Three Innovations That Have Changed My Life

    Amy Muller

    Ok, not really changed in that fundamentally life-altering monumental sense, but they have certainly made my life more convenient, more productive, and more entertaining. Here are the three innovations – Amazon Prime, Fitbit and Uber. Each of these products has a really compelling value proposition for me, and based on the success of the companies behind these products, it seems that a lot of others find the value proposition compelling as well.

    Let’s take quick look at each of these products, and using true Strategos-ology, let’s try to understand some of the underlying customer insights, and orthodoxies or discontinuities that were leveraged.

    Amazon Prime
    Amazon Prime is truly a behavior changing innovation. For $99 a year, I get “free” 2-day shipping on everything (plus free access to a lot of movies, music and books). I used to keep a lot of lists, coordinate my trips to Walgreen’s, Home Depot and other stores, and always had the nagging suspicion that I was forgetting something. Now, in less than the time it takes to write “CR2035 batteries” on a list, I can order them on Amazon and have them reliably at my door two days later. Over the last six months, I’ve bought batteries, birdseed, scissors, replacement parts for my dishwasher, filters for my coffee maker, hairspray, shoe polish, trash can liners, coffee, light bulbs and more.

    So what was it that turned me into an Amazon addict? What is the customer insight here? Before Amazon Prime, I wished for “a way to buy anything I need with zero hassle or inconvenience (no lists to maintain, no trips to multiple stores, etc.).” And that’s what Amazon delivered and I am happy to pay $99 a year for that benefit. Yes, online ordering in general is easy these days, but Amazon provides access to nearly every product and brand available (over 20 million Prime eligible products) and I don’t need to even think about combining purchases to reduce shipping charges.

    Amazon also challenged industry orthodoxies regarding shipping charges. Before Amazon Prime, most on-line merchants itemized shipping and tied the shipping charges to individual items. Amazon overturned this “rule” by bundling all shipping into an annual subscription charge.

    Amazon Prime is just one of Amazon’s many innovations, but it has proven to be a moneymaker for Amazon. In 2012, it was reported that members typically increase their purchases by 150% after joining Prime and may account for up to 20% of Amazon’s overall sales, even though Prime accounts only make up less than 4% of the site’s users.

    FitBit
    I received a Fitbit Charge™ for Christmas (Thank you, Kathy). And, although I’m fairly active and regularly do some cardio and weights, there is something magical in the way Fitbit compels me to to complete 10,000 steps/5 miles/10 flights of stairs every day. I find myself doing laps around the dining room table while my coffee is brewing just to get my step count up for the day. What makes this innovation so successful? The customer insight that Fitbit may be addressing is : “Give me a way to improve my activity level (and my health) without a big commitment.” Fitbit successfully combines a way to set a short-term attainable goal with an elegantly simple device and interface

    FitBit is also leveraging the discontinuity of the “quantified self” (see http://quantifiedself.com/guide/) It seems that “health” is being redefined as being the best we can be versus detecting and treating illness. Advancements in electronics, sensors, medicine and nutrition now allow us to hope to create better functioning bodies and minds with simple consumer solutions. FitBit is one of many new products aimed at fulfilling our desire to make measureable progress towards better health and fitness.

    Wearable tracking fitness brands is still a very young category where growth figures can be deceiving. But if early success is any indication, Fitbit dominates with over 65% of a market that has grown 500% annually over the past three years. (Business Insider May 5, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/33-million-fitness-trackers-were-sold-in-the-us-in-the-past-year-2014-5)

    Uber
    One of the downsides of consulting life for me is the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar locations. I seldom rent cars because navigating and driving in traffic in new locations is more stress than I need. The alternative is usually
    to wait in the airport taxi line for a usually dirty cab with a less than friendly driver who usually doesn’t know the way to my destination. All for an unknown fare at the end of the ride while I fumble with cash or credit card payment as I try to decide what tip this driver deserves. If I could have articulated my consumer insight, I might have said, “I want the confidence of a clean car, a reputable and knowledgeable driver, no-hassle payment … and I want it at a few minutes notice”.

    Enter Uber, a global car-sharing service that allows users to summon a car with a smartphone app, track the drivers’ approach using GPS and pay directly on their phones. Uber is pioneering the way for a new business model in urban transportation, and is ruffling a lot of incumbents’ feathers in the process. One of the orthodoxies Uber challenged was: “You get a cab or schedule a limo. Choose one.” Uber provides the way to have the advantages of a limo (clean, reliable, professional) with the advantages of a cab (get it at a moment’s notice). So consumers like me don’t need to make the trade-off.

    Starting in 2009, Uber is currently valued at more than $40 billion and operates in more than 200 cities worldwide. Uber has also spawned a lot of competitors that are emulating its on-demand car service business model. Still, Uber is facing a lot of global regulatory issues, public relations issues and safety questions. It’s a classic case of disruption and it will be very interesting to see how it all plays out

    So those are my three favorite innovations – favorite not in the great FORTUNE article way, but in the way they have delivered to me compelling value. I recommend each of these innovations to everyone I talk to … and to everyone who reads this blog