21st Century companies are making significant investments in Information Technology to align business strategies, enable innovative functional operations and provide extended enterprise networks. These companies have adopted Information Technology to foster changes in managing customer relationships, manufacturing, procurement, the supply chain and all other key activities, and to enhance their competitive capabilities. As many innovation activities involve adding new services, expanding existing ones and/or improving the service delivery process, the success of an organization depends on how well it implements its service innovation to create new markets.

To stay competitive, companies should invest in things that enable them to constantly improve their products and services, and how they produce them. Innovation can also mean improving processes to cut costs and taking that money to a new piece of equipment.

Here are some examples of recent innovation trends being adopted into companies and enterprises.

1. E-commerce

The internet has created a business environment in which time and distance are less important, people have access to more information to help them make decisions and consumers have better access to a broader range of products and services. A significant advantage is that the initial investment for starting up an e-business is generally lower than the cost associated with starting an equivalent business using a traditional model. E-business makes it easier, faster and cheaper for businesses to communicate with their suppliers and customers. Using email and online ordering systems, communication and transactions occur almost instantly. Furthermore, the Internet is accessible twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. This means that buyers and sellers can conduct transactions at any time, as opposed to the regular trading hours of traditional business models. Eventually, an e-business will operate on reduced costs and pass the savings on to their customers, who save money and time by shopping from their own homes.

E-business when adopted by a company enhances organizational performance. Furthermore, e-business is a low cost tool that offers many advantages including greater geographic reach at a time when companies aim for a global audience, greater visibility for the companies’ products, improved relationships with customers and suppliers, and new channels of communication. The ability to react quickly to the preferences and demands of consumers is a plus for any company seeking competitive advantage.

2. Social Media

Social media is also increasingly becoming an important tool for companies. More than just having an online presence, setting up a Twitter account, a Facebook account and a company blog can help a company have some competitive advantage over its competitors.  A company blog can be used to provide readers useful information related to the products or services the company offers. Twitter can be used to notify followers of new information. The hash tag can be used to allow Twitter users to add products from tweets with a link directly to their shopping cart so they can purchase the item later e.g. #AmazonCart. Companies can also use free social media sharing tools, such as Hoot suite, to schedule regular tweets regarding product deals. Facebook can enable a company develop a schedule of posts with product deals, accompanied by compelling visuals, promo codes and direct links for purchase.

3. Online advertising

Advances in the Internet technology have evolved the business world in many ways and one of those ways is by taking advertising techniques to a new level. More than just having a company website, companies can choose to advertise their products and services on the websites. Online advertising is much more cost efficient than using traditional mass market and niche media. Internet ads can be viewed by millions of people while being displayed all day and night, while television and radio ads generally last a few minutes and are shown a limited number of times per day.

A company can also use pay-per-click advertising. It can come up with a list of keywords related to its product or service, test the popularity of the keywords and then use the best ones in its pay-per-click ad campaigns. This is an ideal way to reach a targeted audience that is already searching for what the company has to offer.

4. Mobile Phones

The growing mobile penetration and the emergence of affordable smart phones have also redefined the way companies aim to relate with their customers. Companies are increasingly utilizing multiple channels to interact and communicate with customers. Being easily accessible via smart phones has become a priority for businesses. Mobile applications have become a popular tool for business marketing and consumer engagement. The mobile phone is being used to give companies that competitive edge. Apps are also being used to facilitate, provide information and solutions to customers. They can provide customers with instant access to company information like contact numbers or location.

Mobile phone penetration has also revolutionized how business is conducted through the emergence of mobile banking. Mobile banking allows customers of a financial institution, such as a bank, to conduct a number of financial transactions through a mobile device such as a mobile phone or tablet. Banks are coming up with mobile applications that facilitate mobile banking. This is a shift from the traditional over the counter transactions and using automated teller machines (ATMs).

Mobile money transfer is a service that enables instant money transfer from one place to another using mobile. It is the use of a mobile handset device to either initiate and/or complete a transaction. Funds can be transferred between banks or accounts, deposited or withdrawn or even used to pay bills. Mobile-to-mobile transfers enable consumers to send and receive funds through their handsets to other consumers. This method of transacting has become popular is Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in areas where consumers cannot access banks easily.

What drives economic growth in today’s knowledge-based economy is not capital accumulation, but innovative capacity spurred by appropriate knowledge and technological externalizes. Therefore, for companies to maintain an edge over their rivals, they will need to fully exploit the opportunities provided by the Internet and the increased use of mobile gadgets by consumers.

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