals at home, ‘DIY At Home Restaurant Kits’.  A very clever business strategy and an example of how a product / service provider can move into another outlet for their product.

Flexibility

Now that shopping has become more functional and transactional, (Go, See, buy… and get home ASAP!!!) the big supermarkets & shopping centers may not hold the same appeal. So, there are good opportunities for small local businesses to provide a comprehensive offering to attract back the consumer. A more critically astute product offering may provide better turnover in the short term. How many shops have you seen selling bedding plants and compost before the garden centers opened a couple of weeks ago!

At busy times in our business we used the Click & Collect capability of our web site. This can be a valuable tool now to make it easy for consumers to avoid waiting around in socially distant queues.

To build our business we needed to be flexible in the service we provided to our clients. We regularly loaned our vases and our event equipment out to clients at no charge on the back of an order.

Fashion stores will need to introduce flexibility in their returns policy now due to the restrictions around trying on clothes and footwear or even examining items.

The hands-free policy in store may in fact provide some advantages: an opportunity to engage more with the client and provide improved customer service, something that we had lost in the larger department stores but was thankfully always present in smaller local stores.

These are a few ideas where thinking about things a little differently may provide another opportunity you hadn’t considered before.

Check Eva’s article on LinkedIn

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