Innovation Democratized

For most, the cutting edge of innovation — whether it’s the latest AR, AI, shopper-tech, or consumer product — often feels like something we’re only able to observe through our screens.

An art exhibition with a large sign that reads "Laboratory of Future Values."

For the “Average Joe,” many of these concepts and technologies can seem inaccessible.

Enter: Expo 2020 Dubai, a place where innovation is neither reserved to a niche group nor spoken in a language only understood by early adopters, mavens, experts or those in-the-know.

Despite Expo showcasing innovations at the forefront and intersection of governance, sustainability, mobility, and consumer experiences, it was diligent in making all of the complex subject matter accessible, digestible, interesting, and fun for visitors at all levels of understanding. 

Expo was marked by its commitment to democratizing innovation—everyone was given the opportunity to experience, learn and enjoy a taste of the future: the UK pavilion’s AI Poem Generator encouraged visitors to contribute their own words and topics; Morocco's AR Journey enriched every section of their pavilion; Pepsi Go’s automated contactless stores were scattered around the site.

Even more surprising was the fact that visiting Expo instilled in most visitors a curiosity about and openness to these technologies. The masses were willing to engage with alien technologies and concepts that they otherwise would have dismissed or overlooked in normal circumstances.

Make it available, make it easy, and make it human, and people will not only welcome innovation, but will help popularize it within their own personal spheres of influence.

Implication: Discovery-Led Commerce

Whilst the idea of adopting new technologies in their immediate daily life may seem intimidating, creating a space where shoppers go in with the mindset of discovering and experiencing new things can be key to nudge adoption. That happens because experiences, not technical knowledge, are the key driving force.

When innovation is explained rather than experienced, most of us tend to doze or switch off. Whilst most of what is offered in Expo gave consumers the ability to dive into greater details in terms of its workings, it first and foremost asked consumers to touch, interact and experience these technologies for themselves.

What if brands focused their initiatives on experiences rather than one-way messages that feel more like an elevated pitch? What if commerce innovation was reimagined to go above the deployment of new technologies and was centered around human behavior rather than purely on sales tactics?

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