Being an industry disruptor -- whether through innovative products or unique service offerings -- is a great way to differentiate yourself in a crowded niche. It can often make all the difference in building a loyal customer base and setting yourself up for sustainable growth.
But how can you tell if your disruptive efforts are actually changing your industry? By paying close attention to the results your own business is enjoying, as well as how your competitors are responding, you can have a much clearer idea of your true impact. Here are three signs to look for.
1. You've identified an underserved niche.
The emergence of Uber and Lyft disrupted the transportation industry. Airbnb disrupted hotel chains. Similar trends have taken root across many other industries. But now that an initial wave of disruption has taken place, companies are finding ways to further disrupt their already-disrupted industries by finding new, underserved niches.
I found one example of this during a recent conversation with Brian Gargalis, president of Tochta. Gargalis's company is building on the mattress industry disruptions created by brands like Casper and Purple by allowing customers to custom-build mattresses for RVs, trucks, and boats.
Gargalis said disruption had not penetrated all of the mattress industry's sub-niches. By focusing on key underserved groups, his brand was able to carve out a distinct space for itself.
Even if your overall market share seems small because your sub-niche is small, you will still disrupt your industry by gaining the business of people who previously felt ignored by the big-name, generic brands.
2. User behaviors are starting to change.
Once you've begun addressing an underserved market, you can tell that you're on your way to disruptive success when user behaviors start to change. One of the biggest opportunities for disruption comes because consumers are stuck using old, outdated technology. When an innovative alternative comes along, it should come as no surprise when customers begin to jump ship and embrace the new way of doing things.
Digital services are perhaps the most obvious example of this, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. As more people have been forced to work from home as part of social distancing measures, Zoom quickly became the go-to app for companies to stay connected via teleconferencing. As one investor pointed out, in March, Zoom's market cap exceeded that of four airlines combined.
Netflix and other video streaming providers are another example of how disruptive companies can change user behaviors. In 2019, the MPAA reported that worldwide streaming subscriptions had surpassed cable subscriptions. Cord-cutting has dramatically changed how people consume their favorite entertainment.
Any business that is truly disruptive will change consumer behaviors. Even if that change is relatively small, consumers are willing to adapt their routines to accommodate a better way of doing things.
3. Your competitors are looking for ways to emulate your business model.
As the cliche goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's why Disney made massive investments in its Disney+ streaming service, with aggressive marketing helping it to grow to over 28 million subscribers by early February 2020. Disney is far from alone in entering the streaming-media fray, with NBCUniversal, HBO, and others all launching new streaming services in the near future.
The fact that industry titans are now going all-in on the business model of what was once viewed as an upstart company shows just how significant an impact a disruptor can have. Of course, the growing competition also represents a new threat to Netflix as it tries to maintain its dominance in streaming media.
If you are a true disruptor, you can be certain that your competitors will begin using the ideas that helped you achieve your initial success. You must remain adaptable so you can adjust to this shifting landscape as your brand becomes the new status quo.
Becoming a true industry disruptor isn't easy. It requires an adaptive, innovative mindset that is willing to look beyond the conventional thinking of the competition. But as you make industry disruption a priority, you will begin to see these indicators that prove you are on the right track for transforming your niche.