New Approach to Innovation in the Senior Living Industry
It is common for a people in the Senior Industry to say that the senior housing industry is full of the normal supply and demand dynamics. In part, that has merit. Though if that were truly the only factor(s) at work, investors, owners and providers feeling the pressure can wait for the real estate cycle to turn and simply continue on with business.
Brandywine Living CEO and president, Brenda Bacon believes there is more thought needed to address this generation of senior living. According to Bacon, whenever the industry is overbuilt, people in the industry often claim that this ‘hiccup’ is going to pass and we will be back to business before long. In 2019, that may not be the case. What the industry is experiencing is not just a cycle, it is a sea of change.
In other words, even though the oversupply is lowering occupancy, the industry is not able to count on the future demands anymore based on the supply and demand dynamics that once drove this industry. They are now having to be more innovative to meet this new generation of residents.
To bring forth the bigger picture, a lot of thinking will need to be done.
In order to really highlight future inspiration, the industry should be take some ‘plays’ from other industries who are sharing similar pains when addressing this new world of business. Some research was done based on two success stories, one being a new café concept from Capital One and the other being the Swiffer Mop from Procter & Gamble.
These two companies were able to full reinvent their own products to attract more new customers by creating a bank branch and a mop. They did that by taking time to gather plenty of consumer feedback, but it was not done in a way that you would have expected it to happen.
When EPAM Continuum, which is a Boston based innovation development and design team had started to help Procter & Gamble to design and release a brand new mop almost 20 years ago, the research was not done by using a poll that asked customers what made a good mop. “That would have just caused the development and design of a great mop”, said by Heather Reavey who is the head of innovation delivery at EPAM Continuum.
She stated that innovation is just a great understanding about what you care about in life. The main job is to connect what you care about in your life and then put it into a category for you.
For instance, when it came to the development of Swiffer, the consumer research that was done was through visits to normal, everyday people in their homes and asked them about cleaning. The whole discussion was not about any of the more functional needs, such as what makes a mop a good or bad mop. The discussion was over emotional needs such as how cleaning the floor makes them feel and what they would like to be doing instead of mopping.
Another similar process like this was done at Capital One. They had set out several years ago to reinvent the more conventional branches of banking. However, the original thought of what a bank branch is had to be forgotten.
According to Vice President of Marketing for Capital One, Jennifer Windbeck, they had to start from scratch. They were designing a bank for the type of person who craves social connection but likes the digital lifestyle.
When they did this, Capital One stopped and talked to their customers about how they feel about their personal finances and what really stresses them out when it comes to banking instead of asking what they want to see in a bank branch.
This whole idea that Capital One came up with in the end happened to be one that is very different from the more traditional bank locations. As of now, Capital One has 28 cafes in the United States where people are able to purchase a Peet’s Coffee and then talk about their finances with an expert if they would like.
These banking spaces were designed to be different and hip.
When it comes to senior living, if you ask a senior to reimagine their living environment, they may not actually know what they are wanting until that option is in front of them. Companies need to start thinking outside of the box so that business can be drove up and it allows companies to stay competitive within a highly competitive market.
Whether or not the senior living industry is able to fully reinvent more traditional living communities is something that is still unseen. Unlike a bank or a mop, there are some areas of senior care and housing that just cannot be tossed out. The more underlying themes of focus tend to be on emotional instead of functional will need to be innovative in offers which may produce a new way forward.
Innovation needs to be a part of business practices when it comes to being a senior living provider. It can bring a return if you are focused on the business and you are doing so in the right way.