Agile Innovation Update – January 2015

Each month we bring you the FreshMinds Agile Innovation Update. This month we’re looking at news that Google is to halt sales of Google Glass, the launch of China’s first online-only private bank, research that shows that mobile is now the dominant banking channel, the impact of Black Friday and the new focus on ‘edtech’ companies by venture capitalists.

Google halts sales of Google Glass

Google has announced that it is to stop sales of Google Glass but insists that it is still committed to the technology. The tech giant will discontinue its Explorer programme, which allowed developers and consumers to purchase the wearable device, as of next week. Google Glass had garnered interest from marketing and insight professionals alike, due to its ability to engage with consumers anywhere, at any time. However, this move does not signal the end of Google Glass. The tech company will continue to work on future versions of the device, as Google Glass moves out of Google’s R+D division, Google X, and into its own unit, which will be run by its current manager, Ivy Ross.

Tech firm Tencent launches China’s first online-only private bank

China has welcomed in its first online-only private bank launched not by a financial services institution but by leading tech company, Tencent. The private bank, named WeBank after Tencent’s messaging app WeChat, will provide loans to small-scale borrowers and harness big data to understand the credit risk posed by borrowers. Tencent’s entry into this market has disrupted traditional players, providing an important lesson not just for financial services firms, but for established brands across sectors: even the most successful of companies can’t afford to rest on their laurels. They need to innovate their offering to meet rising consumer expectations if they are to survive in the face of emerging competition.

Mobile becomes the dominant banking channel

New research from Bain and Company across 22 countries shows that mobile has become the dominant banking channel, with banking customers now handling more of their banking interactions, on average, on their smartphones and tablets, than any other channel. One of the driving forces behind this is app-based interaction, which has risen by 19 percentage points in the past year. Despite this, retail banks have a long way to go to effectively use digital channels to influence new product sales. Only 19% of respondents use apps to research and purchase new products as opposed to 37% who consult bank staff. 

Black Friday divides retailers and analysts

Black Friday, the US-imported sales day typically held during the last weekend of November, saw scenes of chaos last year as hordes of shoppers overwhelmed many stores hoping to grab bargains and heavily discounted merchandise before Christmas. Despite scenes of stampeding customers and a jump in footfall and sales on the day, retailers and analysts are divided as to whether Black Friday is successful at increasing overall Christmas spend with many claiming it actually hinders retailers. Although some retailers claim that they have picked up extra sales throughout the month, many others claim to have lost out– selling heavily discounted stock that drove a high volume of sales on the day, but fell flat thereafter. As a result, increasing numbers of retailers such as Next and Jigsaw, have taken a step back from the Black Friday discounting and are reaping the rewards.

Education is a new focus for venture capitalists

New financial heights have been hit by education technology companies who, in 2014, collectively managed to raise a record $1.36 billion from venture capital investors, up from $1.2 billion in 2013. These ‘edtech’ companies provide a range of solutions for all types of education stakeholders. There are new product and service offerings being funded for post-secondary students, right the way through to curriculum teaching aids and resources. The proliferation of digital tools and products means there are more potential solutions to various learning needs. While this creates more competition for buyers’ attention it also creates the kind of dynamic environment in which excellence floats to the top.