An alarm clock that can wake you up to your favorite radio station. A watch that tells time, gives you the weather, and lets you respond to your email. A music player that can order your groceries for you. For as long as humans have been inventing, they’ve been combining products to create something a little newer and a little better that serves more functions than its competitors. In today’s marketplace, blending products is even more important than it’s ever been.
Blending-based innovations can take a brand to a new level, particularly when it involves uniting two or more products, services, or experiences your users or followers already value and can’t unite on their own. And like any other type of innovation, blending requires insights.
For brands looking to innovate by combining features, the good news is that consumers are open to it. In almost all facets of our lives, mixing experiences and cultural influences is becoming more and more commonplace. From food and beverages to furniture and clothing, consumers are not only unbothered by blending, but they have also come to expect it. And when it comes to technology, single-purpose products simply no longer exist.
The question, then, is this: What drives consumers to seek out a blended product? Beyond that, what specifically are they seeking when they shop? The answer to these questions will inspire entrepreneurs to create their own uniquely successful blends.
What Consumers Want
The promise and the challenge of the digital age lies in using technology to save time and improve our lives without giving up on the things that truly matter. Consumers know this. As reliant on technology as they may be, consumers remain invested in authentic human connection and experiences that enrich their lives. This is the space in which brands have an opportunity to stand out.
Time is one commodity in short supply. And for most of us, money is another. Taken together, this means that if your product or service makes a consumer’s experience cheaper, faster, or easier, your chances of being successful dramatically increase. Achieve two or more of these, and those chances skyrocket.
Saving time and money are the guiding light when seeking insights into a new blended product, but keeping other trends in mind is also important. Here are four powerful ones to add to your list:
1. Going Frictionless
Apple Pay, Lyft, and Airbnb are great examples of companies making the payment process simple, secure, and frictionless. For many shoppers, the checkout line is the sticking point in their shopping experience. In a PayPal and automatic bill pay world, we don’t want to waste precious minutes standing in line and waiting to swipe our credit card.
Amazon Go is just one way innovators are blending consumers’ desire to pay without waiting with their interest in choosing their own items off a shelf. The Amazon Go and Just Walk Out concept store in Seattle (currently in beta) allows shoppers to go into a store, select their products, and leave, enabling personal shopping without the wait. Customers are billed via an emailed receipt for the items they took.
Other stores are working on similar concepts: Walmart tested a “Scan and Go” app, and IBM is working with Visa to create a system that allows business to be conducted via almost any virtual device. Cashless and cardless payment is the direction commerce is going.
2. Smart Wearables
You’re sitting down to dinner at a nice restaurant. Your server is well-dressed — her jewelry and hair are on point. She reaches across the table to hand out the menus, and she’s wearing a thick rubber smart device on her wrist.
What you think next will vary depending on your relationship with fitness and technology. Maybe you wonder how many steps you got in today or think about ordering a healthier meal. Maybe you’re impressed by the model of smart jewelry she’s wearing. Or perhaps you have the opposite reaction and wonder why smart jewelry can’t look, well, more like jewelry.
There’s no denying that wearable technology is popular, and this “trend” is likely to stick around for a long time. But as time progresses, consumers are demanding more from their smart wearables. They want smartwatches that just look like watches and smart jewelry that looks stylish.
Additionally, consumers are looking for new, innovative wearables that do more and work better than something you strap on your wrist. Nadi X yoga pants are one example of a new form of smart clothing. These pants are designed to improve your yoga practice by communicating via Bluetooth to your phone and using gentle pulses to help you know how to move or hold positions. Blending functionality with style is only one way innovators are combining consumer needs to provide a more desirable product. The fact is that smart wearables of the future will be even more versatile, functional, personalizable, and attractive than those we have today.
3. Segment of One
“Everybody needs to feel real special.” These Janet Jackson lyrics reflect a sentiment that holds true when it comes to product marketing. Consumers want to be offered products for them — just for them — but they don’t want to deal with the pressure of a real-life salesperson.
The ability to offer nontraditional, authentic segmentation is increasing as access to technology improves, storage costs drop, and access to large amounts of data is possible. Brands can now successfully and economically cater to the individual on scale. Mass segmentation in action — such as Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” that delivers 40 million users their own unique playlist every Monday or the personalized recommendations of Amazon — is on the rise.
Innovators in a variety of markets are blending their products with this desire for individual-focused marketing by applying “Segment of One Marketing.” Noxell Corporation blended consumer cosmetics with a customized makeup suggestion service when it released its new Clarion line. It placed computers in drugstore aisles that allowed consumers to enter details about their skin and then receive their own specialized product recommendations. The result was the first successful mass-market makeup line release in years.
The combination of receiving the best value for their money and recommendations that save them time is definitely a win for consumers.
4. Capacity Capture
The sharing economy continues to grow. New approaches to using space and resources such as home-sharing (Airbnb), ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft, and car2go), and rent-by-the-hour office space (Breather) are making traditional ownership models seem wasteful. Consumers want to get the most out of their money, and they want to move closer to sustainability, especially if they can do it without wasting time in the process.
A food bank in Brazil, Banco de Alimentos, combined these consumer desires with its need for food donations when it created the idea of reverse food delivery — a simple concept wherein all customers who place a food order for motorbike delivery are given the opportunity to donate items to the food bank. If they do, those donations are carried back on the same motorbike that brought the hot meal to their door. Resources are used to capacity, and customers are able to participate in their community in a positive way. Everybody wins.
The world of blended products is exciting and expansive. Watch the market, collect your data, and meet as many customers’ needs as possible, and your product is bound to succeed!