Five Companies That Have Succeeded Using Digital Disruption

​Digital disruption has come to be viewed as equal to a force of nature: a hurricane of digital innovation can quickly alter an entire industry, leaving traditional businesses rusty, dusty, and perhaps even entirely demolished.

February 16, 2017

​Digital disruption has come to be viewed as equal to a force of nature: a hurricane of digital innovation can quickly alter an entire industry, leaving traditional businesses rusty, dusty, and perhaps even entirely demolished.

Avoid drowning in the tsunami that digital disruption can cause by following the example of these five businesses that have made a success of disrupting the market with their innovative digital offerings.

1. Airbnb

Airbnb allows homeowners to hire out their properties to potential travellers through an online listing and booking system, with prices determined by the owners. The premise behind renting from locals instead of hoteliers is simple: experience the culture from the cultured. Guests and hosts can sign up for free and Airbnb makes money by charging guests 6-12% of the reservation fee, with the non-refundable fee decreasing with the size of the reservation.

Valued at US$30 billion, the site has entirely digitised the accommodation industry with an innovative idea, and continues to offer added value after making acquisitions such as trip4real, allowing tourists to book activities and tours with locals around Europe, online micro-payment infrastructure Changecoin, and Fondu, a community for sharing short reviews about eateries.

Fact: More people booked through Airbnb in 2015 than all the people in Greece, Sweden, or Switzerland.

2. Uber

Uber is a mobile application that allows consumers to book an owner-driven taxi. The app notifies an Uber driver nearest the consumer, automatically calculates the fare, and pays the driver from the customer’s credit card once the trip is complete. The customer can also track the movement of the taxi they are waiting for on their phone. Uber has changed the face of reliable and safe transport hire.

Added value for customers includes access to Chinese search engine Baidu’s mapping applications, launching the UberMilitary Families Coalition to hire military dependants and veterans as drivers, and mapping city streets to determine the best pick-up and drop-off points. Toyota invested in the company to help potential drivers lease vehicles and Uber has collaborated with Carnegie Mellon to research self-driving vehicles to create autonomous taxis. South Africa has just been introduced to UberEATS, a food delivery app that promises to deliver faster than ever.

Fact: Uber is worth more than companies such as 21st Century Fox, Ford, TimeWarner, General Motors, and Paypal.

3. Google

Google is a ubiquitous force in the world. It has been added to dictionaries as a verb. The search engine has expanded to include email, a social network, blog hosting, cloud storage, Google Earth, advanced mapping systems, and entered the mobile phone market. The ease with which Google’s search engine could be accessed through mobile devices resulted in internet searches from such devices in South Africa exceeding searches from desktops late in 2014.

Google changed the face of the Internet, but is aiming to change the face of Internet access in Africa through Project Loon, which will see high altitude balloons providing LTE to devices below. It also focuses on developing digital skills throughout the continent, providing fibre access and developmental workshops. Google’s voice search option - through its natural language processing - recently resulted in 20% of searches conducted via voice.

Fact: When Google’s services went down for five minutes in 2014, Internet traffic around the world decreased by 40%.

4. Absa

2016 was the year that Barclays Africa improved the experience of customers of Absa by disrupting online banking. CIO Ashley Veasey changed how the company’s innovation teams worked, focusing on creating superstar teams that managed to develop the bank’s new website and mobile app in only six months, launching it five months early. The digital banking platform is available all day, every day, and offers all of Absa’s banking, insurance, or loan services online. It also launched MasterPass to allow customers to pay online and at points of sale. Absa became the first bank in the world to launch banking services on Twitter and Facebook - called ChatBanking - in July 2016. A month later, the app had been downloaded ten times more and its digital platforms had seen a twentyfold increase in activity.

Fact: A month after ChatBanking was launched, 6,000 transactions had taken place.

5. Discovery

Discovery has completely disrupted the healthcare and insurance industry with its wide range of added value products provided through apps. Offering life insurance, medical aid, credit cards, investments, savings, and wellness opportunities, Discovery has pegged its success on the fact that it focused on stimulating change in customers’ behaviour through its apps instead of punishing them for the risk they represent. Analysing big data, Discovery expanded its offering by making partnerships with the likes of Virgin Active, Kauai, and Apple to launch incentives that offer rewards for customers making their own return on their investments and improving their own health.

Fact: Discovery sold 90% of all Apple watches through its health insurance services.

As one can see, a company needs to change as technology changes and digital disruption should be on the agenda for a company’s development if it wishes to stay valid.

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