Product innovation is the name of the game to remain viable

Product innovation is the name of the game to remain viable
Samantha Pillay Director of Sales Operations for First Loyalty Plus

Reinventing old-school timeshare to satisfy the needs of the younger generation

Only 52 US companies have remained on the Fortune 500 since 1955. Why? Mainly because of a lack of product innovation. Many of the companies that once appeared on the list, were at the forefront of innovation in their field and were highly successful but failed to remain relevant. They failed to improve or develop new products or services in response to the changing needs of clients or as solutions to a problem. Blockbuster was a prime example of a company that went from hero to zero because they didn’t understand the shifting market and that renting a movie online was far preferable for clients than going to one of their stores.

Product innovation has been around since, well…forever, and has got progressively more sophisticated over the centuries. From the wheel to Artificial Intelligence and everything in between – electricity, cars, rockets, smartphones – product innovations have consistently improved the way we live.  However, the sheer speed and scale with which new or evolved products are developed and introduced to the markets nowadays means a company’s ability to continuously evolve is more important than ever before for long-term sustainability.

Just over two years ago, ekko founders saw an opportunity to take timeshare (first introduced in the 1960s) and turn it on its head. The idea? To change the traditional timeshare concept into a travel and lifestyle portfolio product that would appeal to millennials, whose aspirations are very different to those of their elders, according to Samantha Pillay, a Director at ekko.

And so, in March 2022, ekko was launched. In a time of economic instability post-lockdown, it was a risky move. But, by being clear on what the market wanted, they produced a product that sold. “We listened to our target market and realised that millennials want more,” explains Pillay. “They want more entertainment, more wining and dining, more travel and holidays that can be enjoyed all year round without paying expensive levies. So, we gave them the best of both worlds at affordable rates and discounted prices, with access to next-level living through the unique ekko lifestyle portfolio.”

Now, just 12 short months later, with very little marketing, ekko has more than 3 200 members who have enjoyed a combined 3 000 nights away.  “For businesses to remain sustainable, innovation is key. You have to anticipate your clients’ changing needs, listen to what they want and adapt accordingly…and of course, delight them with your product or service and then continue to do so,” Pillay says.

This is borne out by ekko shareholder Kgomotso Ntsimane, who writes: “I was looking for accommodation and ekko was running a promotion on Instagram, so I responded. A consultant called me to unpack the shareholding options and the rewards programme – and I was hooked! I managed to confirm my reservation, book flights, massages, and spa treatments, all in one place. I am already taking advantage of the dining experience that offers me cash back! The customer journey experience thus far has been nothing short of amazing and has exceeded all of my expectations. I love ekko and the customer service is on point.”

“To remain competitive and sustainable, therefore, it is key for businesses to have an innovation strategy, look for industry gaps in the market, immerse themselves in their clients because their problems or desires are fuel for new ideas, keep an eye on technology and its potential effect on their business, and never stop looking for ways to improve, no matter how small,” concludes Pillay.

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