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How to approach fintech innovation in a saturated market

Innovators launching products to the fintech market have always faced huge pressure to demonstrate what is it about their products that makes them inherently unique and game changing. But as more and more brands continue to emulate one another’s USPs, creating a saturated market of similar platforms and services which have the same attributes at their core, those with smaller budgets and limited resources are finding it harder to stand out than ever before.

So, what can fintech businesses of all shapes and sizes introduce to their R&D processes to create a fair market of competition that is underpinned by customer-focused – rather than revenue-focused – innovation?

Embed, learn, build, challenge 

David Elms
David Elms

To do so requires a deep analysis and understanding of your audience’s core market and the challenges they face every single day. This,followed by an open process of testing, feedback and sharing of insights,will identify the ways in which your product can not just solve problems, but can present the user with new tools they never even realised they needed.

As a qualified accountant, I’ve long been drawn to the logical structure and varied applicability of Excel, particularly in the area of data analysis. Every accountant must learn the basics in exporting, manipulating then importing data to a range of software applications. However, seeing the needless repetition in data entry, manipulation and analysis tasks prompted me to innovate,using my passions for data analysis – and the ways in which technology can be developed to support it – to create my own intuitive and elegant software which wouldn’t just aid analysis but would upskill Excel users at the same time.

For an innovation to work, it must be designed to fit a mass culture, change a user’s mindset and seamlessly integrate into their existing habits. Doing so is more likely to encourage early users of your programme to inform their peers about how it has fundamentally changed their job role. In turn, a well-thought out innovation which is based on extensive user knowledge will PR itself, saving you money in the long term.

Build new assets – and be prepared to fail

While every new innovator believes their product is going to change the world, each will face challenges. For StatementReader, it was gaining market-wide acceptance of how the product fits within professional firms’ innovation strategies, combined with how to efficiently raise awareness of the product to a huge market and then effectively manage our clients’ expectations within the limited resources of our small business.

Any company in a similar situation will quickly realise the benefit of building on their existing assets to extend networks and open new pathways. To ensure your innovation stays on track, consider your stakeholders during the ongoing development and finessing of your product. Every stakeholder’s perspective has a place within conceptualising and implementing innovation, so identify the value each might bring to your product’s future, then source people within their networks with the relevant skillset, experience, goals and passion and find ways of collaborating with them.

The best innovators will curate an attitude that promotes learning, development and partnership, and there are a huge wealth of external teams and networks you can harness to add a broader spectrum of possibility to your innovation. However, to move forward successfully, all parties should stay alert to the end goal but also accept that it could, in its first few iterations, fail.

 To get past this stumbling block, apply a suitable timescale in which you accept a failure has happened, rather than continually promoting something which is demonstrating it simply isn’t right for your audience. Take a step back, reassess, then re-innovate, perhaps changing the very model that underlies your original approach. Apply all your learnings and changes in perspective to ensure your product is right the next time.

Explore and reflect

You can never take your eye off the future, so before your product or platform even has chance to enter its comfort zone, identify some simple methods for exploring the effectiveness of it within new, unexplored markets. The NHS, for example, has tested product innovation by introducing doctors to upcoming technology which isn’t yet applied or available in hospitals, to gauge reaction and engagement.

Innovation means different things to different people, so you should also aim to see it from these alternative viewpoints to prepare for your future.

Consider how you could change your business model, marketing or product capabilities to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ behaviour when using your product to gain clarity on where your next steps should take you. Channel your inner behavioural analyst, applying a user-centric focus from a diversity of perspectives. And stay aware of changing tools and working processes – particularly in the B2B space – to remain tuned to new integration and collaborative opportunities.

Hindsight often teaches innovators to not be afraid of cannibalising or disrupting existing business models; the tech giants have little regard for this, and we should all take a leaf from that book. Innovation – no matter the size of your business and your future scope – requires bold instincts and the confidence to be a challenger. Whether you’re creating a mainstream or niche innovation, make best use of client relationships and your networks to gain the insight and tools available to change your target audience’s daily challenges, in order to create a self-supporting model that continues to feed your innovation.