Innovation should not be reserved for digital players and start-ups. Agility in any businesses requires the ability and creativity to adapt to changing markets and customer needs. There are plenty of established legacy businesses that are undergoing exciting developments to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers. Below I’ve listed four of my current favorites – and these are not the usual suspects – from the retail, financial services, hospitality and technology sectors.
IKEA isn’t a company I normally think of as a digital thought leader, but their latest marketing campaign has me rethinking my perspective. The company has been exploring personal relationship dynamics through their “Where Life Happens” campaign. As part of this, IKEA has renamed their products after common Google search terms, and have stocked their Retail Therapy website with these products. So, web surfers who search “Kids Every Other Week,” will return a link to a sleeper sofa on IKEA’s website. Similarly, “She Doesn’t Want To Cuddle” brings up a mattress wedge.
This is a terrific combination of humor and SEO that keeps IKEA top of mind. It’s also a clever way for the company – which does most of its business in brick and mortar stores – to drive web traffic.
The mobile payment space has seen a lot of changes and innovations from both legacy players and start-ups. Some of the biggest issues being tackled center on solving customer problems. One pain point for customers has been the hassle of remembering and entering long passwords for every purchase. Now, Mastercard has hit upon a unique alternative for processing online payments.
The method is known as Identity Check Mobile. It allows eCommerce customers to receive payment authorization through facial recognition. Users upload a selfie to Mastercard, which creates digital maps of their faces. When a customer wishes to make an online purchase, a notification asking for a new selfie is sent to his smartphone. The new photo is matched with the one on file, and the transaction is swiftly concluded. Mastercard says Identity Check Mobile will speed up the checkout process and improve security.
As a frequent Marriott guest, I’ve been impressed with the hotel’s commitment to expanding their digital capabilities to improve the customer experience. In October, Marriott opened an innovation lab called M Beta, in Charlotte, N.C. The lab is the world’s first functioning hotel in “live beta.” Guests participate in every stage of experimentation by using “beta buttons” to share feedback on particular innovations that they experience in the lab. Concepts currently being tested include personal greeters waiting for your arrival, on-demand group and personal workouts, integrating kitchens into meeting spaces for improved networking and brainstorming events, and more.
IBM has re-invented itself numerous times during the last twenty years. The company, which has transformed itself from a hardware business to a services company, is now offering a new innovation featuring their AI system, Watson. IBM has over 100 clients that have built Watson into various product and service offerings. They have also purchased a number of data-rich companies, such as Truven Health Analytics and the Weather Company, which have datasets that Watson can ingest and use to provide wide-reaching insight. IBM is trying to keeping up with such innovating giants as Amazon, Google and Apple in the AI-space. This is no easy task but, with Watson, they seem to be making real inroads into enterprise usage.
These are four of my favorite current innovations from big companies. What are yours?