How innovation helps Kiwi businesses succeed in Australia

Disposable coffee cup with colourful lightbulb design

20 August 2018

Matthew Topp / Business Development Manager / Australia Pacific

New Zealand has been innovating for decades. From zorbing to the jetboat, the disposable hypodermic syringe and even the egg beater, New Zealand has a long and proud culture of innovation based on practical problem-solving – affectionately known as the “number 8 wire” approach.

In modern times, however, success and competitiveness are more than just having a good product or service idea. Innovation is about challenging ‘business as usual’ in every way – your business model, processes, supply chain, marketing, distribution channels and, most importantly, leadership and workplace culture.

Innovation needs to be looked at through two lenses. One is having a new idea to solve a problem. The second is the way the idea is implemented to increase business value. 

Uber wasn’t the first driver-sharing application. Similarly, Amazon wasn’t the first online bookstore. And yet, both became market leaders because they executed the concept in an innovative way that differentiated them from the competition. 

In Australia, a market almost six times the size of New Zealand’s, competition is far more fierce. Sadly, only 10 percent of products in the fast-moving consumer goods sector survive beyond 12 months on Australian supermarket shelves. There’s no point having a great innovation if the consumer doesn’t want it.  

For this reason, innovations must be ‘sticky’, or locally relevant. This means having a deep understanding of what drives local consumers to buy products, from the labelling to the packaging and the locally-embraced flavours.

Innovation tips for Australia

If you are planning on expanding into Australia, or are already in the market, here are five ways you can nurture innovation to improve your chances of success:

Be customer focused, not product focused. At Amazon, their ethos is simple: ‘To be the earth’s most customer-centric company in the world.’ Being customer focused means providing customers with a positive experience – both before and after the sale. Research by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60 percent more profitable than those that were not.

Have an ‘outside in’ approach. Talk to local consumers about their needs or experiences – understand their thinking, attitudes and feelings towards your product or service area. Understanding what people are thinking is not enough. You need to understand why in order to really solve a need or problem. 

Create a culture of innovation. Encourage employees to contribute ideas. Embracing diversity and divergent thinkers can help move from a “Yes, but ..” to a “Yes, and …”  culture. Some organisations ask employees to dedicate a portion of their time to innovation, leading to amazing results – like the Post-It note, Gmail and Google Earth.

Experiment and prototype often. If you want to be innovative, you have to experiment. If you always know the outcome of something, it isn’t an experiment. Furthermore, if you want to experiment, you have to be able to make mistakes – even fail. The idea is to fail quietly, early, fast and cheaply!

Greenhouse ideas and watch them grow. Insights and ideas are delicate. When ideas are first presented they are very vulnerable and not fully formed. They need help from others before they can be properly judged and assessed. Greenhousing is the behaviour that allows ideas to get better by putting energy into seeing how they work, rather than dismissing them with “That won’t get signed off”, “We don’t have time for this right now”, or “Do a cost benefit analysis first”.

We are here to help

At NZTE, there are many ways we can support your innovation journey:

Gain a deeper understanding of your target audience in international markets with NZTE’s Better by Design service.

Access a team of researchers, engineers, scientists, technologists, designers, entrepreneurs, advisors and administrators delivering self-help and on-demand services and tailored programmes via Callaghan Innovation.

Specifically for Food and Beverage companies, there are a number of organisations that can help get your innovation off the ground, including 

The Food Innovation Centre in Melbourne is a fee-for-service platform to help all food businesses who want to innovate in the food space. They have an innovation and R&D team that test ideas with real Australian consumers and shoppers as well as see what your product would look like in a virtual Australian supermarket.

Badalya is a Melbourne-based food and beverage venture capitalist specialising in taking food concepts to global markets.

For more on how innovation can increase your chances of success in Australia, watch this video featuring interviews with the CEO and Co-Founder of Badalya George Gekas, the CEO of Abes Bagels Wade Gillooly and the CEO of the Food Innovation Centre Angeline Achariya.

Read the transcript here.

Finally, and most importantly, innovation is and should be fun. It should be one of the reasons that drives your passion and gets you out of bed in the morning.  Ask your team what makes your business awesome. Having an innovative environment should be part of the awesomeness. 

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