When disruptive companies weave themselves into our daily lives -- like Apple, Amazon and Google -- they become the standard. Once those brands become established, other companies try to improve upon their value propositions -- or even just one small piece -- carving out their own market share.
That is just the cycle of disruption, and the advantage always goes to the company that is prepared to sustain innovation over the long-term. Apple, Amazon and Google have set themselves up for a long run of success because they’ve built disruption into their business models.
I’ve recognized some trends among the modern companies that have baked disruptive thinking into their brand, so let’s take a look at their successes and what that can mean for your business:
1. Redefining subscription as its own business model
While people once paid monthly for newspapers, magazines and cable, subscription services have touched many more parts of our daily lives in the past decade, especially as internet speeds increase.
Some companies have disrupted entire business models by turning everyday necessities into subscriptions and shipping products directly to consumers. Birchbox led the charge in subscription services by bringing the beauty industry into the homes of women across the country through monthly boxes of makeup, skincare and haircare products. Dollar Shave Club’s success in delivering razors to consumers for a fraction of the price of major companies led to a major acquisition by Unilever.
Other companies have taken advantage of advancements in internet speeds and the proliferation of mobile devices to stream high-quality content for a monthly fee. Pandora and Spotify found success with their streaming music subscription services, which provide listeners with access to millions of songs on demand.
And Netflix is a shining example of the continued innovation it takes to sustain a disruptive business model. It began with renting DVDs by mail, which disrupted the video rental industry and changed the fate of Blockbuster. It introduced streaming services in 2007 and has built its reputation and library, even branching out into original content -- to the delight of critics.
Netflix is now a contributor to the current cord-cutting phenomenon, which is profoundly impacting cable companies that charge premium prices.
2. Capitalizing on consumer demand for convenience
As the consumer definition of convenience has shifted, businesses are finding new ways to interact with and serve customers more seamlessly.
For instance, anyone who has booked a hotel knows it isn’t always an intuitive, cost-effective or pleasant experience. AirBnB became a disruptor in the industry by improving that experience, offering local rooms in homes or apartments at significant savings for the traveler -- and profit for the host.
Meanwhile, ecommerce pioneer Amazon has always been focused on making shopping convenient by placing the nearly 500 million products in its marketplace at the fingertips of consumers. The company has continually innovated convenience with services, including Amazon Prime, granting members access to free two-day shipping on millions of products plus streaming video and music libraries.
But, Amazon is also bringing its disruption to the brick-and-mortar space. Amazon Go is the company’s foray into grocery stores, with a model that allows shoppers to walk in, select items and walk out, while their Amazon account is charged for the items without friction points like checkout lines.
3. Providing more efficient communication and collaboration
As the world becomes more connected, both socially and in business, some disruptors have focused on fostering those connections through technology.
Business collaboration is no longer confined to email chains and PowerPoint presentations, which is why Dropbox found success making teamwork faster through its dynamic file-sharing platform. It enhances access, participation and productivity. And Dropbox caters to individuals, too, allowing users to store and share photos, videos and documents with friends and family members easily.
Skype has innovated more personal types of communication. Beginning as a peer-to-peer internet voice platform, Skype exploded as a popular network for both individuals and businesses. It has continued to innovate, through video chat, conferencing and messaging.
But, communication and collaboration are constantly evolving, and any platform that is popular now may look completely different in five years, so constant innovation -- while staying responsive to current customer needs -- is vital.
4. Building in gamification helps increase engagement
As companies both new and established look to engage consumers, gamification has entered the business lexicon. Gamification involves integrating elements of gaming into an application or interface -- like points, rewards, competition or an overall engaging experience.
Established companies, like Starbucks, have introduced rewards systems that encourage users to visit the store and buy certain items to earn points for future purchases. Target introduced its Cartwheel app as a way to engage in-store shoppers by making savings more interactive and build customer loyalty.
But, other companies, like Tinder, began with gamification in mind. For those unfamiliar with how Tinder works, it’s the dating app that introduced the swiping phenomenon. By focusing on the experience first, Tinder built an engaging interface where matching with other singles feels much like any game would on a mobile device, but with the goal of meeting someone new.
That type of disruptive engagement -- and payoff -- is what many companies are already trying to replicate in one way or another.
5. Transforming retail leads to changes in transportation
While the transportation industry is slated for huge changes with autonomous driving technologies being developed, some companies have already changed the way we think about getting around.
Through its technology, Uber has transformed the task of summoning a ride into an easy, affordable proposition. Through its mobile app, users can request a ride and choose a vehicle based on luxury level and fare for their destination, a vast improvement on the old taxi model.
And as people are starting to consider whether owning a car is even worth it, Zipcar can give them the benefits of using a car without all of the hassles of owning one.
The best innovation strategy for business is self-disruption.
All of these products and services are aimed at affecting the lives of consumers today but they started out as disruptive ideas that were ahead of their time.
To stay relevant, companies must adapt and evolve, which means finding new ways to disrupt the economy and recapture market share. That’s why even the biggest companies -- like Apple, Amazon and Google -- are focused on self-disruption.
Disruptive companies anticipate consumer needs and seek solutions to problems that may not have even fully developed into pain points yet. To truly thrive, a company must always focus on the customer experience, which includes devoting resources to solving future problems -- or they will find themselves the victims of disruption.