Manufacturers and brands gaining equal power with the consumer over the retailer!

Penny Heyes is the Director of The Digital Agenda on The Internet of Things, she will be speaking at the BIOS Conference and has shared some blog posts to get our delegates thinking about the Internet of things.

Who is getting the most data about the consumer and the product use?

Manufacturers are beginning to understand the power of the internet of things.  By using this technology, they are able to develop and maintain a relation shop directly with the product consumer. This is far more effective than spending thousands on generic marketing campaigns than can never be as tightly targeted (to the individual consumer).

Up until now the retailer has had the upper hand in the world of consumer loyalty and relationship often via loyalty programmes and reward points ….but this can and is changing.

Michael Porter of Harvard Business School predicts that the rise of wirelessly connected products, and the resulting entry of manufacturers into the battle for customer loyalty, will bring a “new era of competition”.  (source The Economist)

“Makers of products will gain an equal footing with retailers and the owners of technology “platforms in the battle for the consumer’s affection”.

After sales service will be revolutionalised through the use of the Internet of Things.  A great example of this: Babolat, the manufacturer and brand of tennis racquets has embedded sensors into its racquets that feed data to the player’s smartphone which can then monitor how they are playing and offer advice on how to improve.

Even such mundane things as fizzy drinks and washing powder are set to become “smart”, as their makers attach sensors to their packaging that can detect when the product is being used, and that can communicate with smartphones when scanned.

So the manufacturer and the brand no longer have to rely on the retailer for direct communication to the end user.

“Speaking” products are coming!

Penny Heyes is the Director of The Digital Agenda on The Internet of Things, she will be speaking at the BIOS Conference and has shared some blog posts to get our delegates thinking about the Internet of things.

With the price and size of microchips both becoming smaller, it is easier to add chips to manufactured products from everyday life. This will allow the products to communicate, via the “internet of things”, with each other and with human beings. Scary sci-fi type talk…but it is happening!

Manufacturers can gather information about how their products are being used by the end consumers. This data, when used properly, will help the manufacturer to develop new products more rapidly and better tailor products for the consumer. They can even, in some circumstances, remotely fix any faults more quickly by means of a software patch or download. Or, and this is even more transformative, actually enhance and add features to existing products.

Where the strength and major benefits of this type of connection and the use of the Internet of Things can be seen and used most effectively is in areas such as stock-keeping and supply-chain management. Andy Hobsbawm, the founder of Evrythng, a provider of technology for connected objects, notes that businesses will be able to follow the progress of their products from factory to shop to end-consumer—and the products will be able to “speak” to whoever handles them.  (Source, The Economist)

Luxury brands will be able to ensure authenticity by embedding chips and software in to the goods which will tell the buyer that they are real and not a fake! Designer fashion products – watches, shoes, handbags “speaking” to their owners, probably via an app on their mobile device.

One of our favourite new industry disruptors, Tesla Cars, recently found that some of its cars had a problem with uphill starts. No major expensive recall for them however… the problem was fixed by transmitting a software update.

Sonos, Bluetooth speaker company, has improved it product post purchase through a software update that has been sent out. This update enables the loudspeakers to tune themselves to the acoustic qualities of the room in which they are placed.

Despite the fact that this technology is here now, only 19% of senior executives recently surveyed, said that they were planning radical changes to harness the potential of smart things; and only 39% had introduced training in digital skills

What strategy to adopt in a new market?

Ansoff’s matrix suggests there is a set way in which growth is achieved. It starts with, what Ansoff calls, Market Penetration. Market penetration is whereby a company maximizes the opportunities available to them in existing markets. The grocery sector in the UK is a good example of this. Morrison’s only operates in the UK, and their strategic aim is to have as large a percentage of the UK grocery market as possible.

The next step is product development, to develop new products for the existing market. Continuing the example of the grocery sector, this is what Tesco has done. Think of the number of other Tesco products there are: Tesco Bank, Tesco Mobile, Tesco Hudl etc. They branched out into supplementary products and services beyond their core offering.

This is followed by exporting existing products, referred to as Market development. Tesco has tried this too, in some cases successfully (in Hungary they have over 80% of the grocery market), and in others unsuccessfully (making loses in both the US and China).

The final step is diversification, to develop products exclusively for the international market. McDonalds often follows this strategy in new markets. For example; chicken nuggets in China are made with dark meat, in the US and Europe they are made with chicken breast.

This is a very linear and simplistic approach, many companies are able to pursue several strategies at once, or even bypass steps all together. However, it does suggest two different strategies in new markets. Market Development or Diversification.

Amazon’s product is broadly similar in the UK to that in the US, and in France, and Italy, and Australia etc. Amazon have gone with a strategy of Market Development. Pushing an existing product in new markets. Although the products that they sell may be different, Amazon’s own service is almost identical.

An example of a similar company following a different strategy is Taobao and AliExpress. Most people in the UK would be unlikely to buy from Taobao, yet they might consider purchasing something from AliExpress. Despite both Taobao and AliExpress being owned by the world’s largest online retailer, Alibaba, both sites have been developed with very different target audiences in mind.

This approach depends on how similar the markets are. In the US and Europe (where Amazon is king) we have similar societies. We have similar cultural norms, religions, levels of literacy, wages, likes and dislikes. works across all of these, it doesn’t need to change its product too much from place to place.

Now consider AliExpress and TaoBao. The US (AliExpress) and China (TaoBao) have very different societies. To people in the US, Chinese websites look busy and badly designed. Someone in the US would not want to pay in RMB or have to read Chinese. Both countries are very different, Alibaba understands this, hence they have developed different offerings to diversify their product offering.

When looking at your own international e-commerce strategy, it is beneficial to analyse why purchasing decisions would be different in your different markets. For example, some people might claim that Taobao “looks dodgy”. They may be right, but what makes websites like Taobao acceptable to 1.6bn people and not to us?

What strategy to adopt when exporting online. Isn’t it all about cost?

In Porter’s Generic Strategy, Porter suggests ways in which it is possible to derive a competitive advantage – here we will look at whether you are cheap or you are different. No matter the criticisms of Porter’s model, it has some valuable applications for e-commerce. I would suggest that if a company is heavily focused on COST, then the likelihood of succeeding with that strategy online is slim. This is because there are fewer barriers to online trade, hence the likelihood of another company being able to provide the same product or service as you are high. For example, if a UK company are producing a cheap product to export, it is likely that both local low cost products, as well as those from production based economies (such as China), will be able to undercut the price.  Obviously, a cost centric UK company could always make sales based on differentiation in other markets.

To successfully benefit from online export led growth, differentiation is key. Let’s take the example of Amazon. They are well priced, certainly cheaper than a lot of the high street stores, but they are not the cheapest. With minimum research it is possible to find pretty much all of the products on Amazon cheaper elsewhere. Amazon’s selling point is their phenomenal logistics and range of product offered. Differentiation does not have to come from the product offering, it can come from the experience of delivery and choice. Owning the market for a particular product/service is a key factor for differentiation.

Don’t compete in the way that everyone else is, build your own market and your own niche. Be different!

Unless you have a particular interest in cars you are unlikely to have heard of Christian von Koenigsegg. Christian is a man that had a remarkable dream, to build (by his definition) the best car in the world. The latest car that his brand, Koenigsegg (yes, he named it after himself), is the One:1. This is the perfect power to weight ratio for a car. Even more extraordinary than the specs however, is the price: a whopping $2.8m. Yet, every one of the limited number produced were sold before they were even made. Christian has found his market, he knows who they are and what they want. Even within the hyper car market Christian is unique. Koenigsegg is not about soul or beauty like Pagani, it is about power and speed. That’s what his customers want. Christian knows this, so he produces cars like the One:1.

I am sure that Christian has not spent a single sleepless night worrying about Toyota outselling Koenigsegg. Just like Koenigsegg, you need to find your market. Provide a product or service that is different, selling on cost will ultimately lead you to eroding your profit margin to an unsustainable point.

To download the FREE 17 Page Report, Click HERE 

How to use the internet to develop a new product (the MVP method)

Don’t use The field of dreams method. The notion of “build it and they will come,” is simply not true. So many companies build websites and wonder why they have no e-commerce sales. You don’t get “walk ins” from websites, and SEO is not a substitute. For SEO to work there must be existing demand. Don’t invest a fortune in a website without testing the product and the market.

The first stage is of course market research; this can help you do identify if there is indeed demand for the prospective good or service. However, it cannot identify if your product (in its current form) fills that need. There could be a number of factors that matter to the customer that have not been addressed by the product, but could be easily included.

When developing a new product, service, or website don’t spend thousands of pounds in development without doing the market research, and testing to see if the product is likely to be a success. Design the strategy. Write a good description, visualise pictures of the product, do a promo video and invest some money in how you direct people to the site. Don’t build everything and then expect customers to want it exactly as you do. The rest of the market may think differently. You can have a “buy now” button on something that doesn’t exist, which claims that it is out of stock when people click on it. This way you can establish exactly how many people want to purchase it. You will spend a fraction of your marketing budget doing this, and if there is not a market it will save you a fortune.

By using this method, you are able to gain valuable market insight. It may be that small changes to your product result in much higher sales. These changes can be quickly and cheaply identified before the product had entered the costly stage of the product development life cycle.

Imagine if you were developing a MVP for a Swiss Army Knife. The first stage would be to create a basic site whereby the customer can “apparently” can buy a pocket knife that has a tool for every task. When the customer goes through to purchase one of these, they are told that due to overwhelming success of the knife you are sold out. However, they are able to sign up to be notified when the knives are back in stock.

This stage isn’t traditionally in MVP. Originally the model would have called for a physical product to be developed (as in the next stage), but I believe that it can be extended to further refine the product. For example, your description could contain a knife, a pair of scissors, and a magnifying glass. Engaging your audience on the website and social media you could identify, for example, that most people are not interested in the magnifying glass and would rather have a nail file. By being smart you have already saved the cost of developing the magnifying glass and refined the product to a better fit for the market.

Once you have enough customers who have shown interest in the knife, you can develop it with a few attachments. The Swiss Army Knife with a knife, pair of scissors and a nail file is not the finished article. However, it has enough features of a Swiss Army Knife to gather validated learning and inform further development of the product. Customers might say things like “I wish it had really small saw on it” or “trekking through the jungle I find I never have a toothpick”. These features can then be added depending on their popularity, ensuring that the product is being developed to satisfy the most people in the target market.

This model can be used for services too, or even websites themselves. Take for example the decision to develop a multi-language website. You can use analytics to see the number of users from other countries; you can add language options to the existing site with a holding page; then you can add languages one by one, by demand.

To download the FREE 17 Page report, Click HERE

Business In & Out of Scotland


The Business In & Out of Scotland (BIOS) conference is aimed at encouraging exports out of Scotland and imports into Scotland.Did you know that 50% of all exports from Scotland are done by just 50 companies? Our conference brings together companies to share the export journey where they will share experiences and learning about how they can grow their offering outside of Scotland.

Building on the success of previous years, we are now offering a full day affair offering a great line up VIP speakers in the morning followed by workshops in the afternoon. BIOS will deliver relaxed, informal networking over a buffet lunch in our exhibition area to ensure quality engagement for everyone. There are also ways to raise your profile by taking a stand and there is also a comprehensive sponsorship menu on offer – all designed to increase brand awareness and maximise value for everyone.
The focus of the conference is on Sales, Growth and Expansion and we will have Scottish brands already operating in the UK who wish to export as well as players with an international presence that they are keen to grow.

So whether you are selling a product or a service and want to expand your client base, extend your geographical reach or simply connect with ambitious businesses, this is the event for you. It is an interactive day with VIP talks and facilitated Q&A during the morning with more intimate discussion and debate in the afternoon seminars. So great networking is a given. BIOS staff will be on hand throughout the day to make introductions and ensure everyone gets value.

Why should you attend?

  • Learn new strategies and techniques
  • Make valuable connections
  • Be inspired by our VIP speakers and their stories of overcoming growth challenges
  • Raise your profile and make clear your message by attending and/or exhibiting
  • Better understand the challenges in sales, growth and marketing and how to overcome them
  • Get your head round the challenges in taking the plunge to export
  • Increase your market share with sound strategy behind your growth plans

Who will attend?

Senior Executives, Directors, Owners/Managers of SME’s across the Scottish Business network from Hospitality, Energy, Technology, Property and Professional Services sectors. We also anticipate a good take up from Public Sector organisations who offer support for exporting or growth generally. There will be a strong mix of sector representatives at BIOS and we anticipate upwards of 150 delegates.

The Conference

The speaker programme attracts an audience of senior-level professionals and strategic decision makers from both industry and public sector. Through a series of in-depth, non-commercial presentations, case studies and discussions, participants will be privy to the latest developments in exporting. Areas covered will be which countries and markets suit which products and services and what is the best route to access them. Our expert speakers are not consultants – they are business people operating at the sharp end who have actually gone out there, done it and got the T-shirt! Making connections with these individuals is invaluable to your success, whether you are about to export or already doing so.

The Exhibition

Our exhibition area will be teaming with Specialised Service Providers who have a track record in supporting companies through the exporting journey whether it be a product or a service. Their stands will be manned by seasoned professionals who can show you how the whole game works. Again, if you are already exporting and want to increase your market share they will be on hand to let you know what new grants and initiatives are available.

In fact, the whole event will draw in a UK wide visitorship of highly qualified, solution-hungry end users from industry as well as integrators and suppliers looking to connect their products and services to meet these needs.

Come and engage with the network for contacts, learning, ideas, inspiration and techniques to increase sales.

A full day affair!

BIOS will take place over a full day from 8.45am to 4.30pm and beyond. This gives delegates time for business development, networking, information gathering and key learning.

Exhibition & Networking Area

We will have a designated area in Dynamic Earth specifically for exhibition stands (20 in total) and networking. All the refreshments will be served in this area to ensure maximum footfall to showcase the exhibitors offering and facilitate engagement between delegates. Exhibition stands are allocated on a “first come first served basis” and demand is high.

Please contact us on 0131 526 3104 for more information.


Keynote Speakers in the morning will be given 20 minutes for their talk and then take part in a 20-minute Q&A session with delegates, using a microphone to drill down in to the nitty gritty of their stories.

Attendance & Ticket Prices

The event is taking place on Thursday 27th October, attendees should arrive at 8.45am. We are currently offering a discounted Early Bird rate – so make sure you don’t miss out!

 Stand out from the crowd with Sponsorship!

Sponsorship of BIOS represents an excellent opportunity for your organization to establish its presence and increase its visibility in this growing marketplace, both before, after and during the conference. We have designed the packages to offer great exposure ensuring your company will be at the forefront of attendees minds.




Scottish Exports – What are the Government’s thoughts?

In a recent Scottish government review (Wilson Review of Support for Scottish Exporting), the need to increase Scottish exports was highlighted. The governments goal is to increase Scottish exports 50% by 2017, compared with a base of £22.81bn of exports in 2010. In order to reach this target of £34bn, the review identified two areas that were causing barriers to export for Scottish SMEs:

  1. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that wish to take the first steps towards becoming exporters still experience difficulties identifying where to get the help and advice they need.
  2. Access to finance is the most significant barrier faced by SMEs seeking to turn themselves into exporters.

This years BIOS Export / Import Conference is aimed at tackling these two areas. BIOS provides a forum in which SMEs interested in export are able to collaborate, knowledge share, and interact with companies who have been through (or are going through) the export process. Our speakers have been selected to represent different stages of the export process, or to provide a different way of thinking.

Paul Grant, Chairman of Mackays, represents an established foothold in the export market. Mackays is a leading Scottish food company exporting to over  50 countries worldwide. Mackays was founded in 1938 by the Mackay Brothers. Today, owned by the Grant family and based in Scotland, Mackays is proud of it’s heritage and authentic products.

Fiona Houston, Co-founder of Mara Seaweed, represents an “up-and-coming” brand, and a relative new comer to exporting. Mara Seaweed is new to the market and export game but making a big splash with a niche product. Now exporting a range of seaweed flakes, powders and blends across the UK, USA and Europe, Fiona has driven the company’s growth from concept to an award-winning innovative food brand.  In 2015 she won BQ’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award.  Click here for more information on Mara Seaweed

Emma Meredith, Director of Internationalisation at Edinburgh College brings an academic and service based element to BIOS.  Edinburgh college sell and deliver courses worldwide from their Edinburgh base.

Emil Stickland, Director, Thrive Digital will be providing a workshop, aimed at helping SMEs  to develop their international online presence. In conjunction with BIOS, Thrive digital have created a white paper to help Scottish SMEs think about how they can use online as a cost effective means of export. Download their white paper here.

Finance was identified by the Wilson Review to be the most significant barrier faced by SMEs when exporting. At BIOS we have a seminar presented by John Brown, Head of Trade & Working Capital, Clydesdale Bank on International Finance. John will be presenting two case studies from The Weir Leather Group & Borders Biscuits.

To read the entire Wilson Review, you can download it here.