In countries like the UK, we have a perfect storm of geography and population density that serves as a catalyst for the instant economy. This opportunity has been seized by businesses like Amazon and has created a world where we can take delivery of products and services instantly.
So, if 'now' is normal, what's the next step?
Of course, there are always opportunities to deliver ‘now’ faster. For example, Amazon Prime could reduce their delivery time from hours to minutes. But how far can that go and could this ever move beyond ‘now’ and into ‘before’?
At this point, we could go down the route of references to stainless steel gull-winged cars and 1.21 gigawatts of power, but this isn’t a conceptual time travel piece.
The 'before' concept is more around pre-empting a customers requirements and delivering on this before they even recognise their requirements.
The Internet of things and smart devices have been promising this for some time, eg. the smart refrigerator that knows you’re running low on milk so orders you another pint. This type of tech is becoming mainstream and there are a number of businesses that are doing exciting things in the ‘before’ space and disrupting sectors while doing it.
Who's doing 'before'?
Labrador has seized the opportunity to utilise smart energy meters and real data to automatically switch its customers to the cheapest energy tariffs available, potentially saving customers hundreds of pounds.
Labrador takes the pain out of negotiating the complexities of the energy market and the hassle of changing supplier. By using your real data Labrador ensures you are on the best possible tariff to save you money. If you’re not they will automatically transfer you to a better tariff without you actually having to do anything.
This innovation is a step beyond and the next level to the price comparison websites we have all been using for years. You can hear more from Labrador’s founder and CEO, Jane Lucy, at Canvas on October 4th.
Safety and Security
LeakBot is a HomeServe innovation, a small smart home device which clips onto your stop tap and uses patented Thermi-Q monitoring technology to understand temperature changes that indicate a leak, then alerts you to the problem. The LeakBot aims to let you know there is a problem before it becomes a larger issue.
Ring, recently purchased by Amazon in a deal reportedly worth more than $1bn, are focused on home security with a mission to reduce crime in communities.
Their doorbells and cameras are sensor based two-way audio-visual devices which automatically and continuously monitor your property, alerting you to motion using their app, as long as you have an internet connection you can be alerted and respond to activity. Rings technology alerts its customers to potential security issues before they may otherwise be aware.
LeakBot image courtesy of Insurance Edge, Ring image courtesy of the Verge.
Another exciting application of ‘before’ is in healthcare. CM2000’s ARMED (Advanced Risk Modelling for Early Detection) uses smart devices and sophisticated analytics to predict the risk of falling in vulnerable people to enable faster support and better self-management.
In addition to the serious impact on an individuals health, Age UK have reported the total cost of fragility fractures in the UK to be an estimated £4.4bn.
CM2000’s solution aims to improve an individual’s outcomes and reduce the cost of falls by predicting falls before they happen, allowing for right time support ahead of a fall taking place.
To enable this CM2000 are using wearable technology including the Polar Loop 2, Polar A360, Polar H7 and Tanita Body Composition Scales. Which allows their solution to capture a variety of metrics including weight, muscle mass and hydration levels.
Think about 'Before'
While ‘now’ is still critical, all businesses should be thinking about how your value proposition, products, and services can move beyond this and into ‘before’. ‘Before’ offers an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors and deliver additional value to your customers.
How can you identify ‘before’ opportunities?
1. Define your strategy
What is your business strategy and what could a ‘before’ concept do to support this? Defining the direct relationship between your business strategy and your products is a critical success factor.
2. Understand your customers
To identify the opportunities that exist in this space, you first need to understand your customers. What are your customers trying to do, what do they want? As Theodore Levitt said, “People do not want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.”
3. Identify and define a solution
The information gathered in step 2 should surface opportunities and concepts. What tech, tools, and systems could help you to achieve this? Do you need to build, borrow or buy?
4. Create an MVP
Creating a Minimal Viable Product allows you to get to market quickly and gives you a testable solution.
5. Test and Learn
Now your MVP is live, test it and keep testing it. Whats working well? What could be better?
Keep building and enhancing your value proposition. Products are living breathing things.