Companies look to innovations you never knew you needed

(CBS News) Millions of businesses are looking for the next big thing - a product or a service that consumers can't do without. We now brew single cups of coffee, drive cars through tolls, deposit money at ATMs, and buy our peanut butter and jelly in a mixed formula. But sometimes it's not about inventing something new, but rather, a new way of doing things.

Take waiting at the airport luggage carousel, which has always been a burden to fliers: Starting this week, American Airlines has partnered with Bags Inc. to deliver passengers' luggage directly to their final destination. Costs range from $29.95 for one bag to $49.95 for up to 10 bags. If the destination is 40 miles or less, it should arrive within four hours. And online giant Amazon.com will now offer pick-up lockers in grocery and convenience stores for those who are never home when the package arrives. Once an order is placed online, customers will receive an email code to unlock their locker at a nearby location.

To come up with the next big idea, many companies are turning to innovation consultancies like Smart Design in New York City, which dreams up ways to make your life better.

Smart Design's Richard Whitehall said "We work with a lot of different types of companies to really bring innovations to the market and our specialty is designing things that work for everyday people."

The company develops many types of products, from kitchen gadgets and utensils to "whole healthcare experiences," Whitehall said.

Instead of traditional focus groups, Whitehall and his team employ an anthropological approach, spending days with consumers to determine what's missing in their lives.

Do all companies have to innovate in order to survive or can keep doing things the old way? "There are a few companies in very monopolized markets who are possibly able to keep doing things the old way," Whitehall said. "But I think for everyone else, there's only one company that can be the cheapest, right, and everyone else needs innovation because they need to do something better."

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