The business world today is moving at a much faster pace, and new incumbents are rising quickly, disrupting well established industries with new technologies or new business models. Dollar Shave Club is a great example for a new business model and Uber represents well the new technologies available today and how they can turn around an existing industry.

In this kind of an era consumer brands are more concerned than ever with looking at the rear-view mirror and identifying fast coming disruptors. Unfortunately, it’s extremely, extremely difficult.

Difficulties in identifying disrupting brands

When you sum it up the biggest challenge is that you don’t know who the new brands are till it’s way too late. But let’s break it down to 4 parts:

• Looking for something you don’t know

As these are new brands, by definition, you don’t know that they exist and definitely don’t know their name. So how can you look for them?
The answer lies in looking at all new brands in the market, but that by itself also presents a challenge – it’s a lot of work, tracking every brand out there, monitoring progress etc.

• Where do you look for it?

Since young brands tend to be more modern and more cost effective the immediate place to look is online. eCommerce sites are a good start. Reviews websites as well. Its just that there’s a lot of them. You can also track specific competitor sites if you believe they are about to launch disruptive innovations

• Who’s looking for it?

Who’s responsible for looking out for them? Is it a centralized team analyzing it all or do we distribute the responsibility to every customer facing role? Are they measured on this?

• How do you know it’s a threat?

Once you track new brands, how do you decide when they become a threat? What are you tracking? Growth? Sentiment? Trends? How do you validate these?

What are the ways to identify disrupting brands?

Looking at the same 4 areas:

• Looking for something you don’t know

When you don’t know what to look for, you need to look at everything. You can scan all the product categories in your industry. Even done manually you can go to Amazon once a month and look at the hot products under your industry.

• Where do you look for it?

As we suggested before, the major eCommerce sites are a good place start. Reviews websites as well if they are relevant for your industry. Scanning industry publications for innovation news can’t hurt either, as well as tracking specific competitor sites, especially the ones you believe are the most innovative.

• Who’s looking for it?

You can either go with a centralized team responsible for tracking industry innovations or you can distribute the responsibility to a wide range of customer/market facing roles.
Centralized team responsibility advantage is that you know who owns this. Risk is that a small team will not be able to cover much. On the other hand distributing the responsibility to a wider range of people guarantees more eyes on the market and likely also more detailed review as having a centralized team include experts on an entire industry is rare.

• How do you know it’s a threat?

Understanding the threat level of private new incumbents is challenging. These are not public companies so you can’t monitor revenue growth from public filings. The ideal is to track consumer Sentiment for the new brand’s products and how it trends up on a regular basis. You can also track how these products perform against the industry average in terms of star ratings, and sentiment to understand their level of superiority.

Conclusion

The battle for the modern consumer is already taking place, and agile new incumbents are the ones that threaten existing industries. A key aspect to fighting back is to empower your front liners and 2nd liners with accurate, granular market insights. With a small army of market experts that have all the data they need with granular details that they can slice and dice at will you can identify threats and identify them early.

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