Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

What do sophisticated shoppers want? More shelves? Friendlier assistance? For a real innovative twist, try shops that constantly adapt to the world outside shopping. No, this is not about turning shops into celebrations of the experience economy (that’s no longer innovation, it’s hygiene), but rather adjusting stores to the way shoppers do their pre-shopping homework. Hands-on example? Next month, October 2003, will see the launch of Microzine, a store/outlet based on a magazine format. Target audience: your typical reader of lads’ magazines, from Loaded to FHM. Just like a magazine, the store will offer new monthly content, features and all of the latest newsworthy and desirable products: fashion, sportswear, limited edition trainers, watches, classic films, art, rare furniture, home wares, games, gadgets, etc. Partners so far include the Andy Warhol Foundation, Apple, Nokia and Levi’s. Store locations? London’s Shoreditch is first (source: TrendCentral), and LA and Tokyo are likely to be next.

Opportunities

Marrying the shop to what consumers experience and peruse the 99% of their time they’re not IN a shop could be big. We assume there will also be an actual Microzine Magazine, and if so, we urge Microzine (and the expected slew of copycats) to check out Lucky Magazine (we highlighted them in an earlier issue), which is a shopping catalogue turned magazine. Must be some synergy there. Or what about ‘once every 2 years’ outlets? The Olympic Store (by the Nuance Group), will be rolled out in Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, after having set up shop in Sydney and Athens. A true ‘Come and Go’ concept, that capitalizes on sudden rushes of global buzz, themes, and happenings. Sounds like an excellent interpretation of one our sister-publication’s ‘new shopping’ trends: TRANSUMERISM. Mmm… Even though this wild world of media and shopping convergence is not too transparent yet, you can somehow smell the potential for success, regardless the final shape or form. On our side, we promise you to bring you more real-world examples of this ‘revolving retail’ trend in our October issue. Location based services are becoming a reality — using Zingo in London, you can have a taxi speed to wherever you are, based on your cell phone sending them your exact location. Yes, we know about the eternal promises of location based services (LBS), like lunch specials popping up on your cell phone the moment you pass by a Japanse restaurant around noon. Or taxis speeding to wherever you are, based on your cell phone sending them the exact location. Oh, wait — the latter is for real now! London-based Zingo Taxi is the world’s first (well, maybe second) mobile phone taxi-hailing service, and enables passengers to hail a nearby licensed London taxi that is available for hire by calling Zingo from their mobile phone. Zingo uses global positioning technology (GPS) and the phone location service of the caller’s network operator to locate the nearest available Zingo taxi. The passenger is then automatically connected to the driver’s hands-free mobile phone. Exact whereabouts can then be established and the fare picked up with a minimum of delay. A GBP 1.40 (approx EUR 2.10, or USD 2.20) payment is added to the fare by the driver (this is the cut that Zingo takes). Hundreds of taxis have already been fitted out with GPS receivers, which Zingo installs for free, and major wireless carriers like Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2 are also on board. A similar service, albeit on a smaller scale, was introduced by Oslo Taxi in 2001 in co-operation with NetCom, Norway’s second largest mobile operator. But for now, Zingo is definitely the one to watch!

Opportunities

If you’re in transportation, then studying and tracking this idea is a no-brainer. Even in cities where taxis/cabs are normally plentiful, this service would be a welcome new service in off-hours and in remote areas. GPS has come a long way; Zingo and Oslo Taxi have worked out the complicated processes and procedures; and everybody with a pulse has a mobile phone, so this isn’t the worst moment to get into this game. Location based services may actually be going somewhere soon! Most TV shows have their own website these days, but now, turning the tables, some websites are actually spawning their own TV shows. Case in point: Classmates.com, a website where school friends, lovers, prospective lovers and even enemies look to reacquaint themselves, recently got its own reality TV show, in cooperation with News Corp’s Twentieth Television. Each segment of the show will feature one person looking for a long lost acquaintance, old lover or kindergarten friend. The searchee won’t know who is trying to contact them, and the show will profile the people separately, leading up to their reunion. The business angle? Classmates.com’s 35 million registered users, who not only provide the show’s content (Classmates.com claims to generate about 300 to 500 possible story leads a day), but also represent a massive number of potential viewers and a source of ‘buzz’. Which is what all networks are after, anyway. Classmates is not the only one expanding from cyberspace to air waves: – Celebrity crime Web site The Smoking Gun is creating two half-hour shows for broadcast on cable channel Court TV (due to air in August), joining a genre of popular gotcha shows like ‘Cops’. The Smoking Gun was acquired by Court TV in 2000. – Sony Pictures Television is behind eBayTV, airing live auctions. Due to complications in getting software out to stations, the show’s launch has been postponed until fall 2004, but should be able to benefit from Ebay’s 1 trillion or so worshippers. – National Public Radio is working with Microsoft-owned online journal Slate on a one-hour weekday program called ‘Day to Day, which will feature news topics of the day. – iVillage, a popular women’s website with an online community of almost 15 million visitors, is planning a TV series based on internet dating. Tentatively named iDate, the program will follow internet based relationships starting with the initial email exchanges and culminating with the face-to-face meeting. (Sources: AdAge, News.com, TrendCentral.)

Opportunities

Springwise’s suggestion to everyone with a website boasting lots of visitors and good name recognition: start looking for the stories behind your content, visitors, members and customers, then turn it into a TV format and start pitching to the networks. Or, if you are in TV yourself, do some due diligence amongst your favorite websites. Perhaps you should buy one, like Court TV did with The Smoking Gun? May we suggest that Amazon.com set up some sort of book club hosted by one of the thousands of ‘garage influentials‘ who send in their book reviews to the site? We also think that Gawker.com would make for fantastic TV; a daily show loaded with (in their own words) “city news including urban dating rituals, no-ropes social climbing, Conde Nastiness, and downwardly mobile i-bankers” 😉 And that’s just the US: what about UK-based Lastminute.com, one of Europe’s largest online travel players, whose popular weekend trips must be the source of endless stories of romance, deceit and adventure? Last one: a Google.com show bringing us ‘today’s most interesting searches and the people behind it’. Oh well, you get the picture! (more…) The SEE-HEAR-BUY trend shows no signs of slowing down. This month’s shining star? Japanese Mediastick, which will soon enable consumers to shop by simply snapping a (mobile phone) picture of the object of their desire. How does it work? • Participating etailers display Mediastick’s special barcode next to their products (whether in magazines, newspapers, TV commercial or even on websites). • Consumers snap a picture with their camera-enabled mobile phone, then send the pic to a dedicated Mediastick phone number. • Mediastick’s technology extracts the barcode, figures out what product needs to be purchased, sends the customer’s details to the etailer, who bills and ships, using the customer’s billing information on file with the mobile phone operator. OK, this sounds complicated, but on the front end, the only thing a consumer needs to do is snap and send, then wait for delivery. To users, the service will be free: Mediastick will take a cut from the etailers’ revs. As the technology only works with a new, high resolution camera-phone, not expected to hit the Japanese market full-force before early next year, roll out will initially be slow. Trials start this month, with one of the key partners being NTT, whose high-resolution camera phones, the SH505i and F505i, both with barcode decoders, support the service. (Sources: CNet, LookJapan, NikkeiBP.)

Opportunities

Our Springspotters alert us to a new SEE HEAR BUY concept every week now, and while initiatives like Mediastick may or may not prosper, Springwise believes we’re witnessing a second chance for a lot of intriguing ‘high-tec’ shopping concepts. Mass and tech are finally coming together, building on the current mass of sophisticated consumers who ‘get’ new technology. As long as the services appeal to real consumers’ needs (like instant gratification for Mediastick, or instant solutions for ZingoTaxi), creative dreaming should be permitted a comeback. Oh, and one more on the topic of mass and tech: don’t forget to keep an eye on those new MegaPixel camera-phones: if slow uptake of MMS (sending pics from and to camera-phones) in Europe and the US is first and foremost due to the limited number of people actually owning a camera-phone, surely the lousy quality of these first-generation pics comes a good second. Stay tuned, and stay sharp! Springwise tries to bring you a variety of ideas: some you can start with a bit of help from your friends (or angels), and others work best if you have the marketing department of a USD 30 billion multinational behind you. This one is for the hands-on crowd. Brand new, Indianapolis-based Get Digital is a ‘human’ CD encoding service, offering a fast, affordable, and easy-to-use method for converting large personal CD collections to MP3s or other digital audio files. Sure, consumers can do this themselves, but do you really want to spend dozens of precious hours to make the final step to a hardware-free (and more convenient) life? This is how it works: Customers fill out the online order form, order the shipping containers, and select the options available to personalize their new digital library. They then submit the order and customized pre-paid shipping containers will be on their way to send their CDs to Get Digital. Customers pack the shipping containers with CDs. The shipping containers provide an easy and safe method of handling and transporting the collection. All shipments are 100% insured and tracked by FedEx. Upon arrival, the company’s automated encoding center converts the music to the format of the user’s choice, burns the compressed files onto DVD-R discs, and sends the DVDs and CDs back to the customer the next day. The company also provides a printed list detailing the collection. Customers receive their collection on the media of their choice, and enjoy! In Get Digital’s own words: ‘Leave your CDs where they belong — in the box!’ Prices start at USD 1.99 per CD for the first 200 CDs, USD 1.49 per CD for the next 200, and any CD over 400 will cost customers USD 0.99/CD. Still in start-up mode, Get Digital is attracting a mix of small users and professional music buffs; the latter quite capable of converting their thousands of CDs themselves, but preferring this service over losing hours and hours of their precious time.

Opportunities

We love any new business idea that makes everyday life simpler and more virtual! It’s global too: ‘Get Digital’ should appeal to music lovers around the world. And besides introducing this service to the rest of the world, may we advise other smart entrepreneurs to start looking at a video-to-dvd service? And in a few years’ time, do the follow-up for DVD to whatever all-digital format we will have by then? Please? And an urban service that actually picks up your boxes, and then hand-delivers them the next day? It’s definitely a niche, though if you also target professional music and video professionals… Yup, there are some happy tunes in this one! They’ve been around in the U.S. since 1937. It’s about time Krispy Kreme’s hot original glazed doughnuts conquer the rest of the world. Probably unbeknownst to millions of North American Krispy Kreme doughnut addicts, is the fact that the rest of the world is pretty much Krispy Kreme free. The company, which started way back in 1937, operates 282 stores, raking in close to a billion dollars a year by selling what some consider to be the best and most luscious doughnuts on earth (ranging from ‘powdered blueberry filled’ to ‘maple glazed’). Krispy Kreme’s focus on freshness and top quality, its in-store experience (doughnuts are made on the premises, for all to see and smell), and its involvement with local neighborhoods give Krispy Kreme a Starbucks-kind of feel and aura. It is surprising, therefore, to learn that international expansion has only just begun, in 2002 to be precise, with franchise deals having taken place in Canada, Australia and the UK. That leaves another 185 countries or so deprived of ‘hot original glazed’ doughnuts, the kind that makes American consumers literally line up for hours every time Krispy Kreme adds a new doughnut variety or opens a new store.

Opportunities

According to the Krispy Kreme website, ‘Asia’, ‘Eastern Europe’ and ‘Western Europe’ are all wide open for entrepreneurs bringing enough dough (no pun intended) to the table to build multiple stores (10 or more) in a particular market. A tasty opportunity to instantly become part of what Forbes magazine dubbed ‘one of America’s happening cult brands’ in 2001. Oh, and for the cash-strapped amongst you: open up your own mom-and-pop doughnut store NOW, be it in Berlin or Singapore, and who knows — you may be bought out when Krispy comes to your neck of the woods. Happened to a lot of coffee stores around the world over the last few years, so why not to doughnut bakeries? 😉 (more…) As promised in our August edition, here’s another new business idea from Virgin (there’s no stopping Richard Branson): selling cars, supermarket-style. After selling 12,000 cars online in the UK at www.virgincars.com, Virgin opened the world’s first auto department store in Manchester last May. The 2,800 square meter ‘Megastore’ offers 25 automotive brands under one roof, at cut-throat prices, and without salespeople stalking customers. Cars include new and up to one year old models, and are not grouped by brand but by themes like ‘crowd pleasers’, ‘two wheels’, ‘thrills’, ‘all in one’, ‘first class’ and ‘adventure’. In their own words: ‘No hard sell, no promises that we can’t keep and no auto jargon. Simply great cars, a relaxing environment, and friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff, all under one big, entertaining roof. Take your pick from over 200 vehicles in stock with many ready for delivery from just 2 weeks. Or we can find your dream car from a further 4000 cars available through our extensive network of suppliers.’ (more…) Reality TV: as long as there’s money to be made, the well of new formats won’t run dry. Which show will turn out to be the new American Idol or Swedish Big Brother? Well, competing for another job than that of ‘Mega Pop Star’ should be big. NBC’s new reality show The Apprentice will feature approximately 20 contestants (including both Ivy League MBA graduates and street entrepreneurs with no college education), living together in a NY loft and vying for the chance to become an apprentice to a ‘master’. During the first season of The Apprentice, legendary real-estate tycoon Donald Trump will serve as the master and his business empire, The Trump Organization, will be the hub of the competition. Each week Trump will fire one candidate from the contest. In the season’s final episode, one promising and (scarily) ambitious person will emerge supreme and will be awarded a prestigious, year-long dream assignment — and a six-figure salary — that accompanies the status of becoming ‘the apprentice of a master.’ Shooting of the first 13-episode series begins mid-September, and will air around February 2004. (Source: NBC) (more…)