From the impact of machine learning to the potential of augmented reality – digital technologies can revolutionise businesses across a broad range of sectors.

Indeed, Econsultancy’s ‘Learning from Digital Disruptors’ report suggests that disruption can come from anywhere.

This means that alongside digital services that aim to disrupt entire industries (e.g Airbnb or Uber), disruption can come from companies that attack the vertical elements of a value chain (like Birchbox or Harry’s). What’s more, disruption can also come from established companies that successfully re-engineer their businesses to enable continuous and bold innovation.

But, what do all these companies have in common? Here’s a look at some of the key characteristics shared by digital disruptors.

Learning from Digital Disruptors – The Econsultancy Report

Customer obsession

It’s been suggested that the most disruptive digital businesses are not only customer-centric, but customer-obsessed. This means that instead of simply integrating customer thinking into product development and marketing, they also find ways to bring this to life in the culture of the organisation.

One good example of this is online shoe and clothing retailer, Zappos, which prides itself on treating customers as people first and foremost. This means that from internal structures to pricing and online support – its decision-making is always based on what is best for the customer.

This way of thinking is also known as ‘being a day one company’ (treat every day like it’s the company’s first) – a phrase that comes from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his mission to “start with the customer and work backward”.

Exceptional service design

Service design (or service design-thinking) can be defined as a discipline involving consideration if the whole scope of a customer’s interactions with your business.

Breaking the concept down further, Louise Downe, Director of Design for the UK Government, has created a comprehensive list of what makes good service design. Some of the elements include creating a service that requires the minimum steps to complete and making it easy to get human assistance.

As such, exceptional service design isn’t just the responsibility of designers or developers. As more products become services, and data becomes even more important, there is a growing degree of convergence between good service design and good digital marketing.

service design

Cross-disciplinary collaboration

Due to the aforementioned convergence between service and marketing, digital disruptors tend to have fairly flat organisational structures, as well as being more adept at pulling together multidisciplinary project teams.

Companies such as Zappos – which does not give its employees formal titles, but allows them to do work they feel passionate about – use a flat structure to enable better communication and greater agility.

Similarly, Amazon created its famous ‘two pizza’ team rule stating that teams should not be larger than the number of people it takes to feed with two large pizzas (usually around six to eight). The bigger the team, the more complicated communication becomes, and the harder it is to get things done.

A focus on ‘love metrics’

Instead of metrics such as site traffic or app downloads, digital disruptors tend to focus on active metrics like referral or retention rates – metrics that effectively show how customers are interacting with a service.

For example, it might be useful to know how many people have downloaded an app. However, it’s much more helpful to know how many people are still using it over a certain period of time, as well as how often, and exactly how they are interacting with it.

love metrics

Another term for active metrics is ‘love metrics’. As Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, says – these are the kind of metrics that are better indicators of “how much people love the product, how often they come back, how delighted they are”.

Using these metrics as a framework can make it far easier for companies to identify where problems lie, and how changes in marketing or service design might solve them.

To learn more…

…subscribers can download Econsultancy’s Learning From Digital Disruptors Best Practice Guide.