By Steve Sponseller, Intellectual Property Attorney, Innovation Strategist, SteveSponseller.com
Apple’s recent product announcements provide an excellent opportunity for business leaders to innovate. Following trends is a common practice by intelligent businesses. For example, leaders monitor trends that are affecting their industry today and in the near future. However, many companies are not fully leveraging innovation opportunities by extending current trends farther into the future.
Apple’s announcement of the Apple Watch and Apple Pay service are the latest examples of a growing market for wearable technology and alternate payment methods. Many companies are monitoring these trends and working to develop products and services that are in alignment with them.
For example, innovative thinkers will carefully evaluate the new opportunities to engage with their customers in an intimate manner through a wearable device. Although smartphones and other mobile devices provide a personal connection with a customer, the ability to interact through a device physically “connected” to the customer for significant periods of time is a new business opportunity.
How can your business provide a better customer experience and build a stronger customer relationship with wearable devices? Visualize a customer using a wearable device throughout a typical day. How do they interact with it, and what functions could make the customer’s day easier, more productive or more enjoyable? Consider other products or applications that can interact with the wearable device to benefit the customer.
The alternate payment trend provides new payment methods that do not require a traditional credit card or debit card. Paying with a mobile device presents new opportunities to engage with customers and help them with purchase decisions.
Truly innovative companies will review these current trends and go one step further by looking for new problems that will be caused by these trends. The problems may not exist yet, but a creative business leader will look into the future and identify them early. By anticipating upcoming issues, and creating solutions ahead of time, the company is positioned as an industry leader, which provides a strong competitive edge.
Spend time looking at each of these trends and identify potential future problems related to wearable technology and alternate payment systems. How will customers use their wearable devices, and what problems might they encounter on a regular basis? What types of issues may arise when using an alternate payment system regarding security, tracking payments and handling receipts? After identifying potential problems caused by these trends, brainstorm creative solutions to these obstacles.
Here’s a brief case study regarding traffic signals which provides an example of businesses failing to predict future problems. Many cities have installed new traffic signals (or modified existing signals) to use low-energy light bulbs, which reduce energy costs. However, in cold climates these energy-efficient light bulbs create a new problem: the new bulbs don’t generate as much heat as the traditional ones. When snow or ice develops on the traffic lights, the new bulbs don’t generate enough heat to melt it. When this happens, drivers cannot see whether the light is red, green or yellow. Accidents and injuries were blamed on this problem. The cities had to find a solution quickly.
If a manufacturer of traffic signals had brainstormed about future problems caused by this trend, they could have foreseen this problem and created a solution ahead of time. Instead, the problem was not discovered until accidents occurred, causing many cities and traffic light manufacturers to rush for a quick solution. By anticipating unintended side-effects of a trend, innovative businesses can be a market leader with a response before the problem even occurs.
Today, business leaders should observe the wearable technology and alternate payment trends, identify potential issues caused by these trends, and begin searching for answers today so they are first to market with a solution.