All of us have heard of Amazon, right? And we unanimously agree that it is the largest online retail store in the world serving more than 40% of customers online in the US only. However, it never started as the company we know today. The company was originally called ‘Cadabra’ and was a bookstore that sold books online. The company was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1995 just to be a part of the ongoing internet boom back in the day. Yet it led to exploring a whole new type of business, an A-to-Z online shopping platform or simply e-commerce. Amazon started from selling books and then pivoted towards selling all sorts of products to all types of customers.
They essentially implemented a strategy what we call in today’s terms as ‘pivoting’. It was good back in the days when Amazon was just a start-up and is equally good today when Amazon is funding and founding new start-ups. So, if you are an entrepreneur or any business owner, you might benefit from ‘Pivoting’.
Pivoting is basically a method that organizations follow to implement changes to their business style, strategy, and model in favor of better growth and profitability.
In literal terms, a pivot is a central point around which a system revolves, for example, the sun in the solar system. For a business, the strengths that it has established over the course of its life act as pivots for the business. The remaining activities, operations, and ideology are restructured around that pivot for better performance and growth.
As we have discussed, a business uses its established strengths in its history. It capitalizes on these authentic pivots and makes changes to its operations around the pivot to allow itself to make better use of the advantage that it has constructed over the years.
In any business, there are two sides of the story; the demand side i.e., the market, and the supply side i.e., the product offerings of the business. Consequently, these two sides lay the guidelines for different types of pivoting.
This is a very common type of pivoting that companies use when they have a firm stance that the consumer base they are targeting is the right one and that it is their offering that needs to be improved and revamped to make more people from the customer base interested in your product and eventually, exhibit better performance in future.
You might need to consider such type of pivoting when you have a well-established product or when you are a business selling its products successfully for a few years but now you are experiencing a fall in your sales graph.
Confidence in the demand side of your business i.e., your product results in another type of pivoting. This happens when you have established a fact that your product is good enough or some feature of your product is up to the mark but somehow it is not presented to the appropriate market segments or customers for them to end up calling for the action.
It can be further bifurcated into the following two types:
a.) You can enter a new market or target a different segment of the market.
b.) You can extract a feature from a bigger product and offer it as a standalone product (as was the case with Slack, which received its DNA from a game called Glitch)
c.) Changing the marketing technique and tactics is also an option worth considering and has been a tried and tested method to improve business (Wall Drug, the world’s largest drug store, opted for an entirely new marketing methodology by offering iced water to Route 66 travelers and soon skyrocketed its business)
This option is the last one when you have exhausted all others and have no other chance but to develop a new product for a new market/market segment. Consider it the equivalent of starting a new business, shut down all previous operations, extract the money and invest it in a new product and place.
Generally, running businesses do not go for this one (unless they have made terrible blunders before and can do nothing but start everything from scratch) because they have gained some knowledge of the market and the industry and stick to those key areas to improve and grow around it.
Perhaps the most important question that still remains to be answered is this. Every business has its own unique place and situation in its lifetime and it is practically impossible to accommodate each and every situation beforehand. However, we can try to stay prepared by learning from the experiences of others and from the largest names in the tech industry, quite surprisingly who were nothing near to the sort of success we see them as of today.
There are a number of apps on the market that have features literally shoved into them. Such apps are generally trying very hard at performing a number of tasks at the same time that they end up as the perfect example of ‘jack of all trades and a master of none.
One such app was Instagram, perhaps just another app by Facebook that many of us know it as today. But the app is older than we know and its initial days had nothing to do with Facebook. The app started with the name ‘Burbn’, a check-in app that allowed users to share their game achievements, pictures, and visits using the app. It was not so long that the founder, Kevin Systrom realized that the app was too clutter and had too many options, many of which ended up distracting people and thus was not Kevin’s optimal way of enabling people to share their love for fine wines and bourbons.
Eventually, the former web-based iOS app, Burbn was replaced with Instagram that had photo sharing, reacts and comments features from its ancestor, and has never seen a dull day ever since. Users upload millions of pictures on their Instas every day, businesses sell products worth millions of dollars, and yet hundreds of millions are spent on advertising on Instagram. It just clicks for everybody.
There are times when an entrepreneur has a brilliant idea for his app. The idea is practical and achievable but once implemented, the result is not exactly up to expectations. There can be some simple features of the app that appeals more to the consumer and have the scope to be a standalone mobile application.
This was the case with the former Pinterest i.e., Tote whose core idea was to establish an app where users could buy products, avail discounts, and enjoy exclusive deals from their favorite brands. The idea worked but in a way that led the company to change its primary business strategy. The company soon discovered that the uses were more interested in building collections and sharing with friends.
The users treated the app less like a marketplace and more like a social media platform and the company understood it as well. Fast forward to today, Pinterest is one of the best platforms to create and share your own collections.
The human race has progressed to such a level that we experience new advancements every day. Each day brings forward a new development, another unique invention that has the potential to change how we do things. The state of tech used today is nothing similar to the machinery being used a decade ago. Thus, it is important for companies to keep up with the pace of improvement.
At the end of the day, only those companies survive that not only keep their products potential competitive but also their internal processes. There was a time when Kodak ruled the photography industry with its state-of-the-art analog photography equipment. The products were brilliant and the company was making great profits. Then came the era of digital photography. New players emerged into the market including Sony and Nikon, all focusing on digital; all from simpler and smaller cameras to professional-grade wildlife photography equipment as well.
Kodak did not adopt the change right away and once when it did, it was too late for the company to keep the pace and was left behind. In 2012, the company went bankrupt and the legend of the ‘Kodak moment’ became history. The company still exists but has confined itself to corporate products and services now.
In 2007, Steve Jobs took the stage and unveiled the first-ever smartphone that mankind has known. The phone brought touch screens and served as an introduction to the remarkable iOS and Android operating systems that we know today.
At that time, Nokia was the king in the phone market. Everybody loved its phones and it remained steadfast in launching phones with spectacular features in the time. However, they made one mistake. While they were strong on the hardware side of things, the software part was quite grim. Apple’s iOS was proprietary so that was not an option and the only OS close to it was Android’s (later on acquired by Google). Instead, they switched to Windows.
The entire market was booming with Android-powered systems and Nokia was stuck with Windows. The system was not user-friendly and was essentially a scaled-down version of the desktop Windows. It simply does not work that way, especially at the time when inter-device connectivity was not even a thing.
Result: Nokia lost its decades-long market monopoly in a matter of days and ended up completely vanishing from the smartphone space.
Takeaway: As a business, you need to have a strong grip on the market’s veins; any change in sentiment, any difference in reactions and you must be ready to respond. It is not necessary that you should only be concerned with the feedback related to you, keep a keen eye on the feedback of your competitors for two main reasons:
i.) You will get to know which of their features are being appreciated and if they have a future with your products.
ii.) You can avoid the mistakes and pitfalls your competitors encountered and introduce a more refined product.
At such moments, there are a lot of times when you have a history of success with something. It is your pride and identity but for a good business to survive, you have to make a rational decision and drain the pride down the manhole for a prosperous future for your organization.
The consumer market is consistently changing and now more than ever, people have access to happenings in different parts of the world. Consequently, their expectations and needs are also changing day by day.
Netflix has been perfect with its decision-making in this regard. The company started as a subscription-based DVD provider. Once you subscribed to their service, a bunch of DVDs would show up in your post every month and you could enjoy them for the rest of the month.
With the internet boom, Netflix shifted to the online subscription service that we know today. Apparently, that was not enough because of its need for more content. They went into production themselves and started creating shows and movies filling its library with spectacular shows and movies. Hats off to Netflix!
As an entrepreneur and a business owner, you are sure to encounter blockades and bumps. However, you should be active to sense the need of the hour and respond to the changes effectively.
Keep in mind that not every situation needs strategic pivoting. It is very likely that some tweaks here and there in the app will be sufficient in producing an effective result. Unless the idea for the app is not practical anymore or the market targeted is absolutely irrelevant (which is quite unlikely to happen), your app has the potential to survive, and pivoting at the operational level will be sufficient to improve your performance.