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What are the 4 types of innovation?

Innovation – the #1 soft skill companies are looking for

Last year, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with LinkedIn released its 2025 Future of Jobs report.

This report maps the jobs and skills in the next five years.

As you can see below, innovation ranks at #1 in the Top 10 skills employers are looking for in an employee in 2025.

In 2020, the top most sought-after skill was creativity.

Why are employees expected to have analytical thinking and innovation skills? Why is creativity not enough?

The World Economic Forum report answers this question with an in-depth list of key insights which I encourage you to read.

But if you want the short answer, here’s my conclusion.

The future of work is about automation and robots. The report found that by 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal.

While an AI software can do creative work (see the AI writing news or the AI doing movie trailers), software and automation robots cannot be innovative.

Innovation requires other skills besides creativity. Read on to find out what these skills are.

If innovation is not (only) creativity, then what is it? Is it a process? Is it a mindset?

First let’s establish the difference between creativity and innovation.

Creativity vs Innovation

On this subject, the best definition of innovation as opposed to creativity I could find is the following:

The key difference between creativity and innovation is that the first refers to generating a fresh and new idea, whereas the second implies initiating new service, product or invention to the market, which was not introduced before.

Creativity vs Invention vs Innovation

Let’s bring another term into the conversation, one that is commonly used to define innovation: invention.

Does invention equals innovation? And if it doesn’t, what’s the difference between invention and innovation?

To answer this question, here’s a great piece of content from Innoway, an innovation consultancy:

They do a great job of explaining the difference between creativity, invention and innovation.

Creativity is the art of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.
Invention is the creation of a new idea or concept.
Innovation is turning a new concept into commercial success or widespread use.

Zaha Hadid’s amazing buildings are a testament to her creativity, but they are neither inventions, nor innovations.

Leonardo da Vinci, the famous painter was also a prolific inventor. Among his many designs was that of a helicopter which he called the Aerial Screw.

Leonardo da Vinci’s helicopter

If you look at da Vinci’s sketch dating back to the 1480s, you will notice a very strong resemblance with NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter which took its first flight on Mars earlier this month.

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Ingenuity helicopter, source: NASA

Taking inspiration from Leonardo’s concept, the engineers at NASA were prompted to solve a series of challenges related to Mars’ atmosphere. The Red Planet’s atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s which makes it difficult for the helicopter to achieve enough lift.
The Aerial Screw is an invention while the Ingenuity is an innovation.

What is innovation?

Innovation sits at the intersection of customer desires, technology and business opportunities.

Innovation is defined as something new to the market that creates economic and customer value through research, creativity and invention.

source: ignitionframework.com

Innovation occurs where a market intersects with technology and business models.

The market is composed of people with a job to be done. The business model is a sustainable method to deliver and support solutions in a market. Technology is a runway on which new solutions are created.

Innovators start with the market in mind and what the customers want or need.

Technology is not a goal, it’s a means to an end. Innovators ask themselves How can I use technology to address an unmet need in the market? What technology-driven solution can I come up with that provides customers with a solution to their problems and revenue for the company?

This is what innovators think about when they wake up in the morning and when they go to sleep at night.

The 4 types of innovation

Jake Nielson, a marketing leader with 10+ years of innovation management experience came to the conclusion that there are 4 types of innovation:

  1. sustaining innovation;
  2. disruptive innovation;
  3. new market innovation;
  4. integrative innovation.

Sustaining innovation

Apple is an example of sustaining innovation. Since the first iPhone in 2007, the company has come up with new iterations of the iPhone every year. Every iteration had new features, improved functionality, beautiful design and innovations.

Disruptive innovation

Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry. Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Netflix disrupted the DVD mail service. Amazon disrupted brick and mortar commerce. All four provide a better alternative enabled by new technology.

New market innovation

BMW has been manufacturing conventional cars since the early 1950s. Starting with the 1970s, the German car maker has been researching and testing electric cars. Today BMW electric cars are among the best in the market and the company is planning to offer plug-in hybrid versions of all its core-brand models.

Integrative innovation

MailChimp started out as an email provider for small businesses. The company’s email service was so successful that it became one of the most popular in the world. Listening to their customers’ needs, MailChimp expanded its services. MailChimp is now more than an email service provider, it’s an all-in-one marketing platform which empowers its users to build landing pages, create digital campaigns and leverage powerful insights. It supports small businesses to reach their marketing goals faster.

What type of innovation is your company developing?

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Blue Ocean Strategy: How to differentiate from the competition

On this page:

  • Definition of Blue Ocean Strategy – What is Blue Ocean Strategy? Who created Blue Ocean Strategy?
  • Differences between Red Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean Strategy in business and leadership
  • 3 brands that have differentiated from the competition, generated new demand and found a new market
  • How to create a blue ocean for your company through value innovation

What is Blue Ocean Strategy?

Every entrepreneur wishes their company was the only one in the market. No competitors, having all the customers to themselves. King of the castle ruling unchallenged over the country.

While for most entrepreneurs this dream is only wishful thinking, for some it’s reality.

These entrepreneurs (and we will talk about three of them later) have led their companies to great success by applying Blue Ocean Strategy.

Blue ocean strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand. It is about creating and capturing uncontested market space, thereby making the competition irrelevant. It is based on the view that market boundaries and industry structure are not a given and can be reconstructed by the actions and beliefs of industry players.

Blueoceanstrategy.com

Who created the Blue Ocean Strategy?

Blue Ocean Strategy was created by management thinkers Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.

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Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (image source: blueoceanstrategy.com)

Both Chan and Renée are Professors of Strategy at INSEAD, one of the world’s top business schools, and co-directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute in France.

In 2005, Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne co-authored Blue Ocean Strategy. The book shows the results of a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries. The authors’ conclusion is that lasting success comes not from battling competitors but from creating blue oceans – untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

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Since its first edition, Blue Ocean Strategy has been revised and expanded in 2015 and has become a bestseller with over 4 million copies sold in 46 languages.

The book is recognized as one of the most iconic and impactful strategy books ever written and is the recipient of numerous distinguished awards. Both authors received widespread recognition for their work in the form of various awards and distinctions.

Apart from their careers in academia, Chan and Renée have been employed in an advisory capacity by prestigious organizations. Kim is an advisory member for the European Union and serves as an advisor to several countries and Renée served on President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for the president’s two terms.

In 2019, Thinkers50 named Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne the #1 Business Thinkers in the World.

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How to grow your business with 1 strategy framework

Differences between Red Ocean Strategy and Blue Ocean in business and leadership

In Blue Ocean Strategy, red ocean is a metaphor for the known market space encompassing all the industries in existence today. Remember the documentaries that showed the audience what happens when a large number of sharks feed at the same time, in the same place? It’s called a shark feeding frenzy event and it turns the ocean water red with the blood of the fish the sharks are feeding on.

Blue ocean is the metaphor for the unknown market space and all the industries that are not in existence today. It’s the unchartered land that courageous explorers venture in to discover unimaginable riches and opportunities.

  • Red ocean strategy is about competition
  • Blue ocean strategy is about creating new demand
  • Red ocean strategy is a market-competing strategy where profit and growth decline while competition increases
  • Blue ocean strategy is taking the opportunity to grow rapidly and profitably
  • Red ocean strategy competes over customers
  • Blue ocean strategy turn non-customers into customers
  • Conventional leadership focuses on the cognitive and behavioural skills of leaders
  • Blue ocean leadership focuses on actions and activities tied to market realities
  • Conventional leadership has resulted in 87% global average in employee disengagement
  • Blue ocean leadership’s goal is to unlock unrealized talent and energy in the organization fast and at low cost

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3 Brands that have differentiated from the competition, generated new demand and found a new market

Cirque du Soleil

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image source: Cirque du Soleil@Facebook

Founded in 1984 in Canada, Cirque du Soleil is an entertainment company and the largest contemporary circus producer in the world.

There’s circus in the company name but the performances are not your usual live animal children focused shows.

By taking out live animal acts from their performances and focusing on creating storyline-based shows with live music and amazing acrobats, Cirque du Soleil has created a new market space and new demand: circus entertainment for adults.

More than 180 million spectators have seen a Cirque du Soleil production since 1984 worldwide. The company generates annual revenue of approximately $1 billion and its creations have received numerous prizes and distinctions, including seven Primetime Emmy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Uber & Airbnb

Both Uber and Airbnb are great examples of the blue ocean strategy.

Airbnb launched in 2008, Uber – one year later.

Although operating in the hospitality industry, Airbnb doesn’t own any property, it manages an online travel platform. By allowing homeowners to monetize their spaces and travellers to book them instead of hotels, Airbnb has found a new market, a big one.

The numbers speak for themselves: 7+ million listings worldwide, 2+ million people staying on Airbnb per night on average, 750+ million all-time Airbnb guest arrivals. In Q1 of 2019, Airbnb registered $9.4 billion in the total booking value.

Although Uber is operating in the people moving industry, it is not a taxi company, but a ridesharing service.

The latest stats say there are 21 million trips a day taken by 111 million monthly active platform consumers located in over 900 cities across 69 countries. In 2019, the company registered $65 billion in gross bookings across all platforms.

How to create a blue ocean for your company through value innovation

Value innovation is one of Blue Ocean Strategy’s tools and is defined as the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost, creating a leap in value for both buyers and the company.

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10 questions to increase employee retention

The concept of Value Innovation is the cornerstone of the market-creating strategy.

Because value to buyers comes from the offering’s utility minus its price, and because value to the company is generated from the offering’s price minus its cost, value innovation is achieved only when the whole system of utility, price, and cost is aligned.

Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

But how does one achieve value innovation?

To achieve value innovation, the company looks at two factors: cost savings and buyer value.

The company makes cost savings by eliminating and reducing the factors an industry competes on and lifts buyer value by raising and creating elements the industry has never offered.

blue-ocean-strategy-value-innovation

Many businesspeople believe that lowering costs and increasing value is a trade-off. It’s either creating greater value for customers at a higher cost or creating reasonable value at a lower cost. Blue Ocean Strategy allows companies to pursue differentiation and low cost simultaneously.

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A great starting point for achieving value innovation is to answer the following questions devised by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in the Four Actions Framework:

  • Which of the factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?
  • Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
  • What factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
  • What factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

In conclusion, to find your blue ocean, namely to tap into a new market, you need to perform an innovative leap in customer value at lower costs thus making the competition irrelevant.

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These 13 brands use Alexa Skills to engage creatively with their consumers

Is your brand positioned toward consumers? You should consider having an Alexa skill to engage creatively with your consumers.

Why?

Because voice has changed consumer behaviour and brands need to start leveraging its power.

According to eMarketer, voice-control technology has officially moved out of the early-adopter phase and into the mainstream.

The market of voice-assistants (Alexa, Google Duplex, ….) is expanding quickly and the reason is very simple: talking to voice-assistants feels natural to people and it’s more convenient.

Voice-assistants users can multitask and get more done with less friction. Shoppers and parents are power users.

Habitual shoppers love the convenience of the shopping experience and getting things done while taking care of a child is every parent’s dream.

Discover more insights on voice including the 2019 Microsoft Voice Report in How voice is changing customer behaviour and the way you do marketing.

brand-minds-brands-alexa-skills-engaging-consumers

Let’s see how 13 brands take advantage of Alexa Skills to engage with their consumers:

1. Starbucks Reorder

starbucks-alexa-skill

Use Starbucks’ Alexa Skill to reorder your usual cup of coffee from one of the last 10 stores you’ve ordered from.

You can also check your primary Starbucks Card balance and switch between your last 5 previous orders.

2. Domino’s

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With Domino’s skill, you can build a new order from scratch, place your most recent order or check your order’s status.

3. Uber

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Get a reliable ride in minutes with the Uber skill.

4. Citi Entertainment

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Citi Entertainment is developed by Citibank, the financial services company. Use this skill to search for thousands of live music events all over the country.

5. TED Talks

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TED Talks are influential videos from expert speakers on education, business, science, technology.

With its Alexa Skill, the nonprofit organization allows users to play the latest TED talk, play random TED talks, or search for talks by topic or by speaker name. They can also play talks that are funny, inspiring, persuasive, courageous, or jaw-dropping.

6. OurGroceries

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OurGroceries is a mobile app which provides users with a way to keep grocery lists instantly synchronized on all the smartphones in their household.

This skill lets users add items to the shopping lists on their app.

7. Walmart Stories

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In this skill, Walmart invites consumers to discover how the organization is using innovative technologies to redefine the associate and customer experience.

8. Levi’s Assistant

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With this Alexa Skill, users get answers to common questions about the jeans manufacturer’s services.

Levi’s shoppers can get help on return policy, how to use gift cards, available payment methods, and more. They can also get help on finding a pair of jeans or the nearest store, track their order and get information on the latest promotions.

9. Bed Bath & Beyond tip of the day

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Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. is an American chain of domestic merchandise retail stores.

The company’s Alexa Skill provides users with a daily dose of little life-changers like genius hacks, fun facts, smart tips and expert tricks.

The skill also helps users pick the best products for their whole house, top to bottom.

10. Employment Tips by MooreSuccess Inc.

MooreSuccess is an executive recruiting firm with over 10 years of experience. In its Alexa Skill, the company offers exclusive tips and advice for job seekers from an expert human resources executive.

11. Ten Things in Tech by Business Insider

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Business Insider, the financial and business news website operating internationally, developed an Alexa Skill which provides users with the biggest daily tech news.

12. Johnnie Walker

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Johnnie Walker, the famous brand of Scotch whiskey goes all-in with its Alexa Skill.

The skill invites users to explore nearly two centuries of whisky knowledge with 4 different options: Choose a Label, Buy a Bottle, Whisky 101, and Try a Guided Tasting.

In “Choose a Label”, consumers can find the perfect blend for themselves or a gift through a series of questions about flavour preference and price.

If consumers are looking to simply buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker, they can choose “Buy a Bottle” and Alexa will help them find the nearest store or delivery option.

When they select “Whisky 101”, Alexa will share a random fact about Johnnie Walker or whisky in general.

In order to “Try a Guided Tasting”, consumers will need one of the core Johnnie Walker Labels on hand: Red Label, Black Label, etc. Then, Alexa will conduct a personalized tasting based on the blend they choose. As they sniff and sip their way through the tasting, she’ll give helpful tips and ways to serve.

13. Hellmann’s Best Recipes by Unilever

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Hellmann’s Best Recipes by Unilever is the perfect answer when you want to cook your family a hot meal and need some culinary inspiration. Hellmann’s Alexa Skill has got you covered with a large database of delicious recipes. It’s too late to go shopping and you need to cook with whatever ingredients you have in your fridge? Hellmann’s Best Recipes can help you by providing recipe ideas for ingredients you already have on hand.

Are you planning to launch your own Alexa Skill?

Good!

To make sure you treat your consumers to a great voice-activated experience, here’s how your skill needs to be:

hand-clickFrictionless. Make sure your users’ experience is seamless.

hand-clickHelpful and informative. Include answers that your customers might look for: discounts, catalogue prices, return policy, work hours, the closest store, recommendations related to your product etc.

hand-clickNo commercials. Refrain from including commercials in your skill, it’s annoying and it turns people off.

hand-clickThe latest. Provide your consumers with the latest news, the latest company info or products discounts. If you are providing news like the Business Insider, ensure that you upload the latest relevant news to your users.

hand-clickEntertaining. If it’s aligned with your brand values and consistent with your brand voice, be entertaining.

hand-clickHelpful. Help users complete a task or guide them through the stages of a process (cooking a meal etc). Also, cater to your consumers’ needs even if this means not recommending your own product. Hellmann’s skill has a large database of recipes with and without mayo.

hand-clickKeep the conversation going. Find creative ways to keep talking to your consumers on other platforms (email, social media) and turn them into brand ambassadors.

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Top trends in shopper marketing in 2018

With a more and more savvy consumer and digital and technology re-shaping it, shopper marketing became in the last years almost a science, relying a lot on research and customer observation. While in the US, the Shopper Marketing magazine developed a very strong research on this year’s trends that can be read here, we asked 3 local advertising specialists to give us their thoughts as well.

 

Cristina Oncescu, Head of Strategy pastel

What do you believe will be the biggest shopper marketing trends of 2018?

I don’t know if they are the biggest, but they are certainly hot in 2018:

  • Personalised shopping

There are many in-store technologies that can be used to provide a personalised shopping experience. NFC (Near Field Communication) chips, QR codes, iBeacons and Visual Light Communications are just some of the emerging technologies used. These, when linked to previous shopping histories via a loyalty app for instance, can provide disruptive yet compelling interactions with the shopper as they enter the store.

  • Virtual assistance

From voice to chatbots, going through messenger apps, one-to-one communication is on the rise. Being available and being helpful, when the shopper needs you, is making the difference.

  • Augmented Reality

The use of Augmented Reality on mobile devices provides an engaging way for marketers to reach their target audience – it’s quick, easy and very interactive. With the integration of AR on iPhones, it will be easier for marketers to engage larger audiences during their path to purchase.

What are they influenced by and why?

Technology, and especially mobile, led shoppers becoming more and more omnichannel. Now, this is an actual behaviour that the shoppers engage in (of course in a subconscious way). Web, mobile, social, apps – it’s all just shopping to consumers. The separation between retail channels is growing even more blurred by the day. Can they return online products in-store? Can they check if the store has their size and colour on their mobile phone before they leave their homes? Consumers expect a seamless experience across all channels.

What is pastel advising its clients this year?

Great content will always engage. Have an interesting, consistent story and a seamless experience throughout the whole omnichannel path to purchase.

Anton Gherca, Chief Innovation Officer at g7

What do you believe will be the biggest shopper marketing trends of 2018?

We believe that shopper marketing is an area of brand communication that has been kept largely untouched by the digital revolution that is reshaping the advertising industry for the past 10 years. So we expect that „digital BTL” will start gaining momentum, as today’s practices are deeply engrained in traditional approaches of point of sale communication. We think that we will see more connections between social media and shopper marketing, and geofencing and point of sale promotions, with the aim of delivering a more integrated omnichanel shopper experience.

What are they influenced by and why?

Like many things in advertising, the move towards a more „digital” shopper marketing approach is driven by the consumers themselves, or more precisely, by their lifestyle. As of 2017, the penetration rate of smartphones in Romania is 70%, while 41% of the population are already mobile social users. Peer-to-peer ridesharing like Uber makes people understand the benefits of the sharing economy,  on-demand services like Netflix put them in the driver’s seat while the wide 4G coverage makes them want everything now. This means people are getting more and more accustomed to having everything at a push of a button and they expect higher levels of service, increased transparency, embedded interactivity and all in all a better customer experience out of everything.

I know this sounds like a bunch of buzzwords cramped togheter in one sentence, and our agency has never been in the „buzz” business, but the reality is that the shift in consumers’ lives is happening with or without us. I think the bottom line is that today’s shoppers are just expecting something more out of marketing communications. More relevance, more engagement, more customization. This doesn’t mean that we, the shopper marketers, can’t still get away with the old „buy one – get one” or „scratch this to win a prize that you don’t even want” mechanics. But wouldn’t that be a pity?

What is g7 advising its clients this year?

Our agency has embarked in a digital transformation journey and once set in motion, it can’t be stopped. We will continue an initiative started in 2017, of hosting periodic innovation workshops together with our clients for identifying the opportunities put forth by today’s technology, and see where that gets us. Still, there are a couple of areas we keep tightly in our focus: Proximity marketing, Loyalty management and Gamification. We work towards integrating in an organic manner these three capabilities in the approach our clients are already used to: honest creative work, deep understanding of shopper behavior and solid deployment in the retail ecosystem.

Ondina Olariu, Business Director Geometry Global

“Fragmentation, increased competition and e-commerce are key words for 2018 and beyond in our region. After seeing a huge expansion, somewhat even inflated for some of the retail players, we will witness a new battleground, named proximity. As global retailers keep expanding, we will live through a great variety of formats, more flexibility and adaptation to micro-retailing needs. Proximity will be influenced as well by the increasing degree of urbanization, as well as the new generations of shoppers, more dynamic, digital savvy and format switchers (in Romania, 25 cities cover 31.3% of total population and 55.6% of urban population – source:  INS, Romania, 2017).

And when we say flexibility and adaptation, think beyond format, as we see discounters aggressively stepping in the services territory, while share of consumer spend reached 68% in services vs 32% in goods in 2016 (source: Kantar Global Trends 2018). Goods subscription – meaning bundle goods as a service is something that we preached our clients for a couple of years already and it’s approaching it’s turning point in 2018.

E-commerce in Europe is predicted to reach 10% of total retail (source: Kantar 2018 Global Predictions, WPP Data), with a clear future towards what we call omni-channel, especially since gen Z takes the scene as newest shoppers. At global level we see the switch and struggle of most pure e-commerce players in becoming physical as well, to the level where blogs impersonate the physical space in temporary shops where experience blends with sales, while in Europe we are taking steps into developing the brick-and-mortar into e-commerce, especially for FMCG area, which are the most shopped for categories. Retailers will continue or start monetizing opportunities through their own apps, following the evolution of more mature markets, such as Spain (+210% in app sessions growth in the last 2 years) or Germany (+130%). Here again, it seems that pure digital players have a degree of advancement, since digital-first retail apps saw more that 2x the average sessions / user each month and saw stronger growth in the last 2 years. (source: App Annie 2017 retrospective report). This means we will see accelerated growth for digital players apps, as the new arrivals from physical retailers will need to extract good lessons and apply on fast track.

Blending online and offline expresses also in automation, such as automated cashiers. As retailers will increasingly see value, watch for a retail unemployment crisis, especially in more mature markets. The proliferation of private labels will increasingly force out brands from the physical shelf. Most of these private labels continue to be supported as brands rather than price options, from food to fashion (see Esmara for Lidl and Tex for Carrefour) and home appliances (eg Carrefour Home consumer electronics). Health and Wellness is an increasingly appealing theme, for both brands and retailers. Watch the shelf space growth in store, as well as the latest positioning of certain private labels, trying to capture value and exploit the trend.

As a shopper agency, we are not only advising but already working with our clients on the omni-channel shopper journey models, including retailer strategies and new channels opportunities in this process. We build with them strong e-commerce fundamentals for the Romanian market and expand to e-commerce experiences and integration of channels for more mature markets. We operate with an increasingly complex model that includes data management and A/B testing applied to shopper initiatives and integrate thorough shopper knowledge in every solution we bring to the table. Bonus: an emerging trend, still less visible to this market is the return to D2C (Direct to Consumer). It will be highly influenced by retailers’ behavior, however, more brands become conscious they cannot rely exclusively on retailers and distributors in building their relationship with shoppers and consumers, therefore they’ll be trying to find ways to cut it short to them and bypass the “official” channels.”

 

 

 

Is car sharing the next version of Uber?

The carsharing or car-sharing system is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. They are attractive to customers who make only occasional use of a vehicle, as well as others who would like occasional access to a vehicle of a different type than they use day-to-day.

According to Wikipedia, carsharing services are available in over 1,000 cities in several countries. As of December 2012, there were an estimated 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countries, including so-called peer-to-peer services, according to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at U.C. Berkeley. Of these, 800,000 were car-sharing members in the United States.

As of July 2017, car2go is the largest carsharing company in the world with 2,500,000 registered members and a fleet of nearly 14,000 vehicles in 26 locations in North America, Europe and Asia, followed by Zipcar with 767,000 members and 11,000 vehicles. According to Navigant Consulting, global carsharing services revenue will grow to US 6.2 billion by 2020, with over 12 million members worldwide. The main factors driving the growth of carsharing are the rising levels of congestion faced by city dwellers; shifting generational mindsets about car ownership; the increasing costs of personal vehicle ownership; and a convergence of business models. Carsharing contributes to sustainable transport because it is a less car intensive means of urban transport, and according to The Economist, carsharing can reduce car ownership at an estimated rate of one rental car replacing 15 owned vehicles. More about the concept here.

In February, the car-sharing service Zipcar signed a deal to provide vehicles to Uber, possibly portending additional future cooperation in the field of mobility services. Zipcar parent Avis Budget Group said that it would supply Uber drivers with the opportunity to ferry passengers around in Zipcar branded sedans. Although at the beginning the deal is limited to 20 sedans in Boston, it opens the door for similar collaboration in other cities.

Zipcar provides rent-by-the-hour vehicles to motorists, particularly in urban areas, as an alternative to car ownership. Now, Uber drivers will be allowed to access the fleet of vehicles in Boston to serve their customers at hourly rental rates.

“As the automotive landscape evolves, technology is playing an ever-increasing role in transportation services, and we are well-positioned to meet new and evolving customer needs and demands, as evidenced by this new partnership,” said Andrew Kupiec, a vice president for Avis Budget. “Our quality, well-maintained vehicles, coupled with Zipcar’s technology, will give Uber’s driver partners wheels when they want them.”

This move marked one of the latest in a series of Uber partnerships with car providers, including rental car firms Enterprise and Hertz, and most recently  a deal with German automaker Daimler to provide self-driving cars in the future.

Moreover, last year, Uber started a partnership with GM’s Maven, representing a 90 day pilot in San Francisco that allowed the Uber drivers to lease a Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu or Trax for $179 per week (plus fees) with no mileage limit, and included insurance.  “This partnership with Maven combines our vast ridesharing network with GM’s extensive fleet vehicles and gives people without access to a car the ability to easily make money driving on the Uber platform,” said back then Rachel Holt, regional general manager Uber, for engaged.com.

Following that, in April, Uber made another important step, by launching Uber Central, similar to the consumer version of Uber, except multiple cars can be ordered at once. The service could be especially valuable for businesses that need to pick up several clients from different places at the same time. Uber Central is part of the Uber for Business platform, which Uber launched a few years ago to help businesses manage employees’ ground transportation needs.

What is even more interesting and different is that passengers don’t need an Uber account or even a smartphone. The business itself manages the rides and all related information from a single dashboard. According to ciodive.com, Uber said more than 8,000 companies participated in the pilot program. The new tool also includes reporting, billing and management features.

Uber’s interest in the sharing cars’ programs and affiliations doesn’t stop here. Only four days ago it was announced that, following the 2016’s 90 days trial with GM’s Maven, the service is available now also in Boston, Phoenix, and Washington, DC, while Baltimore and Detroit are said to be following soon.

“The program is aimed at drivers for rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, and delivery apps like Postmates, GrubHub, and InstaCart. Someone who’s interested in driving for any of these on-demand services, but doesn’t own a vehicle, can rent a Chevy Bolt through Maven Gig for $229-a-week. The weekly price includes insurance, maintenance, and electric vehicle charging. Maven  first launched its gig worker product last May in San Diego and San Francisco. Since then, Maven says its customers have logged 170 million miles driving for various on-demand apps,” wrote The Verge.

More on the subject you can read here, while if you are interested in 8 ride and car sharing alternatives to Uber and Lyft, you can read here.

Self-driving cars. When will you buy yours?

Technology never ceases to amaze us and while some of us are always looking for the next trend and interesting thing going on, we find it harder and harder to know what is here to stick and impress. And more than that. What is the newest invention that will for sure be in our lives many years to come from now and will have a huge impact in our lives. Still, but all accounts so far and by all specialists’ opinions, we do have a winner. The driverless cars, may have been once a subject of science fiction, but nowadays the question is no longer whether they will replace manually driven cars, but how quickly they’ll take over.

Self-driving cars are safer. They don’t get sleepy or distracted, they don’t have blind spots, and there is nothing on their “minds” except getting safely from point A to point B. They look amazing and are so much smarter than anything we could image, so how not to get interested in the subject? One of the freshest piece of news is that Samsung is stepping up its plans for self-driving cars to rival former Google project Waymo, Uber and Apple, bringing the key players from the battle for smartphone dominance to the brave new world of autonomous vehicles. According to The Guardian, The South Korean electronics manufacturer, the world’s largest smartphone maker, has been given permission to test its self-driving cars on public roads by the South Korean ministry of land, infrastructure and transport, therefore becoming one of 20 firms given permission to test self-driving technology on public roads in  South Korea. Samsung’s smartphone rival, Apple, was recently  granted permission to test its long-rumoured vehicles in California.

photo: Apple car

Unlike Apple, Google and other US technology firms, which predominantly use modified Lexus SUVs for testing autonomous systems, Samsung is using fellow Korean firm Hyundai’s vehicles. The cars will be augmented with Samsung-developed advanced sensors and machine-learning systems, which Samsung hopes to be able to provide to others building vehicles, rather than build cars itself. “Samsung Electronics plans to develop algorithms, sensors and computer modules that will make a self-driving car that is reliable even in the worst weather conditions,” said a Samsung spokesperson. The South Korean business giant completed its USD 8 billion (£6.2bn)  acquisition of US automotive and audio supplier Harman International in March, a move it said would help Samsung seize on the transformative opportunities autonomous vehicle technology could bring.

Another big move on the market was in March when it was announced that Intel bought Mobileye for USD 15 billion, to lead its self-driving car unit.


photo: Samsung car

According to ExtremeTech.com, Waymo, which was  spun-off from Google X’s self-driving car project, has been working on a new generation of self-driving car technology based on Fiat-Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The new design looks a bit less “prototypical” than the older Google cars, but there’s still a large white hump on the top with a lidar array poking upward. These vehicles have been cruising around the streets of Phoenix for the better part of a year, and now locals can request rides in the Waymo cars. This program actually  started two months ago, but it was kept under wraps and limited to only a few people. Now, Waymo is opening it up to anyone in one of the supported areas. That includes the Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert. You have to apply for access to the program, but once you’re accepted, all members of your immediate family can take advantage. Waymo also encourages those in the program to use the self-driving cars every day, as often as possible. There’s no cost for the program, but Waymo wants all the consumer feedback it can get. At this moment, Waymo is in the process of adding 500 new self-driving vehicles to its current fleet of 100. That will allow a lot more people to experience Waymo’s self-driving technology. “Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a  Medium post.

Google, which owns Waymo, has long been the world leader in self-driving vehicle technology. But it has had key team members depart in the last year to launch self-driving car programs at other tech firms, car companies and startups. When it comes to its technology, Google invented the Laser Illuminating Detection and Ranging – or LIDAR – used to build a 3D map and allowing the car to “see” potential hazards by bouncing a laser beam off of surfaces surrounding the car in order to accurately determine the distance and the profile of that object. The Google Car was designed to use a Velodyne 64-beam laser in order to give the on-board processor a 360-degree view by mounting the LIDAR unit to the top of the car (for unobstructed viewing) and allowing it to rotate on a custom-built base. With two sensors in the front bumper, and two in the rear, the radar units allow the car to avoid impact by sending a signal to the on-board processor to apply the brakes, or move out of the way when applicable. This technology works in conjunction with other features on the car such as inertial measurement units, gyroscopes, and a wheel encoder in order to send accurate signals to the processing unit (the brain) of the vehicle in order to better make decisions on how to avoid potential accidents.

The actual  camera technology and setup on each driverless car varies, but one prototype uses cameras mounted to the exterior with slight separation in order to give an overlapping view of the car’s surroundings. This technology is not unlike the human eye which provides overlapping images to the brain before determining things like depth of field, peripheral movement, and dimensionality of objects. Each camera has a 50-degree field of view and is accurate to about 30 meters. The cameras themselves are quite useful, but much like everything else in the car they are redundant technology that would allow the car to work even if they were to malfunction. One of its most amazing features is the fact that this combination of hardware and software can see and predict the motions of cyclists and pedestrians, it can identify construction cones and roads blocked by detour signs, and deduce the intentions of traffic cops with signs. Moreover, it can handle four-way-stops, adjust its speed on the highway to keep up with traffic, and even adjust its driving to make the ride comfortable for its human payload.  The software is also aware of its own blind spots, and behaves cautiously when there might be cross-traffic or a pedestrian hiding in them. And all of these aspects have been transferred to Waymo.

But, according to CNN, Waymo is not the first to offer self-driving rides to consumers. Uber launched self-driving rides for  select passengers in Pittsburgh last year. And Boston-based nuTonomy offers rides in a  Singapore neighborhood. All of these companies use test drivers to guarantee safety. Besides them, ToyotaNissan, BMW, Honda, Tesla, Mercedes and  Ford all have their own self-driving car projects, although none of them are considered to be as advanced. About how they are doing so far in the allowed tests, The Guardian writes here.

Nissan is using the all-electric Leaf for various stages of autonomous vehicle testing at its Advanced Engineering Center in Atsugi, Japan, and in California at the Nissan North American Silicon Valley Research Center, according to Travis Parman, director of corporate communications. Nissan has been testing the vehicles since October 2013 and the company plans to commercialize autonomous driving technology in stages, but Parman says its vehicles could have the ability to navigate busy city intersections without a driver by 2020. Moreover, Nissan and NASA just announced a five-year research and development partnership to advance autonomous vehicles and prepare for commercial application of the technology.

Taking a further look into the future and the companies’ predictions, Scott Keogh, Head of Audi America announced at the CES 2017 that an Audio that really would drive itself would be available by 2020, the same year as Toyota, while Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO announced that the company plans to offer fully self-driving vehicles by 2021. The vehicles, which will come without steering wheel and pedals, will be targeted to fleets which provide autonomous mobility services. Fields expects that it will take several years longer until Ford will sell autonomous vehicles to the public. At their annual shareholder meeting, BMW CEO Harald Krueger said that BMW will launch a self-driving electric vehicle, the BMW iNext, in 2021, while Raj Nair, Ford’s head of product development, expects that autonomous vehicles of  SAE level 4 (which means that the car needs no driver but may not be capable of driving everywhere) will hit the market by 2020.

US Secretary of Transportation stated at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto show that he expects driverless cars to be in use all over the world by 2025. Therefore, the question remains: when do you plan to buy yours?

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