Article

Liz Deverell-Smith
Liz Deverell-Smith 9 August 2017

How to future-proof your business against the new, agile kids on the block

While disruption is fast becoming a clichéd term, the challenge of responding to young brands who can do new, exciting things faster than you can is very real, and something many of our clients are asking us about. Faced with a test of confidence, relevance and even existence, traditional businesses have a simple choice: adapt or disappear.

While disruption is fast becoming a clichéd term, the challenge of responding to young brands who can do new, exciting things faster than you can is very real, and something many of our clients are asking us about. Faced with a test of confidence, relevance and even existence, traditional businesses have a simple choice: adapt or disappear.

Creating a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, in order to keep ahead of challenger brands, is now a must. If companies don’t adapt to make the best use of digital, they face the very real possibility of being put out of business all together.

But with digital disruption set to displace four out of the top 10 organisations across every industry , how can businesses future proof their digital offering? Not only that, but why does disruption occur, how are challenger brands harnessing it to their advantage and what steps do businesses need to take to succeed in this new, digitally augmented future?

Survival of the slickest

These key topics are the subject of a new white paper I have been working on. Entitled ‘Survival of the Slickest’, it highlights the need for organisations to become agile and adaptable enough to quickly respond to developing technologies and evolving customer demands. After all, the march of progress is hardly new, just ask the inventors of Bakelite or the Penny Farthing! What is new is the rapid pace of technological change, compounded by a perfect storm of challenger brands that advocate new ways of doing business, and increasing customer expectations.

You can hardly blame energetic start-ups for cashing in on emerging technologies and trends to sell their ideas through innovative new channels that reinvent the customer experience. Instead established businesses need to look at their own processes, cultures and silos that make it easy for challenger brands to steal market share.

That is not to say that traditional businesses are helpless though, but they do need to find ways to learn from the new kids on the block.

What characterises a disruptor?

In many ways, disruptors don’t do anything hugely different to other businesses – they find out what their customers want and give it to them. The difference is the way in which they offer it, with a significant shift towards intangible asset value.

We recently conducted some research into some of the most well known and established disruptors such as Airbnb and Netflix. We wanted to see what patterns we could identify within these organisations that might help organisations both emulate these businesses, but also spot potential disruptors in their fields, before they disrupt! The full results are outlined in the aforementioned white paper, but to summarise; disruptors remove friction, respond to negativity and adversity by the well-timed introduction of something new and they save their customers time. In other words, greater simplicity equals greater value.

Removing friction

So, for those brands that truly understand what their customers want and make getting it simple, the reward is high. But removing friction isn’t easy and therein lies the trade off between the organisational cost created by complexity, versus the customer value created by simple, rewarding journeys.

Fortunately, there are achievable, practical steps that organisations can take now to succeed in an age of accelerated disruption. This goes beyond merely ‘understanding your customer’ to developing an agile, adaptable, customer-centric model, which delivers greater simplicity and greater value. There is also much organisations can learn from examining how challenger brands are doing just this and then looking at how they can replicate this approach themselves.

The key steps businesses need to take now to truly understand their customers and create the ultimate customer journey include:

  1. Formulating an experience strategy

This may sound obvious, but is often cited as the main barrier to customer experience success

  1. Plotting current and idealised ‘future state’ consumer journeys

At each touchpoint, record what you believe the customer is thinking, feeling, seeing and note any gaps

  1. Breaking down silos

Cross functional collaborations is a necessity, not a nice to have

  1. Thinking in terms of partnership ecosystems

Remember that your product or service does not exist in a vacuum

 

We cannot all shape the future, but we can better understand those organisations that do and learn to take steps to prepare for it by adapting strategies to place the customer at the heart of our operations, before a newer, cooler kid on the block does it for us.

 

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