8 Examples of How Latent Needs Can Deliver Practical Innovation

Emily James

Pitch It: The Business Case for Customer Salience

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Emily James

    Latent needs can be defined as any need not currently not met by existing products or services. Generally, they are not specifically known to be needed by consumers.  There are some that claim that the concept of latent needs kills innovation, but actually, latent needs can lead to practical innovations that enhance our way of life in a way that we didn’t know could be possible.

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    Practical innovation is the development of creative ideas in response to latent consumer and business needs that are used by people on a daily basis.

    Practical innovation is the development of creative ideas in response to latent customer and business needs that are used by people on a daily basis. Here are some examples:

    1. NHS Patient Access

    In 2017, the NHS reported that nearly half of Britons (43%) had repeat prescriptions. So nearly 3 in 5 of consumers have prescriptions that need to be refilled at a certain point, but refilling these prescriptions usually means going to the doctors and getting permission. Now that can be an inconvenience at the best of times and just not doable at all at the worst of times. With this and the premise of easier communication in mind, Patient Access was borne. This online platform allows patients to access their medical data, request repeat prescriptions, contact their GP (or any doctor at their practice) securely online, and acquire generalised health advice all without leaving their house or workplace.

    2. TV Consumption Habits vs. Netflix

    Blockbuster was popular for a very good reason. Why would people buy DVDs and Videos when they were conveniently available to rent for a fraction of the price? Cloud-based technology has enabled Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services to replace Blockbusters in premise but with added convenience and more choice.

    However, Netflix isn’t one to just jump on the bandwagon without a bit of innovation. They built up exclusive content through deals with the like of Paramount and Lionsgate which allowed them to show content that wasn’t available anywhere else; but then they also took this to a whole new level when they developed their own original programmes cheaper than mainstream media and delivering it in a fashion that meets their viewers demands. Partnerships with companies such as DreamWorks Animation and Marvel TV boosted their original content to insane levels of popularity in an incredibly short space of time. Through this, Netflix has revolutionised the way we consumer television content.

    3. Cloud Storage and Collaboration on Google Drive

    Talking about cloud-based technology, cloud storage platforms such as Google, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, etc. are another practical innovation worth mentioning. Taking Google Drive and Google Docs as an example perfectly demonstrates the level of storage and editing that is now available to businesses, students, and general consumers which enhances the accessibility and convenience of life.

    Collaboration has never been so easy with the likes of this innovation. Even when participants are on the other side of the world, they can still access this document and edit it thought the internet at the same time. This simultaneous working has enhanced work in all areas of life. Take, for example, students in a lecture. In 2016 a twitter post went viral about a group of students using one google document to write down their notes. As they took notes, they would mark places where they were confused or couldn’t follow the lecture and the other students would explain in real-time. This is an ingenious way of using a collaborative online document and by the time their exams would come about, they would have a massive document full of collated, explained notes to study from.

    4. Shopping through Social Media

    Social media like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are prime platforms for influencer marketing, with products being advertised everywhere. However, until recently, if a user expressed interest in a product that was advertised, they would have to search the internet to try and find it and buy it. It is no surprise then that social platform Instagram is beta-testing a new checkout feature that allows users to purchase the goods they are seeing promoted in the images without having to leave or search the internet. This comes as a response to other platforms like Snapchat and Facebook doing similar things, with Snapchat searching for products on Amazon after identifying either the product or the barcode from their camera feature, resulting in an Amazon pop-up about the item.

    5. Satellite Navigation Apps

    These are now one of the standard applications you see coming on our smartphones, and are becoming something that we take for granted. Sat Nav applications allow us to travel wherever we want to at the click of a button or with a few words to the integrated voice assistant, and it would be easy just to leave the app's functionality at that. However, the practical innovation I would like to talk about, is the automatic rerouting function. Taking Google Maps as an example, Google uses the location services on a smart phone to gather real-time traffic data for analysis and feeds that data back through to the application in order to provide us with the best (quickest, but also the safest) route possible for our journey. Simple but effective practical innovation.

    6. Slack Instant Messaging Service

    With the rise of slicker personal communications from smartphones and social media comes the need for equally slick corporate communication. Emails are all well and good to maintain a level of professionalism, but they are do not provide communication at the speed of business, especially internally. Slack is a chatroom-style instant messaging platform for businesses which provides seamless communication within corporations. Slack provides a platform to have group discussions and private conversations, and links to other corporate applications to make sure seamless communication is integrated into existing company processes.

    7. Online and Mobile Banking

    Within the financial sector, there are a lot of latent needs that still need addressing. However, the inclusion of online and mobile banking has revolutionised the way we bank. There is now no more need to visit the branch themselves if a consumer is short on time or effort, all of the information they need and application forms to open a new account is usually online. But that isn’t all. With access to accounts online and through secure mobile apps, there is no need to visit the branch to transfer money or pay a bill as all of this can be done through online or mobile banking too, saving time and effort within typically stressful situations.

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    Typical latent needs seem to be centred on the concepts of convenience and accessibility, which isn’t surprising considering that this is an era obsessed with easy instant gratification.

    8. Capital One Coffee Shop Banks

    Capital One have tried something different, which has resulted in a mixture of reactions. They have opened up a coffee shop within their branch in order to attract a younger customer-base. This works in a couple of ways: firstly, it provides a more relaxed atmosphere to the previously corporate financial state of being, and this atmosphere in turn allows customers to feel more open to having conversations about their financial business. Secondly, the younger customers will be more likely to visit the branch for the café rather than the bank itself, but then they will be able to take advantage of the banking staff to have an informal chat about their requirements, or fill in gaps within their financial knowledge.

    However, there has been a bit of backlash with this premise, with the main one noticing that Capital One now has an entirely new market to compete with as well as other financial services and so could defeat the object of their innovation. This type of innovation needs to be carefully constructed so that it has the greatest chance of success.


    Typical latent needs seem to be centred on the concepts of convenience and accessibility, which isn’t surprising considering that this is an era obsessed with easy instant gratification. But practical innovations such as these show that there are creative ways to meet latent needs and further enhance our lives. As society and business continues to evolve, there will always be latent needs to be discovered and met, it just takes the right person asking ‘why?’ to discover them.

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