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  • Writer's pictureAlex Johns

How can SME's Innovate to remain relevant?



As more of your customers are staying at home, Covid will have changed the way your business behaves and those that have not had to innovate or change tack over the last 12 months have probably faded away. There have been some high profile success stories like Peloton (who are now so much more than just an indoor bike brand) but for a smaller brand, with less money to burn, innovation can sometimes seen scary. So why is Innovation so important nowadays? Well without some form of innovation, two things will most likely happen:

1) your brand will become tired and will almost certainly be left behind

OR

2) Your brand does not reflect the way your customers want to be sold and marketed to & so its time to course correct

Today, as we move out of Covid lockdown hell, it's the perfect time to change it up.

In truth though, it's a case of trial and error, test and learn ... fail fast but take small baby steps to get what you do right, so that your customers understand it and crucially so do you. Do too much all at once and its likely you will get the worst of both worlds, a confused customer and poor sales performance.

Sadly there are seldom any quick fixes but here are a 5 things which will help to blend creativity and commerce in your business:

1. Understand what your market is doing - whats on trend, what are your competitors doing, what insights are out there which might help you plan carefully and scientifically what you are going to do next. Ensure your product is fit for purpose and if it is'nt change it up ... do this now, don't hesitate. Today its all about being nimble and fleet of foot and reacting quickly to where your audience is at.

2. Understand your shopper / target audience - be really prescriptive here and ensure that your proposition appeals to your target shopper. Understand who you want to target, be forensic in learning everything you can about them & be expansive in your thinking. Use a customer survey to understand how you are doing, ask your customers direct questions and then try to create something new that they will buy and engage with. Remember to understand the data, spend the time getting into the detail using whatever tools you can to make your job as easy as possible.

3. Make it Personal - irrelevant content, emailers, shop windows, ad campaigns are sadly too frequent. Personalisation is key today. Most shoppers want something which is tailored to them and their likes and dislikes. Sadly this is pretty rare and most emailers I receive today, even from the bigger brands, are definitely not personalised!

4. Test & Learn - Do not be afraid to try different things out to see which one works the best. Too often I see businesses not doing so & reverting to the same old thing, this quickly becomes dull and almost always the results are poor. Use data from each campaign, from customer research, from a promotion, from your web & mobile traffic to help you refine what you do next. Listen to it, data is rarely wrong!

5. Remain relevant - Most importantly of all listen to your audience and adapt and change the narrative. For instance, Sephora did this superbly in lockdown bucking the trend which saw cosmetic sales drop by over 19%, they changed their message to be all about self care, really important in a world where people simply were not going out.


Even though the last 12 months have been incredibly difficult, it has also been a chance to change things up and make your business more relevant than it's ever been before. Refresh your product set, interrogate your brand, invest in better content and develop tracking systems which allow you to track your business more intelligently so that you can tell your story way better and personalise your messaging to different customers needs. Now is the time to do it, things are looking up, life is beginning to feel more optimistic, so take a chance and innovate, I promise you will not regret it.



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