Innovation – and the end of bellboys

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citizenM London Shoreditch Hotel

There are many reasons for the success of the controversial ride-hailing company Uber, which now operates in 570 cities worldwide. The app is simple to use, and journeys are competitively priced.

But Uber also addresses many of the anxieties people feel when getting a taxi.

Seeing the availability of the cabs around you, and being able to track yours as it makes its way to pick you up, is an obvious improvement on trying to flag one down in the rain, or waiting and wondering if a booked one will turn up.

And because payment for journeys takes place seamlessly with the credit card you have stored in the app, it means no running to find a bank machine, fumbling around for change, or worrying about the appropriate amount to tip.

Instagram is another app that understands something fundamental about what people really want.

Before Instagram photo sharing services like Flickr were geared towards aspiring professionals, and encouraged users to include technical information about their pictures, such as the aperture, shutter speed and lens type.

Instagram changed all that by focusing on the camera that is always with you – the one on your phone – and making up for deficiencies in quality with some nifty filters. With 700 million active users it is a strategy that paid off.

Jerry Murrell took a new approach to fast food when he founded Five Guys. Rather than compete with the likes of McDonald’s on convenience, range or price, Five Guys is purely about offering the best possible burgers and fries, with no corners cut.

People told Murrell his concept would never work. They were wrong. There are now over 1,000 Five Guys locations in eight countries, and the company makes $1 billion in annual revenue.

Boutique hotel group citizenM is taking a similarly disruptive approach to hospitality. Focusing on “affordable luxury”, citizenM hotels offer a one minute check-in and reasonably priced rooms packed with the things modern travellers actually want, such as king-sized beds, fluffy towels, ambient lighting, easily accessible plugs and free wifi.

The hotel group proudly states there are “absolutely no trouser presses, bellboys, or stupid pillow chocolates.”

Businesses that do things differently, and address real needs, are the ones that stand the best chance of success in 2017. No bellboys required.


This article was first published in the Lancaster Guardian and in the Lancashire Post, where I write a weekly column.

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