Strategic innovation starts with consumers: Experts at SME Clinic

COMPANIES need to engage consumers effectively in order to innovate strategically, said speakers at an inaugural SME Clinic last Friday.

The business empowerment seminar titled “How Game-Changers Lead in the Company and The Market” featured a line-up of industry experts speaking at the event.

The event was organised by, a business resource portal powered by The Straits Times, The Business Times and Lianhe Zaobao,

One concern raised at the seminar was on wavering consumer loyalty.

Customers are not as loyal as they used to be because they have become much more aware of what real value is, said Vinod Kumar, the group CEO and managing director of Tata Communications’

As a result, companies need to innovate in a way that adds value for its customers in order to stay ahead of competition.

One way that companies can do this is by engaging with their target audience to find out what they want, said Lee Li Meng chief strategy officer of Razer.

Mr Lee shared on the topic of ‘Changing the Game from the Outside’, which refers to how companies should adjust to consumer demand.

“Our mission for Razer was: for gamers, by gamers. So whatever we did, everything from the hardware to the software, we put gamers right at the centre and then thought about what was next, that our gamers would want to embrace, in order to create a market for ourselves,” said Mr Lee.

By identifying the desires of consumers, companies will be able to grow from providing a single-product to building an ecosystem, as consumer demand will dictate where resources should be allocated to facilitate the direction of innovation within a company.

Mr Lee also noted the importance of consumer engagement in building consumer loyalty, citing Razer’s distinct consumer engagement style of using social media to connect with their target audience, which comprises largely of youth and millenials.

Another point raised was that companies should not neglect the need to commercialise and the importance of branding amid coming up with new solutions.

Many innovative companies have failed because they are ‘serial inventors’, but not enough time is spent commercialising these products, said Jackie Tai, principal consultant of Unknown Branding.

Mr Tai touched on the topic ‘Why some Game-Changers Lose’ referring to the mistakes companies often make when it comes to innovation.

He emphasised the importance of branding in allowing businesses to gain market share.

“A brand is simply an idea you own in the mind of consumers,” he said.

Mr Tai explained that branding is how companies differentiate themselves from their competitors, as once a brand is established, the company has its own unique identity that cannot be emulated by its competitors.

The concern of smaller innovative companies getting ahead was also a pertinent issue raised by speakers at the event.

Mr Kumar, who shared on the topic “Changing the Game from the Inside”, emphasised the need for companies to encourage a culture of innovation to stay ahead of disruption.

Mr Kumar talked about the need to “unfreeze the middle” referring to encouraging innovation amongst mid-level managers, who tend to be very operationally-focused.

Mr Kumar suggested: “Get them to attend some seminars, do mentoring for a startup or talk to people who are not from their industry. Get them outside and thinking.”