Leadership

Four ways these Smart50 finalists are tackling disruption in their industry head on

Renee Thompson /

 

Times, they are a changing.

This is what a number of this year’s Smart50 finalists had to say about how their respective industries are coping with the threat of disruption; for some it’s already happening and for others, it’s on the horizon.

For the Smart50s finalists in the retail and consumer products industry, it’s no surprise upheaval is on their minds given what the experts and even government officials say about disruption.

A number of those in the information technology sector also told SmartCompany about change in their industry, where keeping up with competition in rapidly changing technologies can be tricky to navigate.

Here’s four ways some of this year’s top Smart50 companies are tackling disruption  head on:

 

1.   Seize the day

 

For Smart50 stalwart Vinomofo, number 31 on this year’s Smart50 list, the changes in the retail and wine industry also contain opportunities ripe for the picking.

“With the dominance of supermarket chains around the world, and their shift in focus to buyers’ own brands, we’re facing the decline of good wines with provenance, character and stories – real wine,” founders Andre Eikmeier and Justin Dry say.

“This means a lot of people won’t be able to experience good wine, and a lot of great producers will go out of business.”

“But it’s not what people want, and it’s not what producers want.”

Vinomofo is not slowing down. The business doubled its revenue in the past 12 months, to $28.7 million, and hired 20 new employees. And Eikmeier and Dry believe the changes in their industry represent an opportunity to do things differently.

“We want to step up and save the wine world from this commoditised, over-commercialised fate,” they said.

 

2.    Educate consumers and collect data

 

At number 28 on this year’s Smart50 list, online retailer Temple & Webster says embracing change in the online retail environment is about helping to educate the consumer and collecting data to make the customer experience better.

“Online retail has been growing tremendously over the past few years, and categories like ours, are still behind the adoption rates being experienced internationally,” says co-founder Brian Shanahan.

“We still see tremendous opportunity in inspiring and educating Australian consumers to buy furniture and homewares online.”

This is Temple & Webster’s first year on the Smart50 but the homewares retailer has received numerous accolades in SmartCompany’s Web Awards in the past.

The business recorded revenue of $26.1 million in the 2014-15 financial year and over the past three years has grown by 181%.

Shanahan says continued growth will come from a deeper understanding of customer preferences.

“Attitudes to making purchases of large items online are changing rapidly,” he says.

“More and more customers are willing to buy online as we improve the quality of the experience – better information, larger more beautiful images, 30 day returns and short, informative videos are all helping drive the change.

“Data – its collection, use, analysis and application to the personalised merchandise experience is also making a terrific impact in the online retail space.

“Clever use of data is how we intend to stay ahead of our competitors.”

 

3.     Go retro

 

For this year’s number six on the Smart50, clothing retailer Bronze Snake, unlocking growth is about doing the opposite of what’s happening in the industry.

“Most businesses are going online only, but we are doing the opposite. We are opening more bricks-and-mortar stores,” co-founder David Strangis says.

“Customers want a feeling of security knowing there are physical stores where they can return or exchange their item.”

Founded in 2006, Bronze Snake more than doubled its revenue between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years, jumping from $3.9 million in revenue to $8.85 million.

“So many customers still love the ‘old school’ experience of feeling the garment, trying on an outfit etc,” Strangis says of the business’ back-to-basics approach,” Strangis says.

“Shipping options are also growing so staying on top of that is important. Customer convenience is the key so we also know offer three-hour same day delivery and Saturday delivery.”

 

4. Shift gear    

 

For tech company Cloud Plus, number eight on this year’s Smart50, keeping abreast of rapid changes in the industry means being willing to change direction, such as moving towards services and away from sales.

“The ICT industry is becoming more and more dynamic over time,” says founder Jules Rumsey.

“The increasing focus on services and solutions as opposed to commodity product sales is resulting in a massive shift of gear for industry players.”

Rumsey founded Cloud Plus five years ago and the business turned over $4.47 million in the 2014-15 financial year.

But Rumsey has an ambitious plan; he wants to build on his existing success to grow Cloud Plus’s revenue to $50 million by 2020.

This means never sitting still.

“You need to be constantly monitoring, learning and adapting if you want continued success,” he says. 

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Renee Thompson

Renee Thompson is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at Fairfax Media for the Bendigo Advertiser and at another regional Victorian media outlet.

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