Understanding and Leveraging the Power of “Digital Disruption”

On the always-busy, forward moving road of digital technologies (sometimes the pace of advancement is astounding and even a little scary) it should come as no surprise that there are bound to be a few bumps and potholes. And among the hazards of taking dizzying leaps into the future lies a phrase that has been volleyed about for the past couple years: digital disruption.


What does this often hazy concept encompass? Essentially, digital disruption occurs when new technologies cause business- and industry-shaking changes at a pace and magnitude that upset the established way of doing things such interacting with each other, altering time-tested business models and, in general, just aggravating the way we think (and have always thought).

Looking for an example of digital disruption? Consider this scenario: you own a company that provides a very specific service, but you’ve always done business with your clientele on a face-to-face basis. And along comes a crafty start-up that can provide the exact same service but do it via the virtual world and at a fraction of the cost. Your company loses market share to said start-up, and the next start-up, and the one after that, all of whom have found a way to serve a customer base with little to no overhead costs. Hence, you’ve become a victim of digital disruption.

According to Laura Best, president of digital strategy company Best + Co, digital disruption is “causing organizations to change not only the way they go to market, but their function from the inside out. It’s no longer a passive ‘our industry is being disrupted by technology’ observation but becoming more about how brands can proactively change their impact.” In short, rather than fear the effects digital disruption can have on a company’s or corporation’s bottom line, it’s important to be proactive and take steps to leverage the very technology that’s causing problems and turn it to your advantage.

To that end, Best offers some compelling commentary on a few positive actions that can help mitigate the perceived “scourge” of technological advancement and keep your company—no matter the size—competitive and viable.

  • “Take others point of view and add it to your own,” Best advises. By this, she means that businesses should “acquire audience insight [and] have it drive your strategy.” Target, she notes, is getting better about striving for ideally stocked stores “in addition to the other experience ‘frills” that are so important to brand definition,” and it’s all based on customer feedback.
  • Think ahead. Far ahead. “Capital One’s acquisition of renowned UX agency Adaptive Path sent shockwaves around the financial services and marketing sectors,” she writes. “Why? Because a financial services organization has realized that owning digital experience will be the key to winning the digital wallets of all generations moving forward.”
  • Plan carefully and don’t cut corners. “Planning and executing ‘disruption’ can mean changing business models, org structures, vendor relationships, budgets, authority assumptions—it touches every piece of your company,” adds Best. Being rash and moving too quickly will be evident to your customers and reflect poorly on your organization.
  • You can win loyalty and trust if “you can zero in on the most important moments your audience has with your brand and transform those,” she says. So be attentive and responsive to your client’s wishes and desires and identify the most meaningful interactions they experience.

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