Traditional Competitive Advantage is Dead. So Live with it.

Tech has overturned attitudes to competitive advantage, so what are you doing about it?

We all know tech is the most pressing factor across every business sector. The thing that really causes concern is the accelerated rate of change we are all experiencing.

Once upon a time it was simply what the competitor was doing that caused fear. But now this fear has morphed into something quite different. Now we have to keep our eyes out for horizontal innovations that are ongoing.

What is horizontal innovation?

You may well ask. This is where a company uses its existing infrastructure to branch out into something different. Good examples might be Uber. They are using their current infrastructure to branch out into food delivery. You can see how easy that is and how its infrastructure can be made to multi-task. Amazon are also using everything they have learned about selling B2C to now begin infiltrating the B2B market. They aim to make 8 trillion dollars rather than 2 trillion. How I wish that was my ambition for next year.

Disrupt or Die!

The thing we all need to watch is the fact that disruption is never really far away. Whatever you are used to doing it’s pretty certain someone is already planning to change it. Look at companies such as No Agent who have revolutionised the way landlords let and tenants rent. Their mission is to rid the rental sector of unscrupulous and expensive practices that have made both tenants and landlords pay, pay and pay again. They are a young startup that have already been featured in The Guardian and the founder is on the IoD’s ‘ones to watch’ list.

No Agent is what’s known as a digitally native organisation. Their employees have always known digital because they were born into the digital world. They don’t have to consider toxic assumptions or legacy that is simply inappropriate for today’s market place. Their solution for the rental section was born with a digital framework as part of their mission. It was not an add-on. All business is conducted online and completely eliminates the idle person. They have created an omni-channel approach to business and they are optimising customer service.

We are all just one click away from losing a customer

How to prevent this? We have to integrate offline with digital; face to face with what happens on our websites, via email, texts, tweets and online networking. We have to be everywhere. We have to listen, react and be proactive. Ironically, being digitally literate as a company is not about tech!

Organisations that grew up in the non-digital world have the hardest task of eliminating toxic assumptions or realising that past reputation counts for almost nothing now. In effect, what we are witnessing is the end of competitive advantage in the traditional sense. If you aren’t willing to adapt, to join in the race for top Google rankings and viral content, you may as well abandon ship now. Because it will sink.

Competitive Advantage is Transient

We saw competitive advantage as a position where a company can become more profitable than any competitors it might have. Therefore it was important to communicate that you were offering greater value than anyone else in your niche could manage. You might have achieved this by offering top quality, bargain-basement pricing and/or better marketing. But digital has transformed this rigid outlook. Now companies must accept that a competitive advantage is transient and not really very sustainable.

If you want to gain a competitive advantage, you need to think outside the box. If you want to keep that competitive advantage, you need to think in new dimensions.

Competitive Advantage in B2B Sector

For example, why do some people always use amazon knowing that, at times, it’s probably less competitive than e-bay? It’s about customer loyalty and that nearly always comes from first class customer service, being innovative and retaining agility at scale. They are hoping to bring all of these qualities that have always lagged behind in the B2B sector.

So if you ask yourself: What are you going to do about gaining/maintaining a competitive advantage for your business or company in the ever-changing digital landscape? Find an answer before your competitor beats you to it!

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