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How disruptive technologies are influencing business

by Laura Aitken-Burt December 02, 2015

​A disruptive technology is a type of innovation that alters the ways in which businesses have to operate. Just think how much has changed within the last ten years with the growth of the internet and portable devices as a part of our every day lives - that has not come without huge changes within the commercial world! And with the ever increasing fast pace with which innovation is currently progressing, businesses are having to constantly try and keep ahead of the game.

Disruptive technologies are hugely influential because although they may start at the bottom of the market as unpolished start up ideas, they can quickly grow and send shockwaves across industries. Businesses can be slow to recognise their potential impact as sometimes they can be hard to detect with only a gradual rise in users and small amount of initial exposure or simply seemingly irrelevant in relation to other products out there. For example, Pinterest which launched in 2010, took several years to see the explosive growth it now enjoys, now outranking Twitter in the US for popularity and rivalling Facebook advertising for retail purchase referrals.

But to be disruptive, technologies do not need to be radical or novel from an engineering or technical perspective. Many become disruptive simply because, as successive improvements develop the product, they cross a boundary in price, performance, accessibility or capability which eventually leads to a dramatic increase in users as they steal customers away from other competitors. The capabilities of disruptive technologies cannot be ignored for the fact that they can re-shape entire industries. Just look at the influence of Skype, iTunes, Google, Ebay, Uber and Twitter to see how things as disparate as calls, music, libraries, taxis and newspapers have been disrupted by these innovations.

With this in mind, TechCrunch holds an annual “festival of disruption”, CNBC produces an annual “disruptor list” of the most disruptive companies and consultancies are increasingly being asked to produce reports on the current market to alert businesses of what might be the next big thing to rock a particular sector's audience.

So what are the main disruptive technologies at the moment which will continue to remain important for businesses to consider?

  • Mobile internet 

  • Automation of knowledge

  • Internet of Things  Belkin's new WeMo Maker kit 

  • Cloud technology 

  • 3D Printing

  • Wearables

  • On demand Video  Netflix Youtube Amazon  Vimeo 

  • Open Source Web 2.0 

  • SEO for Social Media – It's no wonder that 'search engine optimisation' is a thing since how else will information be found within the vast virtual library that is the web? But now, SEOs are more important than ever before in order to try and create a buzz around products and brands through sharing on social media. The power of social media has become an incredible phenomenon over the last five years and businesses are constantly trying to adapt to the new revenue streams it can potentially create. It is perhaps one of the most important disruptive technologies, with new positions of 'Social Media Execs' and SEO experts have been created within businesses for this very purpose of harnessing everything Google Adwords and Facebook advertising could offer. Social media is changing the way customers are reached as individuals can be targeted through what they have said they like -  almost pre-empting the need for a product before it has even been recognised by the consumer themselves. But SEO is not simply about filling a page full of keywords to ensure a high ranking on a Google search. Now Google is trying to ensure quality content gets the highest ratings by monitoring the time spent on a web page. This means that social media presence cannot simply be buzzwords and backlinks, but needs to actually be enjoyable and engaging in itself to create a more natural sharing snowball effect.

These disruptive technologies are already a fact and they are already out there affecting the way businesses are having to rethink the way they operate. Without taking full control and keeping track of the advancements in these areas, businesses are going to lose out as such products become more and more integrated into the lives of people across the globe. Commercialising new technologies is extremely important if they address the performance needs of customers as they will be quickly adopted by the majority if they are made widely available and affordable. Although initial commercialisation of emerging disruptive technologies may be a large investment with an uncertain outcome, if the cards are played right, a business can boom. Aggressively investing in technologies solely to retain current customers must always be balanced by the realisation that investment for the customer of the future is equally important. Those who do not look to what the future of these technologies might hold are set to eventually lose out.

[1]     http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2014/06/24/still-more-data-shows-pinterest-passing-twitter-in-popularity/ http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2012/may/22/retail-technology-disruption-consumer-buying   

[2]     http://www.intelligenthq.com/technology/12-disruptive-technologies/

[3]    http://www.forbes.com/sites/bigbangdisruption/2014/01/10/the-five-most-disruptive-innovations-at-ces-2014/

[4]     https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-digital-consumer-tech-survey-2014.aspx

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