The Next Big Thing

By Ross Rubin
Published on: March 24, 2017

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Retailers and integrators have been facing a mounting challenge over the past decade.  While consumers love and embrace technology, most consumer goods categories are mature and sales are flattening out.  Competition for price and convenience has never been more aggressive.  Retailers and integrators are all searching for the next big thing.  And failing to be on the leading edge of the next big thing is a sure recipe for disaster.

In general, most methods of identifying the next breakout product or service offering are risky or ineffective.  Major retailers such as Walmart and Staples – as well as innovative smaller online retailers such as The Grommet – have hosted or partnered with innovation fairs that bring together inventors and entrepreneurs.  But these are isolated events and largely driven for PR value; never becoming an accurate guide to realistic product introduction.

From the supplier side, there’s a similar dearth of affordable methods for determining demand for future products.  Today’s tools include focus groups that are useful for qualitative insight, but in reality are not representative of quantitative insight.

Today, the gold standard of consumer sales research is behavioral information, such as point-of-sale and receipt-tracking data.  While no research methodology provides perfect information for every need, suppliers and retailers trust this information because it is based on how consumers actually spend their dollars.

There is another quantitative, behavioral-based marketplace in which to gauge early adopter demand in the real world, or at least before products enter it.  Crowdfunding.  Crowfunding platforms provide a living lab in which observers can see what early adopters are willing to pay for with their actual dollars.  In fact, these consumers are so excited by the prospects of these projects that they’re willing to often wait more than a year before products appear or endure the risk that they may never materialize.

A successful Kickstarter campaign is no crystal ball.  However, crowdfunded companies have pioneered product categories such as Virtual Reality (Oculus) and smartwatches (Pebble).  Avegant, which crowdfunded a personal theater headset in 2015, has recently joined the ranks of augmented reality pioneers.  Campaign success holds sway with investors.  Watch any episode of Shark Tank where the pitching company describes a successful pre-order campaign.  One of the sharks will inevitably follow up asking how much the company raised.

Retailers and integrators need a way to identify winning products and categories that are spurring innovation throughout the year and around the globe.  Reticle Research has addressed this issue with a new research offering and we’ll be sharing our insights in The Insider newsletter in future articles.  Next month, we’ll dive down into recent campaigns that offer a glimpse of the public’s taste for new computing form factors.

Ross Rubin

Ross Rubin

Ross is the founder and principal analyst of Reticle Research. He has been an industry analyst focusing on innovation in the technology, media and telecom markets for over 20 years. He is currently analyzing adoption of disruptive technology products by early adopters. You can follow him on Twitter at @rossrubin.

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