Disrupting the Market

Remember when Toys ‘R’ Us closed in 2018? The retailer succumbed to bankruptcy and, as the colorful aisles of childhood bliss faded to grey, American shoppers grieved its loss. Even as Amazon packages full of toys thudded at their front doors, the nation’s general public took to Twitter to wade through sticky nostalgia about the store, surprised at its failure.

It’s a testament to human nature. Consumer behavior will always tend toward convenience and trend-following. While these decisions sometimes are made consciously, they are usually the result of blind instinct—we don’t fully comprehend the ripple effects of our purchasing decisions. That’s why a disruptive innovation like Amazon can sometimes be a death sentence for brick-and-mortar retailers.

What is disruptive innovation?

We know, the phrase sounds like just another bit of pretentious workplace jargon, and perhaps it is—but it’s a bit of jargon worth deciphering. Disruptive innovations permeate the globe, and have defined market behavior for centuries. Harvard Business Review defines disruption as “a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.” Ultimately, a disruptive innovation will displace reigning industry giants by appealing to the convenience-seeking nature of the consumer.

For example, Nokia’s bulky cell phone began a long series of disruptions for the landline telephone in the mid-1990s. While the landline telephone was able to enjoy its golden years alongside the fast-paced growth of wireless communication solutions, it has now been rendered obsolete. Try to remember the last time you heard the song of a landline telephone, or the last time you programmed a home phone number into your cell. Clearly, the devastation of disruptors can be painfully complete.

Here are examples of 5 modern-day disruptors:


AirBnB spices up the hospitality industry by allowing private property owners to rent out their homes, apartments, campers, and more to incoming travelers as a way to create passive income. Meanwhile, guests gain access to a variety of eclectic room and board experiences, many of which are far less expensive than the more traditional options. Like ridesharing apps, AirBnB has befriended the sharing economy to create a contemporary business model that thrives.

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway might just turn luxury brand purchasing into a hobby of the past. This subscription service disrupts both in-person and online shopping by making the most coveted names in fashion accessible to all economic classes. In fact, this business model has the potential to upset the act of purchasing altogether.

Streaming Services

Streaming Services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Roku, and Apple TV are enough to make the nation’s cable and satellite service providers break out into a sweat. The idea of “tuning in” has fossilized now that users can select from an infinite reservoir of series and movies to watch on their own time. Even DVR and Tevo have fallen by the wayside as these disruptors overtake the at-home entertainment industry.


Peloton is an up and coming digital exercise solution. It allows users to mount a stationary bike, select a workout class from the attached touch screen, and complete their daily exercise with all of the encouragement and expertise they’d normally have to leave home to experience. Local gyms and spin studios could see a dip in membership revenue as Peloton’s convenience and luxury product design seduces active American consumers.


Venmo’s easy-to-use app interface allows people to send and receive money at a moment’s notice via their smartphone. With Venmo, the modern consumer can skip exorbitant ATM fees and forget to order checks from the bank. Due to its secure transfer software, Venmo can be used for everyday things like paying rent or reimbursing a friend for dinner. With these new payment systems being more readily adopted and widely accepted, the need for carrying cash is becoming less common.

What’s next?

While market disruptions are fascinating to both economists and on-trend buyers, they don’t necessitate the end-times for vendors with more traditional business models. With enough foresight, adaptability, and gumption, these corporations can stay ahead of the curve. The current of disruptive innovation runs fast and strong, but it can just as easily carry the old hands along as it can exterminate them. By partnering with growing brands, borrowing from successful models, and utilizing retail execution vendors like Customer Impact, the grandfathers of America’s consumer market can revitalize their efforts, increase revenue, and keep up with the new guys.

McKenzie Allen
Business Development Manager
800-677-2260 Ext.168


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