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API Management 3 min

Who’s to blame: sector disruptors or sector disruptees?

RZW pasfoto 2020
Ruben van der Zwan
CEO & Co-Founder
Sector disruptors changing the game
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Sector disruptors changing the game.jpgNot everyone loves Uber. The company came marching in and gave the taxi industry a hard time by lowering prices and stealing customers. They didn’t have licenses or insurance and they didn’t comply with any of the rules that keep established taxi drivers hostage. Or at least that’s how the established taxi drivers felt it. Customers loved it, though. They finally got the service and flexibility they longed for, and started using the Uber app en masse. Result: taxi rates dropped, customers were lost and Uber got sued for unfair competition (also en masse). Who’s to blame here? Was it disruptor Uber that changed the game? Or did the taxi industry had it coming? And why do you need to know the answer? I’ll tell you in this article.

People are tired of companies

I’m not writing this article to analyze the war between disruptors and disruptees. I’m writing to tell you that your sector too will be disrupted by some company eventually. Maybe it already happened. If you work in the music industry, you must’ve noticed the influence Apple has on music streaming and sales. If you work in the entertainment sector, you probably added Netflix to your list of competitors. And if you work in the aviation industry, airlines that use sensors and beacons probably give you headaches. Where you thought you had found the key to success, new competitors seem to have found a new door that requires a new key. Or code, as this new door to success is often digital. What is their secret? What do disruptors know that you don’t? If you ask me, I think they realized that people are tired of companies. Instead of asking: “how we can we innovate?” sector disruptors ask: “what makes our customers happy?” These questions may sound comparable to you, but they’re two different things.

“Netflix isn’t successful because of what it sells; it’s successful because of how it sells”

It’s not about uniqueness

If you look at disruptors that have gained a huge market share over the last few years, you’ll realize they aren’t that unique when it comes to products and services. Netflix, for example, offers movies and series that already existed, and make new ones that are not that different. Netflix is’nt successful because of what it sells; Netflix is successful because of how it sells. The company developed a platform so that everyone could watch movies and series everywhere, at any time and without interruptions. This worked, because movies and series used to be expensive, only available through Video or DVD players, or on TV, where commercial breaks caused a lot of customer frustration over the last decades. Netflix turned the entertainment industry around by giving people what they actually wanted. They personalized suggestions per customer based on their personal details, viewing history and clicking behavior. Netflix didn’t change film, it changed the way films are brought to the customer.

So how do you become a sector disruptor?

Now that we’ve established that change can’t be avoided and that the way you sell something is more important than what you sell, I want to talk about some technical details. Because let’s be honest: sector disruptors did not succeed just by taking a different approach. They worked really hard on their customer intimacy and came up with clever IT solutions to make it happen. One of their favorite tools is without a doubt the Application Programming Interface, or the API. This digital revolving door enables businesses to gather data from their customers and their surroundings and turn it into relevant information. This way, businesses can gain insights into what their customers do, where they are, what they like, and how they can adapt their products and services to their customers’ wishes- in real time. Another weapon that sector disruptors love is software automation. As software automation enables self-service, people can now help themselves instead of getting in line to talk to a banker, cashier or hotel receptionist. Together, APIs and automation make the perfect combination that makes disruption possible. APIs help you offer personalized products or services, whereas automation helps your customers to help themselves. Uber, Netflix, Apple, Spotify, Tesla, Boeing, Booking.com: they all grew because of this digital recipe. And can you blame them?

Are you a sector disruptor or a sector disruptee? Let me know by leaving a reaction!