Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Abundance. Choice fatigue. Insperiences. Curated consumption. Get ready for another year of buzzwords hinting at a huge market for curators and editors, helping uber-critical yet time starved and sometimes bewildered consumers make the right choice. Which is why we like US-based Vino 100, whose wine stores offer their customers an easy to digest “one hundred great wines for USD 25 or less” (EUR 21/GBP 14). The experience-style stores showcase each of the limited edition wines on its own pedestal, accompanied by the Vino 100 Wine Barometer (a dummy-proof wine rating and information system). In true tryvertising– style, wine-tastings are part of the experience. In Vino 100’s own words: “Wine stores are all too often intimidating, snobbish and expensive, or are designed as wine “superstores” where the quantity of wines is overwhelming and the quality of wines and the service provided is under whelming.” Vino 100 is expanding fast, using an aggressive franchising strategy: it has 29 stores across the US, and is planning to open another 17 in the next few months. The franchise fee to own and operate a Vino 100 is USD 30,000 (EUR 25K/GBP 17K), while the average cost to develop a Vino 100 store is approximately USD 150,000. (more…) Plenty of consumers around the world enjoy tinkering with their cars*, preferably surrounded by professional looking tools and equipment, in a state- of the art garage/auto shop. But few urbanites actually own a garage, and suburbanites who do, often don’t invest tens of thousands of dollars, euros, or pounds in garage equipment like bench lifts, transmission jacks and wheel balancers. (*Talk about conflicting trends: domestic outsourcing is more popular than ever, yet at the same time consumers are DIY-ing like there’s no tomorrow: as a hobby or to save money. For every trend, there’s an anti-trend!) To the rescue comes French O’garage, offering these varied audiences the best of both worlds: professionally equipped auto repair shops, for rent by the hour, or even half an hour. Including a bridge, if needed. Prices start as low as EUR 10 (GBP 7/USD 12) per hour, and O’garage even offers courses, sandwiches, and shower facilities to clean up after particularly messy jobs. A nice extension of activities and services if you’re in the repair business? Inspiration to add extensive DIY services to your portfolio, regardless of what industry you’re in? Giving your customers the DIY experience (and thus empowerment) they crave? Or just helping them to make ends meet, bypassing super-expensive professionals? Not to mention an opportunity to let consumers truly try out (tryvertising!) your products in a controlled yet relevant setting? It doesn’t need to be broke to be fixed! Hardly a week goes by without another company unveiling a new service (often based on barcode or RFID scanners) to facilitate the interaction between people and physical objects. Still, Dutch ShotCodes has managed to take a original shot at this market with a visual approach that will appeal to consumers because, well, visuals always appeal to consumers. What is it? In their own words: “Today, businesses cannot get people to use their mobile phones to browse the internet. This is because typing in domain names on a phone is a time-consuming and frustrating process. ShotCodes change all of this, radically. ShotCodes are offline web links. When captured by a mobile camera, ShotCodes instantly and effortlessly take users to any desired location on the internet on their phones. ShotCodes are easy to make and can be tied to any web address.” Businesses can make their own ShotCodes and add them to existing print media or turn them into brand new tools for sales and customer interaction. End users can download free software (via sms/texting) and install it on their mobile phone. This software, which is available for major mobile phone brands and types, enables phones to act upon ShotCodes. For a demo, see: www.shotcode.com/data/movieformat.” The company makes money from offering integrated solutions to corporate users, charging 27 euro cents per successful scan. It counts Heineken amongst its first clients, who used ShotCodes as part of a pub-based game in The Netherlands. (more…) In this age of individualisation, multiple identities and manifold preferences, segmenting your services is always a smart move. And targeting the Gay Dollar or Pink Pound is particularly clever, given the gay community’s spending power, trend setting aura, and loyalty towards brands that actually acknowlegde their existence. Taking the un-straight path is Danish CBB Mobil, a mobile virtual network operator that’s targeting Denmark’s approximately 250,000 gay consumers with its GAYMobile service (‘a service that’s gay all the way’). Besides telephony, think Village People or ABBA ringtones, and wireless same-sex dating. Nice touch: 25% of profits will be channeled back to the gay community.

Opportunities

Judy Garland ringtones or designer handsets? Sure. But as in many countries the gay population may be too small to sustain large, gay-only businesses, the real substantial added value for large organizations will be found in connecting to truly trend-setting customers, and building a platform to co-create or test truly new design, services, and branding. There are still plenty of stale service industries that would benefit from a Starbucks-style overhaul. Which, for true Springwise enthusiasts, spells endless OPPORTUNITY. What, for example, about laundrettes and dry cleaners, often synonymous with sloppy service, harsh chemical treatments, not to mention quit a bit of hassle? (Don’t get us started on missing socks, sweaters going from XL to S, or red magically turning into orange…) Giving it a spin are New York based Slate and LaundrySpa, two laundrettes/dry cleaners offering new style luxury cleaning, and adding a nice dose of convenience and eco-friendliness, too. (Source: PSFK.) Slate is an all-inclusive laundry service for NYC residents available through the web. Customers sign up for a weekly flat fee of USD 50-60 (GBP 29-35/EUR 42-50), receive a Slate hamper, then choose a pick-up time. Which means no standing in line, no counting and itemizing, no financial surprises: Slate does the sorting, and determines which garment needs to be cleaned by which process (anything from hydro-carbon, wet-cleaning, hand washing, to regular laundering). Cleaned clothes come back wrapped, tagged, and good as new. The environment also gets a gentler treatment, as the company uses a combination of bio-degradable and organic agents. In Slate’s own words: “You are dealing with someone who speaks your language. You bought USD 250 dollar jeans and you are taking them to be cleaned where? To the run-of-the mill cleaner in his dreary shop down the block, who doesn’t care as much for the clothes as you do? We speak the same language: fashion. When your clothes come back, they as new as the day you bought them at Barneys. On the surface we are a clothes cleaner, but underneath we are a fashion label.” (more…) Consumers becoming participants is one of the big evolving themes for 2006, so we thought it fitting to highlight UK based Guest Invest, who offer individuals the opportunity to own a fully managed, luxury London hotel room, ranging in price from GBP 140.000 – 300.000 (USD 243-520K / EUR 204-436K) for a 999 year lease. The revenue is split between the indvidual and Guest Invest, and owners enjoy the added benefit of being able to stay in their own room for a maximum of 52 nights a year for a small fee. Currently, Guest Invest has hotels in Cheltenham, Exeter, Manchester, Brighton, and London, with Liverpool to follow soon. Guest Invest hotels in India are apparently also in the works. Springwise knows that the concept of customer-owners has been around for a while, and relatd spottings continue to pour in: check out London’s uber premium M1NT club on prestigious Sloane Street, which is owned and frequented by 250 shareholders, who all share in the bar’s profits. Or re-read earlier featured Brewtopia in Australia, a beer label handing out shares in their brewery with every purchase customers make. All great excuses for customer-owners to travel and party more often.

Opportunities

From Australia to China, consumers across the board are obsessed with owning their homes, while prosperous boomers in North America and Europe are snapping up pieds-à-terre from New York to Amsterdam, fully equipped second homes in the South of France, or condominiums in Miami. In this new Owner Society, and with stock markets still too volatile, owning a piece of anything solid, while enjoying ‘dividends’ that are fun and relevant, should create an entirely new market for customer-owned concepts. What part of your business can you sell off to your customers? We spoke about carvertising in previous editions, and mused about the eco-friendly opportunity of handing out free bikes, sponsored by advertisers. Amsterdam-based RedStarMedia took the entrepreneurial leap and is now doing just that: their ‘Ik Fiets Gratis’ (‘I Cycle for Free’) venture offers students in 22 university cities in The Netherlands gratis bicycles. Not surprisingly, more than 4,000 students have already signed up. Advertisers, who will pick up annual EUR 600 (USD 715/GBP 413) tab per bike, will be able to splash their message on a 25cm triangular billboard, or on fenders and mudguards. Bikes (sporting extra thick tires and multiple locks) will get a second life on the streets of developing nations after a year. RedStarMedia expects to hand out the first free bikes this month.

Opportunities

Traditional advertising is a mess. Alternative advertising models like Ik Fiets Gratis cleverly turn citizens into advertising vehicles, while offering a true, non-gimmicky win-win situation. Why not expand the model by actually paying existing bike owners, enticing them to become advertisers as well? Sure, there are risks (for example, how to prevent billboards to be removed or obscured by owners?). But at least it’s less boring than, oh, TV commercials or newspaper ads.