Digital Disruption Is Feeding the Consumer Revolution

Digital Disruption

Digital Disruption Is Feeding the Consumer Revolution

The Effect of Digital Disruption on Your Business

The much talked about buzz words “digital disruption” refers to accelerated change brought on by technological innovations. No company is more associated with its impact than Amazon, which utilizes digital technologies to change the landscape of competition in most direct consumer markets. Major consulting firms have also taken notice, establishing methodologies to identify if businesses are susceptible to disruption and offer solutions on how these vulnerable companies can pivot and permanently maintain relevancy.

Digital disruption can, and has, displaced dominant companies simply by creating the ability to reach millions of consumers quickly. For example, it took radio 39 years to reach 50 million people as opposed to Pokémon Go reaching the same number in just 19 days! Nokia, the once-dominant mobile phone company, lost over 75% of its market share in 6-months because it did not foresee how Apple’s iPhone would appeal to consumers. Even Toys-R-Us, has now succumbed to digital-based suppliers.

I once thought that historians would look back on this period and coin it as the Technology Revolution, then after the internet became relevant, the Internet Revolution, and most recently I started believing it would be called the Digital Revolution. But after the recent demise of Toys-R-Us I am now convinced this incredible period will be known as the Consumer Revolution, as they are more digitally literate and savvier buyers than ever before. To survive companies must cater to consumers’ needs.

How Do Firms Know When They Are Exposed to Digital Disruption?

…and if so, what should they do?

  1. Consider looking at the status of your S-Curve, an essential economic gauge that determines when your product or service may be approaching commoditization. Below is a depiction of the critical stages of the s-curve and its relation to supply/demand:

Digital Disruption S-Curve

When we examine the effects of digital disruption, we see that there is a shortening of the s-curve along the x-axis—simply put, products and services that capture market share will be challenged to maintain their success. We must not celebrate our victories too long for they may be short-lived, as competitors will disrupt our market share sooner than ever before in the digital age. Below is the typical s-curve but notice how the life cycle is hypothetically shrinking as a result of technology-based innovations.
Digital Disruption S-Curve

  1. Organizations must transform and become change ready, not an easy task for organizations that have historically been change averse. Change is essential for digitally converting organizations, but forcing change also produces risks. Its vital organizations adopt a failure rate and learn to fail fast and move on.

Consider a baseball player—if they get a hit one out of three at-bat in their career, they go to the hall of fame. I often ask executives: What is your batting average? Those who can’t answer the simple question are likely to become exposed. In other words, future success doesn’t come without taking risks, especially in the consumer-driven economy.

  1. Companies must successfully integrate millennials, as they are your “digital natives” and can establish the risk-taking culture needed for survival. It’s essential to figure out how to incorporate them with the baby-boomer executives, and line managers who are typically Gen X. Companies that figure this out are likely to be more successful.


  1. Finally, a successful digital transformation is not just a matter of moving quickly with the right people; it is also a question of the right time. Disruption opportunities can be determined based on a number of indicators such as levels of consumer satisfaction and market sensitivity to current prices. So the timing of a successful disruption is codependent on whether the market is ripe for a new product that improves customer service at a competitive rate.

Digital technology and time have a closer relationship than many think. Remember that technology works as an accelerator of change; disruption shortens the IT lifecycle of competitive advantage, which means people have to work faster and predict the market’s needs before their competition. And everyone needs to accept that market share could change at any moment. Even Einstein once realized “time is a factor!”

For further insight on how digital disruption is effecting the industry, take a look at Comm-Works’ recent blog “Helpdesk Service and the Digital Disruption”.

Dr. Art Langer

Dr. Art Langer is the Founder and Chairman of Workforce Opportunity Services and Director of Columbia University’s Center for Technology Management.