Tim Moore is the founder and CEO of Venture Glass, which creates wearable products and solutions, and was recently identified by Forbes as ”an emerging thought leader in wearable technology.” Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.
Late last month I was invited to attend ISPO in Munich, Germany. It is one of the largest sports business trade shows in the world, promising an opportunity to experience innovative brands, new business horizons, and ‘see the future.’
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
There was a lot to see; the conference boasted more than 180,000 meters of exhibition space and it was full, every inch of it. From global sporting brands to innovative startups, they must have all been here, and I was sure to find something truly inspiring.
Yet, through the massive areas of product and people, booth after booth of techno music and adrenaline-filled video demos, something was amiss. Yes, the atmosphere was exciting and felt like a perfect buying environment for a customer.
But when I assumed the character of buyer and looking closely at the offerings, I noticed three things that may be helpful for entrepreneurs and retailers.
1. Be a maverick
You didn’t have to go very far before some of the offerings began repeating themselves. I started to search more intently for innovative, smart fabrics, or cool connected items.. but I didn’t find them.
While Oakley sunglasses were there, there were also dozens of sunglasses companies, and they all looked the same. Although Nike was there with moisture wicking fabrics, I found many that looked about the same. And GoPro must have been proud, as there were probably 15 knockoffs, most of which were about the same size, price, and aesthetic.
At which point do maverick brands start partnering with or creating new services to set themselves apart?
For example, the GoPro knockoffs. Why not partner up with premium video editing software companies that an be all-done-on-device? And the ski accessories, why not include safety beacons inside them? How about all the Oakley competitors, why haven’t you jumped the fence and partnered with some smart glasses software to create a completely new product?
Create something new, something that excites us buyers. Don’t just duplicate or imitate others and improve the little specs – that’s boring and consumers are not buying boring. They settle when they have to, but it’s not by choice.
2. Take creative risks
Booth after booth, I saw improvements and seasonal refinements: The use of abstract color designs, very bright ones, were found everything from helmets, eyeglasses, shoes, roller skates, apparel.
Sun Yellow (the color of the year for the sports industry, I was told), intense lavenders, explosive oranges, blues, and greens were all out to grab your eyes’ attention. It’s stunning… but safe.
Buyers were currently still buying, so that’s a good thing. I had to wonder: How long before this trend becomes an old hat? Were buyers buying because this is all you offered?
There’s nothing new about shaving an ounce or two off of the weight, giving it a new name, or bizarrely bright color. As a businessperson, why are you looking around and seeing that your competitors look just like you? More importantly, why does this not make you extremely nervous?
If you don’t stand out from the crowd with some creativity, you are basically invisible.
3. Innovate or perish
Many of the products at ISPO looked great and seemed functional. The problem was that they were exactly like the items I saw in the 90’s (except for the neon shoe laces).
Unless you have deep pockets and major brand equity, you can’t stay competitively in business making newer versions of the same product, year after year. For today’s brands to secure a profitable future, you have to start innovating – revolutionizing!
Think way outside the box, refuse to keep up the battle with all your competitors whose products are eerily similar, which makes both of you invisible to the consumer. Stop duplicating them, stop duplicating what you have been doing, and start modernizing your offerings.
Ask us what we would like to see, what would make our life more convenient and comfortable, then do something about it. We the new connected consumers are standing by to reward brands who do take that risk with credit card, and Bitcoins, in hand.
Love this? Hate it? Start the conversation below – your comments might just be the helpful nudge to your favorite brand to create something that will amaze you.