Every business owner that wishes to innovate in their industry must become an expert problem-solver.
Part of the reason why sales figures stagnate is because demand for the product is not great enough to draw in new consumer interest. Saturation of the market is another common factor that forces bosses to come up with original ways to solve customer problems.
It seems that to make it as an innovative business leader, you must be willing to disrupt industries with your technologies or services. In this post, we look at five innovative businesses and the lesson you can take from them.
1. Amazon - Disrupting sales and delivery processes across multiple channels
Before Amazon, ecommerce was in its infancy; very few businesses could offer their services through online stores.
Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, started off as just an online bookseller.
Back in the 90’s, getting a new book meant going to the library or bookstore. Jeff wanted to introduce a service that could allow a customer to order and receive books by post - cutting out the middleman entirely.
The introduction of the world’s first eBook reader came from Amazon’s Kindle developers in 2007. This revolutionary new product disrupted both the book delivery channel, as well as selling channels for authors who wanted to self-publish.
With these two barriers to market demolished entirely, Amazon fast grew into the world’s most successful online marketplace. Expanding to sell practically every product imaginable.
With new investment came new technologies in robotics and automation. Bezos and his team were looking to cut down delivery times even further within Amazon’s worldwide network of warehouses.
In the last year, Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant device has further disrupted online selling channels. Thanks to its voice command technology, it’s easy for customers to speak to Alexa and order products using voice authentication alone.
Drone delivery technology is also setting the bar for super-fast delivery. Amazon's Prime Air network of drones can dispatch goods within 30 minutes of purchase.
The lesson to take away from Amazon; always keep an eye on your delivery and selling channels. Look for ways you can make this process easier and faster. Experiment with automation methods that let you eliminate specific steps in the buying process. Remember that every action your customers have to complete is a chance for you to lose their custom along the way.
2. Tinder - Disrupting the dating world with audience research
In the years before Tinder, online dating had picked up a seriously lousy reputation amongst singletons.
With the market saturated with online dating sites that all looked the same, many men and women were having a hard time sifting through the wheat and chaff.
Most services would require the user to fill out an extensive personality questionnaire and spend hours penning a clichéd ‘About Me’ profile. Many sites also enabled people to upload any picture of themselves they choose. This included photos that were decades-old and not in any way representative of what the would-be dater looks like.
For both women and men, online dating was synonymous with online harassment, Catfishing and being a colossal waste of time.
Tinder innovated the online dating scene by scrapping the entire online dating site design and heading back to the drawing board.
Through audience research, developers found out that profile writings were often skipped over on dating sites. For many people, dating eligibility decisions are based initially on a person’s looks alone. Tinder, therefore, revolutionized the dating app design to a simple yes (swipe right) and no (swipe left) system.
Tinder also listened to audiences, by striving to prevent Catfishing and unwanted advances from fellow users. The app enabled Facebook authentication and a closed messaging service. These features gave users more privacy. Online daters could choose to open communication channels based on mutual attraction and location.
Since its launch in 2012, Tinder has inspired many networking spin-offs. Some apps are designed for finding new friends or business contacts. All of these networks use the Tinder model of social media data scraping.
For business owners looking to innovate in their industry, Tinder serves as an excellent example of gaining your audience's input to design the very best product. In-depth UX and UI testing should always include focus group insights. Business leaders need to make sure that they are talking to their real-life customers before any real innovation can take place.
3. Spotify - Taking on criticism and moving forward
The music industry shifts with new technologies. Not all of these technologies take off (for example, the minidisc recorder). But some technologies change the game for both artists and music fans alike.
Take, for example, the CD. Previously, music fans had to pay around £10 to buy an album, and they may only enjoy three songs of it. With the introduction of Apple’s iPod, suddenly people could purchase per track download - this changed the album sales market entirely.
Soon after, many people could also access illegal music downloads for free. This meant that hardly anyone was paying to listen to music.
Spotify launched in 2006, right in the middle of this music industry low-point. It aimed to bring the music industry back to life with its streaming service.
By introducing the freemium model of music streaming, Spotify subscribers could access music for free, or under a paid plan. Adverts would play in between songs and artists could collect ad revenue based on their number of plays.
However, the streaming model still came under heavy criticism for not paying featured artists a viable income. It was during the global credit crunch that Spotify developers had to step back and take stock:
How could they use their platform to generate wealth in the music industry once more?
In 2009, Spotify Founder and CEO, Daniel Ek, realized that he was sitting on a goldmine of customer information. From here, Daniel decided to set up a new artist revenue model.
Artists and advertisers can now access Spotify subscribers’ listening history. With this data, artists can promote music to targeted audiences. Strong partnerships within the music industry once again thrived, thanks to Spotify.
Businesses can learn from Spotify’s example by taking a fresh look at the data their company generates. Ask yourself, how can customer data be used to drive sales and give people what they want from a platform?
4. Airbnb - Using community input to disrupt tired industries
Up until a few years ago, if you had asked someone if they would be willing to put up a stranger in their house for a fee, they may have looked at you like you were a little crazy.
Trust is a determining factor in the travel accommodation selection process. Previously, hotel and rental listing sites were the only sources of reputable rooms for rent.
Sites like Craigslist and other open source directories had picked up a dodgy reputation with holidaymakers. Some of these sites offered room reviews, but there was no way to ensure that an ad respondent wouldn’t trash your home while you were away.
Airbnb flipped the holiday rental market on its head with the launch of its travel booking website in 2008.
Through connecting with Facebook, renters and landlords can verify their details and room listings. They can also submit honest reviews of their experiences as holidaymakers and hosts.
On Airbnb, there’s nowhere for bad users to hide - this is integral to building consumer trust.
However, to get their revolutionary hospitality site up and running, Airbnb had to find a community of travel enthusiasts to get the word out. The marketing team scoured the globe looking for communities to help promote their fabulous booking app.
Through social media campaigning, stunning photography and blogging, the team were able to build up their name steadily. With content marketing, Airbnb made renting out your home seem like the smart way to make money and see the world.
Business owners looking to innovate in their industries need to have an excellent ‘hype team’ to boast of their achievements. It can take a while for audiences to embrace a new way of doing things. Therefore, brands need to ensure that they have a good set of customer testimonials for promotional campaigns.
5. Shopify - Creating the tools to help people help themselves
Ecommerce is a vast industry thanks to subscription as a Service (SaaS) hosts like Shopify. Back in his twenties, Shopify founder Tobi Lütke spent 16 hours a day coding the ecommerce platform that would launch him into success.
During these early stages of development, Tobi realized that he could also code software that could help non-developers make their own shopping websites. Thus, the Shopify subscription service was born.
Previously, blogging platforms enabled site owners to install a payment gateway through an existing site template.
Many brands looking to make a full-on shopping site had to enlist the help of web developers. In some cases you had to manually set up the design, payment gateways and security protections. You then had to run analytics, make adjustments and more.
Running an online store used to be an exhausting full-time job. However, with the introduction of Shopify, businesses can now outsource and set up automated tools to run a successful ecommerce brand on a near-passive basis.
In a recent talk with Canada 2020, Tobi cited convenience as a critical factor in driving his technological decision-making processes.
One of the key strengths in Shopify’s innovative model is the 24/7 help and support feature. This service can help customers solve their ecommerce queries at any time. But aside from the helpline and educational resources, the website marketplace Exchange also helps people skip the site building process altogether. You can buy a ready-made Shopify store that looks amazing and is already profitable.
Business leaders looking to innovate should look for ways they can hand the power back to service users. Your specialized skills and capabilities need to be translated into easy processes for your customers. Also, if you can supply consumers with the tools to build their own business empires, you can gain more traffic and referral recommendations to your services.
These five truly innovative businesses disrupted the way we interact with the modern world. Making waves in your industry starts with examining your audience’s common pain points. From here, start problem-solving smart solutions that eliminate stress and erroneous processes for your customers.
Author: Victoria Greene is a writer and branding expert. She runs a blog called Victoriaecommerce. Here, she shares her tips with business owners looking to innovate in their industry — something that’s key in ecommerce and beyond.