Leading through innovation: A great approach to fuel your competitiveness

Winning companies innovate


Winning companies innovate – and they do so for different reasons:

  • Some want to differentiate themselves to stand out from and stay ahead of competitors
  • Others use it to attract the best talent
  • Some want to best meet their customers’ needs, expectations and choices
  • And others mainly want to grow by attracting new clients (and investors)


Nevertheless, not all companies have the power, willingness and mindset to do innovation. It has to be rooted in a company’s culture for the company to be truly innovative and gain a competitive advantage from an absolute will to change.


The power of continuous innovation


At SO1 we believe in the power of continuous innovation and improvements – for all the reasons mentioned above. We aim for technological leadership, thus attracting great talent from all over the world, as well as clients and investors. And as we continuously reinvent ourselves, we make it hard for our competitors to keep up with us. All of this is crucial for our long-term success – especially nowadays, with rapidly advancing technology, changing client and customer expectations and digital disruption on the rise.



SO1 is one of the driving forces of retailer digitalization. We have created a very powerful AI for retail which is capable of personalizing promotions for users in real-time and across devices. The SO1 Engine sources the entire portfolio of the retailer and automatically selects the right products for each individual consumer and adjusts discounts such that, depending on the retailer’s goals, revenue, profit, or consumer satisfaction are maximized.


We know that AI is a buzzword these days, one that doesn’t come with any guarantee of quality (see here how to spot fake AI with 5 simple steps). This is because many companies only claim to apply it. But the fact is, only very, very few really apply true artificial intelligence. Most just use simple heuristics or rules to run their “AI” business. That is why we regularly outperform the existing solutions on the market, which is confirmed by robust AB testing. For example, in our latest test at a US retailer, we achieved a +180% improvement in redemption rate in comparison to the market leader’s targeting engine that had been in place at this retailer for many years.


To learn more, reach out to:

US Sales: Patricia A. Cucinelli, cucinelli@so1.ai, +1 917 757 6221

EU Sales: Stephan Visarius, visarius@so1.ai, +49 160 93 59 69 95



3 types of innovation


Innovation can happen in terms of technology, business model and structure.


So how do we do that at SO1?


First of all, about 10% of our resources are dedicated to fundamental research. Thanks to that, we run research projects with leading universities like MIT in Boston, ETH in Zurich or Humboldt University in Berlin to continuously improve our artificial intelligence.


We started our first prototype in 2013, based on a paper by Rossi, McCulloch and Allenby from 1996, which discussed price optimization in marketing. In 2015, we added the first deep learning approaches, such as representation learning, to this model. And for 2018, we are already aiming at a beta version of the first deep neural network for grocery retail. Overall, we have reinvented our models 4 times in the past 4 years – we take AI seriously.


Next to this technological innovation, we have also transferred the best of today’s digital business models to the offline grocery world, like a performance-based bidding model to best capture the value between all market players. And finally, we keep our hierarchies flat, use an agile development process and a lean approach to stay as flexible as possible.


The “strategic canvas” approach


Still, the core of being innovative is to have a great idea. If your company still struggles to innovate, you might want to try out the “strategic canvas” approach. A strategic canvas is a simple tool that captures the state of the market.


In a first step, you need to evaluate the value drivers in a specific market. The second step is to consider how current competitors are positioned in this market. The resulting “value curve” will allow you to understand where companies are investing, where they are competing, and what customers receive from the existing value propositions.


Define your new value curves


But just capturing the state of the market is not enough. You now need to find the sweet spot of differentiation. A practical approach to truly drive the market (instead of being market driven) is described in Kim & Mauborgne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy”, published in 2015. They recommend creating a new value curve that truly differentiates from the existing curves in the market.


This can be achieved by reducing (setting values below market standards), creating (introducing values that will be new to the market), raising (setting values above the market average), or eliminating value drivers (removing factors the market takes for granted, but could be eliminated).


Here is an example of Le Cirque du Soleil to show how this concept looks in practice (source: Kim, W. C. and R. Mauborgne, 2005)

And now it’s up to you to find your sweet spot in the value curve.

Happy innovating!


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