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What You Can Learn About Innovation from Amazon, Starbucks and USPS

What You Can Learn About Innovation from Amazon, Starbucks and UPSHow do the big, name-brand companies stay on top? One answer is innovation. Besides acquiring smaller, innovative companies, most giant brands also put a lot of energy into research and development. So they're constantly testing out new ideas in every element of their business, from marketing strategy to products.

Here are three of latest and greatest ideas that recently caught my eye, which come courtesy of Starbucks, Amazon and USPS:

Starbucks recently opened a portable store in the Seattle area that's made from four stackable shipping containers. The store offers many possibilities. It's moveable like a food truck, but offers a different look and feel. Maybe they could plop it down in different cities, or as a test store in a prospective market. If customers don't come, they could try again a few blocks away.

At the same time, the store makes a statement about Starbucks' commitment to the environment. It's essentially a recycled store. On the exterior reads the company's motto: "regenerate, reuse, recycle, renew, reclaim." It also has a tiny footprint, under 500 square feet.

The company says it may use them in the parking lot while stores are being remodeled or constructed. What a great way to start building your audience before you open.

For its part, Amazon is testing out a new delivery method for its many packages -- PIN-based, self-service lockers they place at a nearby 7-Eleven or other 24/7 convenience store. If you're not home much, you could pop by your locker when it's convenient and keep your packages secure in the meanwhile. They're trying out these lockers in Seattle, New York and London.

USPS likes this idea, too -- they're testing "gopost" parcel lockers outside post offices in Northern Virginia. The lockers enable customers to receive high-value items such as smartphones in a secure way, then retrieve them anytime.

These news twists show how valuable it is to rethink every aspect of your business. Not all new initiatives should be about products or services. It'll be interesting to see how these innovations are received by customers.

What new idea will your business try out this year? Leave a comment and tell us about your experiments.

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