There are a myriad of lists out there extolling the top trends and innovative products to watch for 2016. But perhaps the greatest innovations in business won’t be what companies decide to sell, but how they’ll go to market in ways that create entirely new business models.
Here are four strategies to watch in 2016:
Exclusivity – Play Hard to Get, to Get More Customers
In 2016, consumers will embrace a new twist on a traditional form of cachet – exclusivity. What does that mean for marketers? It means creating challenges and status tests that require customers to actively “prove” their worth. Running a status test can mean asking customers to undergo a trial to prove their commitment, before they get to buy. It’s all about “playing hard to get” with your customers, something pretty counterintuitive in today’s fiercely competitive world
Some brands like Dr. Pepper have used social campaigns for customers to prove their brand love, and be a part of a community. 2016 will see things go further. In October 2015, Lee Jeans launched a campaign across 32 cities in China to promote a range of heat-retaining denim. Consumers were encouraged to get outside (in the cold!) and explore their cities while tracking their movements with the Warmth Tracker WeChat app. Warmth Index points were accumulated when users scanned QR codes at scattered locations. By collecting points, users could earn Magma Fusion denim products and access to exclusive events.
Culture Flaunting – Use Internal Culture to Create External Differentiation
Consumers have long been concerned about purchasing goods produced by vulnerable workers in developing countries. Now, rising inequality and growing job insecurity in affluent countries means empathy is expanding to white-collar workers too. Who knew people cared so much about Amazon’s highly paid developers, marketers and middle managers featured in the New York Time’s controversial exposé.
Other companies like Adobe, have started proactively promoting internal employee programs like Kickbox a grass-roots effort to stimulate new ideas and products. Sharing internal processes, employee programs, and other organizational best practices are rapidly becoming strategies for creating external competitive differentiation.
In 2016, even more companies will turn inwards to insure their organization and culture is something to flaunt, rather than hide.
Proactive Intelligence – Think About How Your Customers Think
Consumers increasingly expect companies to use artificial intelligence to delivery truly smart products and personalized services. Just like most of us now expect customer service call centers to instantly recognized who we are through intelligent caller ID CRM, more and more people will expect to be recognized, remembered, and helped – proactively. What used to create the “creep-factor” is now a critical success factor.
For example, two months ago Google announced Smart Reply. Smart Reply automatically crafts individual email responses for Gmail users by scanning email content and suggesting three potential responses. Users select their preferred option and press send. Over time, the program learns the user’s response habits, and tailors future suggestions.
Counterintuitive Mash-Ups – Shock Customers into Loving You
In April 2015, French budget airline Transavia reframed the value of their low-cost flights via a campaign that compared their ticket prices to casual spending decisions made in a grocery store. The airline created branded packets of chips, candy and cereal bars that doubled as tickets for a Transavia flight. Products were sold at participating grocery stores and subway vending machines in Europe with names of various Transavia European destinations. Customers who bought the products were given a code printed on the packet to secure their flights.
Other companies like Delta Airlines and Porsche have partnered up to surprise Delta’s best customers on the tarmac with a sports car transfer to their next connecting flight. Delta wins through delighting frequent fliers and Porsche gets direct exposure to high fliers – higher end customers who are often luxury car owners.
Figuring out how to rise above the competitive noise can be mind-bending in itself. These four mind-bending business models deliver just enough shock value to capture attention and then channel it into value for the customer.
It’s impossible to predict the future. But one thing is certain: companies that innovate their business models will be the ones best positioned to enjoy a fruitful 2016.