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How older businesses can embrace digital disruption

Glenys Barton

Many mature larger companies find it challenging to match the pace of young, fresh-faced competitors – particularly those born in the digital age. But it doesn’t have to be that way, write Vedrana Savic, Michael Moore, Babak Moussavi for Ivey Business Journal.

Your organisation’s age can be a great advantage if you harness your rich experience – which will inevitably include crises – and adopt clear tactics that take your firm’s amassed knowledge into account.

If you are a pre-2000 business and you are still in the market, you have already demonstrated great staying power through the digital explosion. 


For their research, the authors used an Accenture study of hundreds of non-tech global organisations in this bracket. Out of 577, there were 69 that had grown more strongly than average between 2012 and 2017 – and that rise looked likely to carry on for at least three more years.

“A closer look reveals the reason: over time, each has developed the confidence to look dispassionately at disruption – even digital disruption. As a result, each has also cultivated an immunity to market pressure,” write Savic, Moore and Moussavi. 

Another distinguishing trend was careful investment to establish sustainable future profits, rather than being lured in by attractive, quick-gain trends. “Older, for these businesses, has meant better,” they say.


So, how can other long-established businesses safeguard their success? 

1) Make continued investment a priority to strengthen your core business. Having that foundation means you can explore and support new digital initiatives until they gain momentum. Companies often find there is still plenty of mileage in their original business as well as channels for continued growth.

They cite the example of greetings-card company American Greetings Corporation (AG), which is more than a century old. With so much personal communication now shifting online, their research established that a physical-card greeting still offers people more significance and satisfaction. Exploring digital possibilities, such as e-cards and personalised cards, allowed them to expand while retaining the original essence of the business. 

2) Get your timing right. Don’t rush to move into new areas. Give careful thought to how your competitors’ innovation tactics would work for your business. The authors cite high-end brand Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH) group, who waited until 2017 to launch their online shop site. Having studiously observed how other brands use digital offerings to lure a younger generation, they followed suit, tapping into creatives with high socia- media profiles, like Rihanna and Kanye West’s creative director Virgil Abloh, to spice up their products and how they are marketed.

“In 2018, the company’s year-on-year revenues grew by 9.8%,” say Savic, Moore and Moussavi.

Any older organisation wanting to shake off perceived disadvantage and cement themselves in digital growth position should employ a considered and timely – but nevertheless bold – approach that is informed by competitors’ examples and embedded in long-established strengths. 

Source Article: Being An Old Organization Can Still Be A Good Thing
Author(s): Vedrana Savic, Michael Moore, Babak Moussavi