Digital Disruption – You Can’t Run Away from it

How is Digital Disruption a Crucial Marketing Strategy Today?

Digital Disruption - You Can't Run Away from itDigital disruption is a digital transformation that is caused by emerging digital technologies and business models. These innovative new technologies and models can impact the value of existing products and services offered in the industry. The rapid increase in the use of mobile devices for personal use and work, a shift sometimes referred to as the consumerisation of IT Services, has increased the potential for digital disruption across many industries.

Digital disruption is more than a catchy buzzphrase. It is a real threat, and yet so many would rather cross fingers and hope for things to continue the status quo. For small nations, such as Singapore, their dependence on global trade is integral to their survival and success. However, due to certain limitations, Singapore, like other small nations, does not have the size nor clout to set the agenda in global trade practices and agreements. We need to be adaptable to the opportunities that are available to us. In many cases, we need to be willing collaborators to help the key initiators (USA, EU, OECD, etc.) sustain the momentum for changes that foster global trade that is beneficial to our long-term survival.


Digital Disruption Models

There are ten hyper-disruptive business models:

The Subscription Model

“Locks in customers” by taking an IT product or service on an ad hoc basis. There’s also a locking-in repeat custom by charging a subscription fee for continued access to the product/service. Examples include Netflix, Kindle, and Dollar Shave Club.

The Freemium Model

Usually disrupts through digital sampling, where users pay for basic service or product with their data rather than money, then charging to upgrade to the full offer. This model works for products and services where the marginal cost of each additional unit is low. This model stresses that the minimal cost for extra units and distribution are lower than advertising revenue or the sale of personal data. Examples include Spotify, Dropbox, and Candy Crush.

The Free Model

Disrupts with an ‘if-you’re-not-paying-for-the-product-you-are-the-product’ model that involves selling personal data or ‘advertising eyeballs’ harvested by offering consumers a ‘free’ product or service that captures their data/attention.

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Similar to the Freemium Model, revenue is in the form of advertising and data harvesting. Examples include Google and Facebook.

The Marketplace Model

Disrupts with the provision of a digital marketplace that brings together buyers and sellers directly, in return for a transaction or placement fee or commission. Revenue is in the form of a percentage of transaction fees, or an upfront cost to list a product or service on the platform. Examples include eBay and Aliexpress.

The Access Over Ownership Model

Disrupts by providing temporary access to goods and services traditionally only available through purchase. It also includes ‘Sharing Economy’ disruptors. This takes a commission from people monetising their assets (home, car, capital) by lending them to ‘borrowers’. Examples include Smove Singapore, Airbnb, and Mini Fashion Bar.

The Hypermarket Model

Disrupts by ‘brand bombing’ using sheer market power and scale to crush the competition, often by selling below cost price.
Examples include: Amazon, Zalora, and Zalando.

The Experience Model

Disrupts by providing a superior experience. In this model, people are prepared to pay a premium due to the unique experience offered by the company or product. Examples include Coachella, Disneyland, and Apple.

The Pyramid Model

The “Pyramid” sits on top of a horde of affiliates and resellers.  Disrupts by recruiting an army of resellers and affiliates who work on a commission-only model. Examples include Amazon and Bodyblendz.

The On-demand Model

Disrupts by monetising time and selling instant-access at a premium.  Includes taking a commission from people with money but no time who pay for goods and services delivered or fulfilled by people with time but no money. A commission arises from the service providers who conversely often have time but not money. Examples include Uber, Operator, and TaskRabbit.

The Ecosystem Model

Disrupts by selling an interlocking and interdependent suite of products and services that increase in value depending on unit purchase. This model creates consumer dependency. Creates brand loyalty and dependency by offering a whole suite of products and services that work in tandem with one another. Examples include Apple and Google.

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What to Do About Digital Disruption?

It is an uphill task to fight digital disruption, especially with numerous new disruptive technologies and business models expected shortly. However, one cannot just admit defeat and needs to equip themselves to face what’s coming.

According to IBM’s Global C-suite study into the age of digital disruption, digital interaction has seen a 19% increase from 2013 to 2015, and CxOs are focused on creating more digital, individualised experiences. Also, over half are also partnering with other companies to drive innovation and accelerate growth. It also found that decentralised decision-making is rising in popularity too, “to get closer to the action”.

The study also identified two types of businesses – “Torchbearers” and “Market Followers”. Torchbearers, 5% of those surveyed, have strong reputations as innovators, with higher revenue growth and profitability than others in their industry.”Market Followers” have a significantly lower profile and financial success as compared to the Torchbearers, comprising 34% of companies surveyed. Torchbearers are more likely to enter new markets and decentralise, and are overall more prepared to deal with digital disruption by “stripping out bureaucracy” and adopting strategies of digital disrupters.


Strategies to Respond to Digital Disruption

The Block Strategy

Using all means available to inhibit the disruptor. These means can include claiming patent or copyright infringement, erecting regulatory hurdles, and using other legal barriers.


This offensive strategy aims to sustain the competitive gains associated with disruption. It focuses on maximising the market opportunities and extending a company’s occupancy of the value vacancy. Often, a company differentiates its disruptive offering to extend the cost value, experience value and platform value it delivers for customers.

Taking Over the Middle Space

Build an online forum bringing buyers and sellers together to swap insights and develop a healthy ecosystem. This works with positioning yourself as a thought leader and gaining valuable insights into your industry.

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Disrupt the Current Business Strategy

Launching a new product or service that competes directly with the disruptor. Leveraging inherent strengths such as size, market knowledge, brand, access to capital, and relationships to build the new business.

Looking Outward Instead of Inward

Assess your ecosystem and ask yourself whether it can recognise new trends and technologies to prepare for the future. Look not just at your competitors, but your partners and customers, so you get a well-rounded view. Another good option would be to seek professional assistance from digital marketing consulting services.

The Exit Strategy

Exiting the business entirely and returning capital to investors, ideally through a sale of the company while value still exists. An example would be MySpace selling itself to Newscorp.

Digital Disruption - You Can't Run Away from it


Retreat into a Strategic Niche

The Retreat strategy often results in a much smaller market size than the legacy core segment. However, these smaller niche markets can remain profitable, and existing capabilities can be used to serve them. By itself, this strategy will result in massive restructuring due to the smaller market size, but in conjunction with other procedures, it can provide a profitable niche business.

Profit from Overlooked Assets

Many digital disruptions take advantage of assets that have been underutilised. This approach is feasible because of the way digital technology reduces friction and reveals options. The sharing economy businesses that sell access to unused time in privately owned automobiles, production plants, homes, and office spaces changed their industries by monetising their assets’ previously unused capacity.

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IT Solution Singapore

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