Simple innovation for simple human needs by Beverley Bott   by Beverley Bott

Channel Manager

November 2018

Simple innovation for simple human needs


Technology is moving at a speed and pace way ahead of most retailers and brands, with consumer behaviour also changing rapidly. Where consumers historically expected basic quality services and fair pricing, more recently expectations are increasingly higher and proactive service and personalised interactions are the desired norm. The challenge is to stand out in a spoilt-for-choice retail market.

Luckily innovation isn’t just about new tech and the next big idea, it’s about great team work and good ideas that appeal to human nature - what makes us tick. How can retailers deliver innovation, and meet evolving consumer needs easily to improve customer engagement? Help your brand stand out by maximising these three trends in consumer behaviour.

1. Traditional demographic segmentation isn't enough - shift to a segment of one

Retailers need to shift from customer experience to intimate experience to stand out. Customers expect a unique and customised relationship with brands. They want to be recognised and engaged with, based on their unique needs, wants and aspirations with products, services and messages tailored to a segment of one.

There is a desire for personalisation beyond the standard and consumers want and expect more than just their name in an email subject line. The challenge is to be relevant to each individual and give them rewards and offers based on their personal choices. Your customers will notice when you treat them as the unique person they are, and not someone lumped into a ‘type’. Truly individual experiences will make your customers feel you really know and understand them and their needs.

Recent shifts in Google searches evidence the growing focus on self. In the past two years there has been a 60% growth in mobile searches for 'X for me' and an 80% growth in searches for '_X_ should I _X_' i. Meaning consumers are searching using their everyday ‘I’ focussed language – very much how they’d ask a friend or peer for help or advice.

Brands providing great intimate experiences

The food brand Knorr is doing the individual experience well, using Artificial Intelligence to ‘transfer your memories into meals’. They’re offering personalised recipes based on consumers’ Instagram feeds. This type of personalised service is seen online in so many forums that individually targeted ads and offers are more and more expected as the norm.

IKEA is another brand putting individual customers first and at the heart of their product design. Using Augmented Reality IKEA Place is a mobile app that lets shoppers view digitally the products placed in their own home setting. App users can also point their cameras at household items and search for similar products. IKEA is adding a personal touch to shopping for the home.

2. Provide guilt-free consumption of products and services

Rising numbers of consumers are choosing brands that share their own ethical values, and consider their social and environmental impact.

Businesses with solid socially-responsible cultures are increasingly appealing. Consumers are consistently shifting to ‘buy the change they wish to see in the world’ according to Nielsen; 81% of global survey respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. ii. More and more we want to buy products & services from companies that are acting in a responsible way, using considerately sourced products. Think of the impact of this summer’s television hit, Blue Planet II and the movement towards plastic-free.

Businesses making sustainable shopping simpler

BuyMeOnce is a very good example of ethical retail. They aim to source the most sustainable and durable products on the planet, so their customers save money and stress by buying items that last - and in turn help save the planet.

Ethical Superstore, is another business making ethical shopping easier, providing a wide range of goods where the provenance has been checked. Consumers can trust they’re buying an eco-friendly product range.

We live in such a throw-away society it’s refreshing to see companies taking an ethical stance on pollution. Consumers are getting savvier and have more affordable options to demand sustainability from their favourite stores. I believe the pressure to improve products & increase sustainability will continue.

3. Help customers live their best life & offer self-betterment

Banks are among many large businesses running initiatives world-wide, where they’re actively teaching young people life skills they’ll need in adulthood. Barclays LifeSkills initiative helps young people develop the skills they need to go forward into work. Here at Ikano Bank, we partner with local businesses to run Cheese Matters sessions teaching students valuable skills in money management & budgeting.

Fashion retailers creating community with blogs & lifestyle guides

Fashion retailers are generally strong in helping the customers feel their best self, appealing to their customer base with a blog or lifestyle guide. It’s not necessarily about the ‘sell’ to their customers. It’s about creating community with their customers and with their brand at the centre.

Hush do a very stylish looking blog packed full of recipe ideas and seasonal tips on everything from food, drink and safety on bonfire night. This serves to nicely highlight their products in their best environment and seasonal settings.

River Island is another retailer blogging to share lifestyle ideas with useful articles on trends, quizzes and even mindfulness tips.

Of course ‘betterment’ doesn’t just have to relate to acquiring new skills, it could be a small step that helped make someone’s day a little bit better. If you have retail or online spaces, why not appeal to the playful side of us all, and aim to inject some happiness. Add some fun décor or interactive distraction into your site - put a smile on someone’s face and leave a lasting positive emotional connection to your brand.

Tackle the big societal issues with small steps

Small touches can work like magic to improve someone’s day. Costa Coffee shops are helping to tackle adult loneliness with their ‘Chatter & Natter’ tables taking part in the Chatty Café scheme. The ‘Chatter and Natter’ table sign indicates that customers sitting there are happy to chat and get to know each other. Loneliness is described as a silent epidemic and in January of this year, Britain became the first country in the world to appoint a minister of loneliness after a study found that 9 million Britons often or always feel lonely iii. Given that so many of us are feeling lonely at times, small steps like a ‘Chatter and Natter’ table can make a world of difference. The mental health benefits of sharing a coffee could be huge for someone.

Innovation and ‘standing out’ can be achieved not just through new tech but by thinking a bit differently. Innovation doesn’t always require pushing the budget and having the next ‘big idea’. Keep it simple and think about how your brand can appeal to the basic human instincts - and go innovate.



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    1. “Increase in ‘for me’ searches.” Think with Google, Google, January 2018
    2. “Sustainable shoppers buy the change they wish to see in the world.” Nielsen Insight, Nielsen, November 2018
    3. Waugh, Paul. “Meet Tracey Crouch, the world first minister for loneliness.” Huffpost, July 2018