Buzzwords come and go, but one term that has truly lived up to the buzz, changing the customer experience completely in the process. We’re talking about digital disruption.

Gartner defines digital disruption asan effect that changes the fundamental expectations and behaviors in a culture, market, industry or process that is caused by, or expressed through, digital capabilities, channels or assets.”

In recent years, many industries have been turned on their heads. Once-dominant companies have been rapidly annihilated by drastic changes in their market. Digital disruption succeeds in this way because the disruptors arrive with an unrivaled customer experience strategy.

Here’s the truth:

Today’s consumers don’t care about your company.

They only care about their own problems. People want to use their mobile devices and apps to interact with brands. They want to do their own research, and ultimately, get the solutions they need, on their own terms.

As digital disruption continues to shake industries to their core, traditional businesses are being forced to react. If they don’t, their attempts at digital transformation may fall flat.

In this article, we’ll explore the impact of leading forces in digital disruption, and reveal their secrets for enhancing the customer experience.

Image credit: Medium

What is Digital Transformation?

Before you can understand disruption, it’s important to understand transformation.

In layman’s terms, digital transformation is the process of a business adapting to new technology and changing consumer interests. This involves embracing new processes and experimenting with innovative business strategies.

For example, your business might do the following as part of a digital transformation:

  • Start using Asana and Slack to streamline workplace communications and project management
  • Hire a social media manager to drive brand awareness online
  • Invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to increase website traffic
  • Publish video content on your website to boost engagement

In a nutshell, digital transformation is about aligning your brand and business with the reality of modern marketing. By doing this, your brand will be more relevant and connected to your target audience, and your company will be more likely to survive in the digital age.

While many CEOs still have their head in the sand about all this, it is inescapable now. Studies indicate that 80% of business leaders believe their industry will soon be disrupted by digital transformation.

The question is, how will digital transformation impact the customer experience?

This is a customer-centric world now. A survey by Harvard Business Review found that 40% of companies say customer experience is their top priority during digital transformation.

If you’re aren’t already preparing for digital transformation, your business could be completely knocked out if it encounters digital disruption.

Put simply:

Digital transformation is the natural change and progression in an industry. Digital disruption is an unprecedented game-changer.

Image credit: MI Tech News

7 Customer Experience Principles from Leading Digital Disruptors

Digital disruption is typically caused by new marketing technology or other digital assets. For example, once upon a time, people bought tapes or CDs for their Walkman, but then iPods came along and blew that entire industry out of the water.

Just as companies are getting their heads around digital transformation, digital disruption blows in and completely resets the rules. This is bad news for existing companies who are already struggling with the basics of going digital. However, we can all learn a lot from these disruptors.

Here are seven examples of digital disruption at its finest. Consider how you can improve your customer experience strategy with these insights.

Image credit: Uber

1.     Customer Relationships Drive Success (Uber)

For taxi drivers, Uber is anathema. Unfortunately for anyone in the taxi business, the disruptive ride-sharing app has been a massive global hit.


Simply because the startup did everything in their power to enhance the customer experience. To do this, Uber took a long hard look at the taxi industry and identified basically every pain point consumers faced, such as:

  • Struggling to find an available taxi in the area.
  • Waiting in a long queue on the street.
  • Dealing with rude drivers.
  • Encountering issues with the credit card machine or having a lack of cash when you’re getting a taxi.

Uber then addressed all of these issues with a single mobile app, making it effortless to organize and pay for a ride. A big part of this success was the development of its customer support system. Through machine learning and split testing, Uber optimize their service by working hard to resolve issues quickly and drive customer satisfaction forward.

If you’ve used the app, you’ll know that you can rank your driver, and leave reviews or tips after the trip is completed. Over time, as drivers accrue more rankings and feedback from their passengers, new customers can be sure the stranger they are about to get in a car with is a reliable, trustworthy driver.

What’s more, Uber knows that some people aren’t a good fit. Therefore, if a customer ranks a driver lower than a 3 out of 5, the app will ensure they will never be matched again.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

Customer relationships are an integral part of business success. If your customers make complaints or raise issues with your service, you need to be able to respond accordingly. Taking quick action to resolve issues is important as it nurtures trust and respect from your customers.

By using a reliable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like EngageBay, you can improve customer retention and boost profits.

Image credit: Airbnb

2.     Trust is a Two-Way Street (AirBnB)

When Airbnb rolled into the travel and hospitality sector in 2008, the industry had no idea that an unstoppable storm was on their doorstep. A seemingly madcap idea of offering airbeds and cereal birthed the business, encouraging people to “unlock and monetize” their home spaces.

The real catalyst was the apps ability to eradicate the paperwork and process of a traditional booking system. By pairing technology and social feedback, Airbnb made the customer journey seamless.

Today, Airbnb has over 5 million accommodation spaces available, spanning 191 countries and 81,000 cities. But they’re not stopping there. Through Airbnb Experiences, the company now offers over 15,000 unique activities run by the hosts across the world. As a leading force in digital disruption, the Airbnb team know they can’t rest on their laurels.

Airbnb is built upon pure trust, which is why their seamless mobile experience is so successful. Without that mutual understanding, neither the customer nor the business would prosper.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

Trust goes both ways. Not only must customers trust your brand, but you must also place your faith in people. By marketing to your audience in a way that empowers them, you give them more freedom, adding to the customer experience in a way that is more rewarding than any pushy sales promotion.

One of the best methods of empowering your customers is to use cross-channel marketing, which effectively presents your brand and places trust in your customers to engage your brand whichever way they want, whenever they are ready.

Image credit: Neil Patel

3.     Personalization is the Best Form of Persuasion (Amazon)

From the humble beginnings of an online bookstore to the biggest company in the world, Amazon is a titan of the digital era. In fact, it is the titan, having recently pipped Google as the leading search engine for today’s consumers.

But hold on, before Amazon there was eBay, and before that, there were lots of little ecommerce stores. So, why is Amazon so successful?

It all comes down to personalization. Amazon is the undisputed king of personalized product recommendations, attributing 35% of its annual revenue to their intelligent machine learning algorithm.

Online shoppers love personalized offers, as studies indicate:

  • Almost 90% of people are influenced by personalization when making purchasing decisions.
  • 45% of people more likely to shop on sites that offer personalized recommendations.
  • 56% of online shoppers will return to a site that offers personalized product recommendations.

This is great news for Amazon, but not every small business has the same access to technology and resources as Jeff Bezos. The good news is that you don’t need it. With the vast range of marketing technology tools now available, you can find a budget-friendly solution that will allow you to utilize personalization.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

From digital giants to small startups, personalization is an effective tactic that should be in your customer experience strategy. Making the effort to learn from consumer data is worthwhile, as it allows you to customize the user experience, which increases engagement. Better yet, it increases sales and instills brand loyalty.

Marketing automation is an integral aspect of digital transformation. When you combine automation and personalization, it can do wonders for the customer experience.

Image credit: Baseline Mag

4.     Don’t Stagnate, Innovate (Netflix)

Today, customers aren’t satisfied with the role of spectator.

The invasion of social media and smartphones is ubiquitous. People are engrossed in apps, touchscreens, and responsive media on a daily basis. It’s practically an addiction. AdWeek report that about 87% of us look at our phones while we’re watching TV – one screen isn’t enough!

People want to be involved. They want to be more connected, both with each other and also with the brands they follow. One of the biggest digital disruptors on the planet understands this desire very well.


If you were around in the 80s and 90s, you may recall the choose-your-own-adventure books like Goosebumps, where readers faced choices at key points in the story. Often, the wrong choice led to disaster for the hero.

Well, Netflix is bringing the concept back – on television!

The Black Mirror series has an otherworldly take on our addiction to technology. But in late 2018, the producers surpassed themselves with the release of the interactive episode, Bandersnatch. By inviting viewers to make important choices on the main characters life, Netflix enthralled their audience.

This revolutionary disruption of traditional television may well herald a new wave of interactive television programs. Considering the company’s stock had plummeted almost 40% in July 2018, this was a timely release.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

People want choices, and they want the opportunity to interact with products and services before they commit. This is already evident in the way many companies present payment options, offering free trials and several tiered packages to convey greater value for a higher price.

By offering customers options on how they engage with your brand, you can encourage more interaction, which increases customer satisfaction. Ultimately, you must innovate and experiment with lots of new ideas to stay ahead of your rivals.

Speaking of innovation, if you use a unified platform you can track multiple marketing channels and sales campaigns, making it easier to determine which tactics are generating the best return on investment (ROI).

Image credit: AdWeek

5.     It Pays to Listen (Spotify)

As the world’s biggest on-demand music service, Spotify is continually striving to provide the best possible customer experience. With over 100 million users to keep happy, the company has a major focus on data-driven marketing and machine learning techniques.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the heart of this streaming service, constantly learning about user interests to deliver an increasingly personalized UX. This is most evident in the Discover Weekly feature, which is a personalized playlist of new songs that Spotify collates for every user.

The company explains the process like so:

“The algorithms behind Discover Weekly finds users who have built playlists featuring the songs and artists you love. It then goes through songs that a number of your kindred spirits have added to playlists but you haven’t heard, knowing there is a good chance you might like them, too.”

Since its inception, Discover Weekly has helped Spotify surge to around 200 million active users. As of January 2019, the company is offering big brands the chance to sponsor the phenom playlist.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

Consider the actions of your customers while using your products or services. If they are engaging in certain features or products, it’s a clear indication of their interests.

Data is only as good as your analysis, and therefore, if you align your offers with user interests, you’re more likely to establish a connection with customers. That level of service soon gets attention, and brand awareness will flourish as more people talk about their great customer experience.

Image credit: Android Authority

6.     Make Talk Cheap (WhatsApp)

One of the most perfect examples of digital disruption is the transformation of the telecom industry. Barely a decade ago, everyone was making phone calls and sending SMS text messages, but now the largest communications companies on the planet own no infrastructure.

Skype broke the mold, and since then, instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become to go-to service for communicating with people. Think about it – how often do you send SMS texts nowadays?

Since WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2015, the $19bn acquisition has become the dominant force in global communications. As consumers can make voice and video calls for free now, there’s no way for traditional telecom companies to compete.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

Communication is vital. Whether it’s a casual chat with a friend or a business discussion, people need to communicate with one another every day. Your business should make that process simple and seamless. More importantly, you shouldn’t charge people to communicate.

While the idea of providing services for free may be a struggle at first, it offers a quick win for your prospects. By maintaining open lines of dialogue, you provide easy access to solutions and information. Over time, this helps you establish a stronger bond with prospects, which improves lead generation.

Image credit: Business Insider

7.     Mobile-First Services Put People on Cloud Nine (Dropbox)

All of the digital disruptors on this list have one major thing in common – they’re all in the cloud. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) captured almost two-thirds of public spending on cloud computing in 2018, and it’s expected to rise to almost $280bn in 2021.

Cloud technology is the epitome of digital disruption, and also the ultimate shift that a business can make in their efforts for digital transformation.

An early hit in cloud computing was the online storage service, Dropbox, which changed the way people store and share files. This has gradually pushed hard drives and USB sticks into the shadows. Last year, TechCrunch reported that Dropbox had 500 million registered users and over $1bn in annual revenue.

This growth comes down to people’s love of mobile devices. They love mobiles because it allows them instant access to their favorite apps and programs, on the go. It also does away with the need to carry physical products or hardware.

The Key Takeaway to Improve Your Customer Experience

Cloud-based companies like Dropbox, Slack, and EngageBay thrive upon a simple reality:

People want to be able to do more with mobile. In an ideal world, they could do practically everything with cloud services. That certainly seems to be the way the digital age is going. If people can rid their lives of excessive physical products, paperwork, and hardware, they will.

Cloud technology succeeds because it is mobile-focused. Your business must adopt the same approach to serving customers.

Image credit: Pexels

A Better Customer Experience Can Be Your Saving Grace

For small businesses, the mere notion of digital transformation and digital disruption can send a chill through the office. While digital transformation may be viewed as unavoidable tremors that you can adapt, digital disruption is a life-shattering tornado that can instantly wipe your business out.

When a digital disruptor like Uber or Netflix arrives in an industry, existing companies must react quickly or they will surely go under.

Regardless of your resources or the multitude of great ideas and trends that may be bandied around your office, one thing should take precedence no matter what:

The customer experience.

Ultimately, if your brand continues to offer the best possible customer service, focusing on communications, trust, and value, you will continue to attract an audience. Once you integrate these ideals with modern practices like personalization, automation, and data-driven marketing, your business can be confident of a successful digital transformation.

Sooner or later, digital disruption will come for virtually every industry. If you’re prepared with innovative marketing, sales, and service platform like EngageBay, your business might just survive the storm.

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