How IT solutions can give an unfair advantage to your business
Today, no matter what industry your business is in, competition is at all times high.
To survive and succeed, your business needs to have a certain competitive edge. Fail to do this – and your business will not last to live another day.
Your marketing and advertising ideas may be very creative. But they quickly lose edge when competitors copy them.
There is only one chance to get a lasting competitive advantage. Create a new business model. One that is difficult to copy.
Imagine you offer your clients a new and more suitable service or product. Something your rivals can’t offer for at least another year.
Eventually, when they have something similar, you will already have a more advanced solution. Now, they must chase after again.
Would you like to always be one step ahead?
How to create a lasting competitive edge for your business?
- A new level of utility or profits for your clients
- A fundamental internal optimization (significant expenses cuts or a new level of service as was said above)
First, ask yourself a question:
“What optimization will get our client ahead of competitors? What business process can you change to allow you to do something your rivals can’t?”
When you identify opportunities to get a competitive edge, the following questions naturally arise:
How it may be done? Nobody could do this up to now, so how can we? Is it even possible?
It may come as a surprise, but most businesses today do not see new possibilities that come from the continuing IT progress in recent years.
The new age of digital business is here. With new IT solutions, you can address problems, which were impossible to solve ten years ago.
Actually, all companies already use at least some basic IT technology. Whether they are in the IT industry or not. But there is more out there.
You can drift along with common industry practices. For example, you can use standard things like online payments or cloud-sourced SAAS CRM.
But you can go further than this and ask yourself: “What can I change in my business model to dramatically increase its effectiveness?” (even if it may seem an impossible task)
At this stage, people hit obstacles such as: “We can’t make this process any faster”, “We don’t have enough people to work like this”, “It is impossible to process customer orders and queries with such speed”, etc.
But in 90% of cases, your seemingly unrealistic idea is well within reach. All you require is to implement a correctly designed and executed IT project into your current business model.
Just think – what change, in your perspective, will result in a significant advantage over your competitors? Only after this, you can start looking for IT solutions for this idea.
You can see how we helped our customer to address this in the following examples:
A new level of utility or profits for your clients
Online car parts store: product search time reduced from 10 minutes to 10 seconds
The spare auto parts buying process is a challenging task. This is because there are genuine and non-original auto parts available to buy.
Multiple databases available for non-original auto parts vary in accuracy and credibility and sometimes do not have car parts even listed. You cannot always tell for sure if a part is the right fit for your car.
As a result, to find a single car part for a client can take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes!
What we did:
The auto part selection algorithm was written out in detail including all, even non-standard, situations.
A mobile application was developed based on the algorithm.
A system for scanning car documents was created. A simple document scan recognizes the VIN number of the auto and finds car parts specific to the model.
Now, finding a car part takes not 10-40 minutes, but only 10 seconds!
As it stands, nobody in the industry has this kind of technology. This gives our client’s store a competitive edge.
Two types of clients use the application today:
1. End users who buy the auto parts for themselves
2. Car service personnel who service the cars
Car service staff statistics:
- After the induction on how to use the application, 100% of specialists install it on their phones
- 82% start ordering auto parts through the application
Optimizing an internal business process
Legal services agency: 95% reduction in time spent on preparing client documents by highly qualified staff
A legal services agency, which helps its clients with tax calculations, must receive an initiating set of documents and forms from each client.
The problem is that often clients send the documents incomplete, with mistakes or of an incorrect format.
This causes the agency staff to spend a considerable amount of time communicating with clients to get everything in order.
Highly qualified staff is expensive. It costs a great deal to spend time on trifling document preparation work. It is also impossible to have lesser-qualified staff do this work. Only a legal expert knows how to fill out documents correctly.
What we did:
A custom client application was developed. It provides an action checklist and allows clients to scan and upload documents.
The system gives cues and advice at each step for every document and form. In essence, the application has a legal expert work algorithm.
In addition, the system gathers and sorts all documents accordingly and in one place. Before, the consultants had to do this work manually. Also, with centralized and standardized data record, it is now easy to reassign cases between the consultants.
The application helps to avoid or correct most of the common errors. Customers use it when sending the initiating sets of documents and forms.
The legal staff spends significantly less time on working through received documents. It still saves time, even if the received documents still have errors, which the consultants have to address.
The consultants just mark the incorrect documents. And the application automatically sends customers corrective recommendations.
The result was that the legal agency was able to reduce the highly qualified staff time spent on working with customers by 95%.
Along with the two mentioned ways to achieve a significant competitive advantage with IT solutions, there is one more:
A market game-changing new product
Undoubtedly, it is incredibly difficult to identify and bring about.
Nevertheless, there is a good chance to find a solution, which sets new rules in the market sector. For this to happen, it requires a deep understanding of a specific unresolved problem in your market area.
Here is another project that we worked on and where we did just that:
A brand new tool for a manufacturer to grow retail sales
Car parts market
Car part makers spend significant sums on promoting their brand and products. But tracking the results is difficult.
Multiple research cases showed that the opinion of retail assistants is that what matters the most. It is decisive in 80% of all sales.
Only 20% of buyers decide what to buy out of their own opinion. And it is not guaranteed that manufacturer advertising plays any part.
What we did:
We developed a unique marketing platform for the manufacturer. It allows a connection with retail assistants through a smartphone app.
The manufacturer launch product or range campaigns on the platform. Retail assistants get a financial reward when they sell a promoted item.
To register sales, retail assistants use the smartphone app. They scan product barcodes and sales receipts.
The platform also allows having control over how products are displayed on shelves at different retail spots.
The manufacturer designs display instructions and sends them to retail assistants. Retail assistants send back a photo of a complete display.
In addition, we developed a swift scan function for further stock management. Retail assistants go along shelves capturing products on camera. The app registers products and rewards retail assistants.
Also, the manufacturer uses the app to provide educational videos for retail assistants. The uploaded materials help learn products’ unique qualities and selling points.
Once retail assistants finish a training program, they use the app to complete a test. This shows how well they learned the information. Upon succeeding, retail assistants get a reward.
The result of the project was the development of a new marketing platform. The system allows manufacturers to have a direct effect on retail sales. Before that, it was only possible to work with distributors.
Now, the manufacturer gets direct sales statistics from separate regions, cities and stores.
Currently, the system has over 11,000 retail assistants from 9635 stores. It covers 411 cities.
A substantial shift towards the new platform occurred. The manufacturer uses the platform to instruct and to promote sales.
What is vital when creating an unfair advantage?
The IT solutions themselves may well be at the front of getting a competitive edge, but the major factor has to do with something else.
You may get outstanding developers to create a solution that will give you a competitive edge. But this will lead nowhere. Simply because this is above their competence.
In practice, a competitive advantage is created when you are forming the business model. The IT solution is just one of the comprising elements.
Yes, this element is vital. But new business model logic is the decisive factor. Market problems require understanding and new ways to address them. IT by itself cannot do this.
Look at your business from different angles and your chances to hit a new high increase.
Most companies do not search for new business models. At best they look at adjusting what they already have. They may “tweak” something here or there. But such improvements are just local and usually insignificant.
New IT technologies allow building a new generation of business models. If it was technically impossible before – now it can be done.
The question is who will get to spot and use them first.
To discuss what competitive advantage may help your business please visit our website to book a free consultation: