October 15, 2015
The key is to walk that sweet spot between being ahead of your competitors and staying relevant and interesting to consumers, but by the same token, if you are too innovative you may actually be out in front too far of where your customers are today. Anyone remember Webvan? It was a grocery delivery service that went bankrupt in 2001. Consumers simply weren’t ready and willing to give up their grocery shopping and let someone else do it for them. Fast forward 15ish-years and you have Instacart and others who are doing exactly what Webvan promised and who appear, at this juncture, to be thriving.
What changed to make Instacart a possibility where Webvan failed? In part, the technology changed making Instacart easier for consumers to access and utilize. But equally as important, consumers’ attitudes towards grocery shopping versus time-savings shifted drastically as well.
Some might argue that food products in and of themselves simply can’t be as innovative as technology but think about if Sriracha popcorn has been debuted in 2000 like Webvan. Would the ‘meat and potatoes’ American food culture have been as open and accepting of spicy-hot popcorn when all they were used to was butter flavor?
Food can be as innovative as technology and any other industry out there. However, innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t the end game. You need to make sure, first and foremost, that the products’ you’re creating have an audience ready and willing to accept them.