It's hard to see change when you're living in the moment but when we look back at this decade the biggest takeaway will be the disruption of retail. The sharing economy has changed how we travel, where we stay, how we do most things.
The lesser but just as significant shift has been the rapid increase in what we will buy online. Five years ago curation wasn't a business model. Now Birchbox is a billion dollar company and has spawned a million other businesses like it.
The Future Will Be Curated
Don't quote me on that one million figure but it seems close. Bombfell, Stitch Fix, Trunk Club all curate clothing for busy Millennials who don't have the time or desire to pick out their own clothes. Fabletics picks out your workout gear. Adore Me does the same for bras. Loot Crate if you've got a little nerd in you. You get the picture.
Birchbox CEO, Katia Beauchamp, believes that as people share more and more data about themselves they will look for experiences they don't have to "self-navigate" but rather are curated for them based on their preferences and needs.
The most interesting thing about disruption is that it happens slowly and picks up steam. Uber and Lyft hit the market and created dozens of smaller niche competitors all offering something a little different. Volkswagen invested $300 million last year in a European competitor Gett. In the course of six years the innovation of ride-sharing has spawned multiple companies worth over a billion dollars and one, Uber, close to $70B.
Innovation Is Everywhere
This mindset is not limited to the sharing economy or even retail though. It is being seen in every industry as today's successful companies are looking to change the industry rather than battle for market share in the current industry.
For example, Wistia recently launched Soapbox, the first free, browser-based screen, and webcam recording solution. Which shows where companies are thinking, looking to expand their sights beyond what is known and available.
"We understand the power of video for business, so we've removed the perceived technical and cost barriers that we find many often associate with creating video at scale," said Chris Savage, CEO, Wistia. "Anyone, regardless of their skill set or role - sales, marketing, human resources, customer service - can easily record and share professional videos to ensure their messages are clearly communicated the first time.
Everything has changed. The way we shop, even without curation, has changed. I haven't been to a grocery store in three months. As consumers we have become far more comfortable in what we purchase online, what can be delivered. Five years ago people didn't feel comfortable buying large furniture online. Last year Wayfair made $3.4B.
It's Happening Quickly
"The retail and consumer goods industries will change more in the next 10 years than they have over the past 40," said Oliver Wright, managing director, global consumer goods lead, Accenture Strategy. "As expectations around cost, choice, convenience and experience continue to increase, consumers will challenge the industry to evolve and innovate which will drive huge growth in digital commerce."
What this proves is that there is still room for growth in disruptive business models. Retail is far from obsolete, it's just rapidly shifting market share to future-focused companies. There are rare moments in business when 100% of the market share in an industry is up for grabs. But we are living in on of those moments. As brick and mortars without a focus like Sears struggle, new companies with very specific offerings and low overhead have come to steal that market share. They are not slowed by economy of scale because their lack of storefronts and employees to staff those large storefronts are the new economy of scale. Stranger things have happened but we really are living in The Upside Down.
How To Apply This To Your Startup
For example, take the suddenly competitive world of online mattress sales. You probably know Casper. If you listen to a lot of podcasts you may have heard of Helix Sleep. I just ordered a mattress from Tango. The existence of multiple strong competitors in this space and other spaces shows that there is still plenty of room to disrupt and grow in any industry.
There are hundreds of these examples right now in every industry. Opportunity exists. You can't build a business, hope and expect people to come. It's not that easy right now but don't let existing competition in a category discourage you from entering a new market. If you're not first, you're not last. Second, third, fourth can all be million dollar businesses.