As digital consultants, we are constantly seeking the latest disruptive technologies innovating traditional business practices. Previous companies that once ruled are being disrupted by new juggernauts. But where Nest, Uber and others are making waves, there still remains an ocean of small businesses struggling to stay relevant in tumultuous times. Eventually, the disruptors will be disrupted. As large companies become conglomerates, a whole new market is created in the shadows waiting to emerge (ie. Yellow Cabs, Black Cabs, Uber, Hailo). Previously, independent businesses were able to survive because the customer experience wasn’t vastly different. Today, it is a whole new game. The difference between past shifts and today’s shift is the use of digital. 

It will no longer be viable for independent companies to keep operating as usual.

The digital shift not only highlights competitive pricing but it marks a dynamic change in the way everyone does business; mobile-centric, cloud-based, and customer centric. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Mom & Pop shops. There is also concurrently a resurgence for nostalgia and a cultural shift towards self satisfaction and transparency with retailers. That being said, where many local businesses excel in maintaining a neighborhood presence, they lack the digital infrastructure to accommodate the newer generations. A few tech-savvy startups have identified this gap and have been formed to shepherd and empower independent mom & pop shops to modernize for the future.

With the thirst for disruption, we have become enamored by innovation. Convenience has become key and has resulted in startup Amazon becoming, well, Amazon. Unless we want our Main Street to be barren, there is still value to supporting local establishments. Thinking outside the box and taking a step back, there is a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to leverage technology to maintain relevancy in an ever disrupting environment, and the disruptors have already done the hard work creating the technology.

Few businesses are going to survive the changing digital landscape without innovating

By utilizing the digital tools and technologies that the mega disruptors have used to break down walls, independent companies have a fighting chance. Here are a few startups created with the underdog in mind:

Dashride– Modernizes taxi fleets with an apply to let customers book, track and pay for rides. 
Cups– Coffee subscription app that helps independent coffee shops compete against Starbucks & Dunkin’ Donuts
ShopKeep– Rings up sales, accepts credit cards, emails receipts with an iPad checkout system
Shakr– Create custom video advertising with templates.
Edelweiss– Networking site for independent booksellers and publishers to connect online against Amazon.

At a loss as to where to begin? Review how your competition is incorporating digital business into their practice and remain diligent in your quest for ultimate convenience for the customer. The common denominator amongst most digital disruptors is ease of use to the user. Investment in mobile payments, like Groupon’s affordable Gnome is also advisable. Creating an app is not a cure-all for all businesses, review our suggestions for a single-purpose app, a multi-purpose app, and a hybrid version. Above all, strategize for your digital future.