Are You Two Steps Ahead?

August 20th, 2015 by

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We take a look at how Digital Darwinism is affecting today’s digital world of business.

If you’re not two steps ahead of your competition, you’re actually a step behind. In our constantly changing world of technology the phrase “innovate or die” rings far too true.

Companies that are always innovating are those that remain near the top (ahem: Google, Apple, Microsoft). None of these companies are banking on their current technology to sustain the business for the next several years. Instead, before their latest product or service is even released, they’re already working on the next big thing.

Many companies can’t keep up with the latest and greatest in technology, forcing them to be replaced by the competition that is in fact moving forward.

This is Digital Darwinism, defined by futurist and digital analyst Brian Solis as “the phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than an organisation can adapt”.

Digital Darwinism takes the traditional ideas of “survival of the fittest” from Charles Darwin, and applies them to our advancing digital climate. As Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”.

The business world has become increasingly competitive as new technology is developed. How will a small startup ever compete if it’s not a trailblazer of innovation and progression?

Digital Darwinism is forcing companies to either innovate and keep up, or stand still and get left in the dust.

Even businesses that have seen huge amounts of success in the past can fall due to the inability to innovate. Let’s look at two examples:

Blockbuster turned into…a bust

15 years ago you could have found a Blockbuster in almost every town in the US. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster had over 9,000 stores dotting the globe. Blockbuster was at the top of world, confident about the future.

A few years before their peak years, Reed Hastings came up with the idea for Netflix because he was angry about a $40 late fee he owed to Blockbuster. Netflix started in 1998, way before Blockbuster saw any sort of decline. The difference was simple: Netflix was two steps ahead of its competition. Blockbuster began offering an online DVD service in 2004, but it was too late. Netflix had began to emerge as the “next big thing” and people were intrigued with the new and more convenient way of renting movies.

RedBox also played a role in Blockbuster’s decline. Blockbuster tried to compete with a kiosk service in 2009 called Blockbuster Express, but it was about seven years too late (Redbox was founded in 2002).

Myspace is now no one’s space

Before Facebook there was Myspace. The “cool” kids had elaborate Myspace pages filled with the hottest music, electrifying lights and of course, the “top” friends list. Myspace was a way for teens and young adults to get online and communicate with their friends, while also keeping up with their favorite celebrities.

Myspace basked in the limelight around the 2003-2008 era. However, it may have been a little too comfortable marketing to a younger demographic that would soon grow up and find the next popular social media trend. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004, right during Myspace’s prime years. Zuckerberg built an audience and then let them decide the future of Facebook. Myspace continued trying with its flashy pages and celebrity gossip, but eventually poor management choices were made and the site declined rapidly. Facebook ran ahead with cleaner profiles, Farmville and smart business choices.

To this day, Facebook continues to be of the most successful companies in the world, widely due to the fact that it never stops innovating. The Facebook today is not the same as it was in 2004, and that is why it remains the world’s social media powerhouse.

Who is the main predator in this age of Digital Darwinism?

The innovation age has forced a lot of businesses to shut down, but many have thrived due to the ability to always come up with new technology:

Apple sits at the top

There’s no arguing that Apple has become one of the world’s most dominant tech companies. In the final quarter of 2014, Apple set a record for the largest revenue ever by a public company, bringing in over $70 billion. This was widely due to the release of its latest iPhone, a product that has revolutionized the Apple name.

Apple released the original iPhone in 2007. It was one of the first smartphones on the market, and definitely the first one to use a multi-touch interface that looked sleek, performed well and had full internet capabilities. This led thousands and eventually millions of people to ditch their flip phones and get their hands on the latest technology.

Apple defined the smartphone market and continues to sit at the top. There was a time when Samsung was selling more smartphones, but Apple passed that last quarter when they sold 74.8 million iPhones.

So how do you stay ahead?

McKinsey & Company ran a study to assess how to achieve brand success in a digital age. The study concluded that competition is increasing as consumers become more digitally savvy, but the consumers are also becoming exhausted with marketing, making it difficult for brands to get their consumers to actually make a purchase or sign up for a service.

Mckinsky offers three suggestions to stay two steps ahead and convert marketing into sales:

    1. Keep track of emerging digital models
    2. Create positive social feedback loops
    3. Consider alternative digital channels

If this has piqued your interest and you want to know more, the study offers additional insight on each of the suggestions. What we take from all this is your up-and-coming business needs to be innovative and different from the competition. Coasting along just won’t do it in the Digital Darwinism age.

Don’t be Blockbuster. Be Apple.

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