Simple innovation & fear

I met a really smart person yesterday. It was a stand up conversation after a business breakfast seminar where like minds often gather to share a few ideas before parting ways. In this short time, it must have been less than 10 minutes, she managed to impart upon me two very innovative ideas that I immediately wanted to share on startup blog. They may not be new, but she put a certain spin on them and I’m yet to see them in market. A smart brand that actually cares would find a way to implement them.

1. The Full Supermarket Trolley:

Supermarkets should have an isle for their most valuable customers – those with full shopping trolleys. Instead what they have is specific isles for their least valuable customers – those with hand baskets. What supermarkets should have is a policy that says if your trolley is full – you never have to wait behind a person with one or two items or a hand basket. Maybe you press a button for the ‘golden trolley lane’ and someone comes from out the back to help you or something. Counter intuitive sure, but this is the type of thinking real marketers do, while engineers and logistics managers chase efficiency based on non customer metrics.  While it’s easy to argue that it is all too hard, and that there is no quick way to scan all the items of a full trolley, it really is just old world thinking getting in the way of actually caring. In the age of ‘self scanning’ checkouts, surely every person using a trolley could self scan their items with a mobile scanner as they place them in the trolley.

2. The 19 hour Hotel Room:

We check into hotels in order to have somewhere to sleep and it is expected that this is largely overnight. But in this day and age, why should it be? With hectic business travel and strange flight times, surely the period of stay should be up to the customer. So why don’t any 5 star hotels allow you to choose the 19 hours you need? It is because they are more concerned with the rostering of their cleaning staff than they are with their paying customers. The regular business hours or work day is yet another legacy relic based on a passed era. Surely the staff can be reorganized around the customers?

Both of these are simple innovations we are yet to see. Both are technically possible. Both would create interest and attention. Both would reward valuable customers. Both are yet to happen because of inertia and fear.

A funny thing about these innovations and fear, is that the person who shared them with me didn’t want me to link back to her in this post. I immediately told her that I wanted to share her ideas with my readers and give her the due credit, but she didn’t want it. When I asked her why, she mentioned that some of her clients where large supermarkets and she didn’t want to upset them or big note herself. She said I could blog away, take the ideas….. And while I can see her point, and respect her decision, I can’t help but think that the world (and maybe her business partners) are missing out on more of her wisdom because someone just might be offended.

Ironically, the same fear that stopped her ideas being implemented in hotels and supermarkets, is the fear she is suffering from. The fear of upsetting the status-quo for a minority, at the expense of making things better for the majority. In reality almost all innovations have a cohort of detractors, it’s just the way it is. We should push things forward regardless.

Startup blog says: Ideas need to be free and shared, and if our sentiment is positive, nothing should stop us.


New on line supermarket

I’m developing a new website which is an on-line supermarket. Here’s some of the features I’ll be building into it in terms of usability.

If you want to place an order for milk, you must first look at all the items you don’t want to buy. They will pop up on the screen one by one. You’ll have to click past all of them. Then the milk will pop up after you’ve seen every other product for sale to click on. But after this, you then must click past all of the goods for sale again. The same ones we already showed you. When you want to proceed to the checkout, we’ll make you wait for maybe 5 or more minutes and show you many of the items you already saw on screen, again, just in case you changed your mind. If you decide to shop late at night at our on line supermarket, only one person can buy at a time, because we will restrict our ‘server’ so that all of our customers cannot buy their supermarket items simultaneously. This is because we will be trying to save a few dollars on serving people. A few people might leave and go somewhere else, but it will be a great expense saving idea.

Sounds pretty ridiculous right? Well, this is defined as ‘retail strategy’ in the physical supermarket world. Maybe it’s time they re-thought how they do some things. Right now there is tremendous opportunity for smart startups in the retail space employ on-line usability best practice to show some dinosaurs how it’s done.


Nice idea, but what’s in it for us?

I took this photo while shopping at Australian supermarket giant Coles yesterday.

I’ll start by saying not returning supermarket trolleys, or worse stealing them is not cool. It probably adds some cost to our grocery bills, albeit small.

But when I saw this poster up in my local Coles, I tweeted it and made the comment that it was reasonably amusing. Then Cameron Reilly, made what I thought was an insightful comment from a marketing perspective:

then I responded with this….

and Cameron finished it off with this 140 characters…

Which to be honest is probably the sentiments of most of Coles’ customers.

I’ll say it again – ‘Incentives shape behaviour’ – on this occasion there is no incentive for customers to care. How hard would it be for Coles to offer a shopping voucher for lost trolley returns? Or some other small incentive? In fact, it’s an insult to their customers to ask for help in a such a one sided manner. It’s very 1970’s marketing.

Startup blog says: respect your customers and reward the right behaviour.