Startups like Uber and AirBnB have changed the game for their respective industries. Business leaders are now looking over their shoulder for the next big thing that can pull the rug from under their feet.
In IBM’s study, Redefining Boundaries: Insights from the Global C-suite, they found that the trend of “Uberization” or industry disruption by an unlikely competitor, has become a dominant concern for more than 5,200 business leaders around the world.
Boundaries of competition are becoming ambiguous. Several years ago, the biggest threat to businesses were rivals with a better or cheaper product. Now, big players are shaken up by new players with completely different business models. These small yet agile disruptors are fast learners in today’s digitally competitive world.
“Several companies who are today’s top dogs cannot continue to be complacent,” said Director Rafaelito Taruc from the Board of Investments during IBM’s press conference on “The Age of Disruption” held on May 3.
Taruc, along with IBM Philippines President and Country Manager Luis Pineda and IBM ASEAN’s Cognitive Business Leader Tim Greisinger discussed ways on how businesses can cope with disruptive technologies and find ways to stay ahead or even collaborate with them.
1. Study the competition
“Think of this—what if Amazon started selling automobiles?” asked Pineda. Surely, the giant e-commerce site can kill car dealers. This is because they have moved up from the bottom and that is where they can see the opportunities, he said.
There is a reason why these startups are making it big. Instead of antagonizing them, take the chance to learn from them. These startups believe in the culture of collaboration, so make sure to look for new opportunities in related industries.
Of course, it is important to clearly define where you want to play, while keeping all options on the table. By examining the ecosystem of a prospect partner from another industry, you get to expand your traditional market boundaries.
An example would be social media’s discovery that they can be an effective advertisement platform. By simply starting out as a social media site where friends can connect, Facebook and Instagram now have advertisement platforms that more and more marketers patronize or even prefer to the costlier traditional media ads.
2. Engage your customers constantly, consistently
When it comes to identifying and exploring new trends and technologies, the study found that only half of respondents are utilizing customer feedback. Trends are fickle and the preference of consumers may change as often as you would a Facebook status.
That is why it is important to read new market studies or even commission one for your company, if you have the budget. Many digital marketers would also recommend engaging with customers using social media or SMS.
Such is aligned with what IBM discovered in their study—81% of business decision makers plan to assert more digital interaction, a 19% increase from two years ago. Doing it digitally is also more favorable because interactions are instantaneous. You can get replies right away.
3. Adopt new technologies
Business leaders, according to the study, all agree that technology is the most important external force impacting their enterprise. They believe that cloud computing, mobile solutions, the Internet of Things, and cognitive computing are the technologies most likely to revolutionize their business.
Using the cloud for storage, testing out mobile marketing or systems connectivity may already be known to us, but what is cognitive computing? Simply put, it is artificial intelligence.
“We’re still in the Programmatic Era but we are fast approaching the Cognitive Era or the age of Artificial Intelligence,” according to Greisinger.
Artificial intelligence, such as IBM’s Watson, can help different industries by being virtual assistants or streamline operations. For example, a cognitive system can take the form of a chat bot that assists a customer in doing his or her online chores like changing a password, applying online for a bank service, and more.
Greisinger said that the purpose of cognitive systems is to “scale human capability to help humans.”
There are so many things that cognitive systems can do because it has the ability to learn and retain that knowledge. They can even be applicable in different fields. For example, they may also be helpful in detecting textbook errors or helping doctors diagnose a disease and suggest treatments based on the latest medical journals.
4. Act fast
Be first, be best, or be nowhere. Experiment extensively and aggressively, and adopt an agile approach in all aspects of innovation and execution.
Those who are leaders of innovators are also the ones who financially outperform, according to the study. The study called them the “torchbearers” and they surpass their industry peers in terms of revenue growth and profitability.
Among these leaders, 8 in 10 are set on being first to market with innovation; 7 in 10 are already transforming their revenue models; and 6 in 10 are reassessing who their customers should be.
Your idea right now may not be relevant next year, Taruc said. Time is of the essence and you should avoid a case of analysis paralysis. The best time to study the competition and scope, know your customers, adopt new technologies and scale, is now.
Nicai is the marketing head of Rising Tide, a technology solutions company. She is also the Manila Bureau Manager of Probe Media Foundation's Mulat Pinoy-Kabataan News Network and a regular contributor for SPOT.ph. Follow her on Twitter, @nicaideguzman, and LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicaideguzman.