Growth Customer Experience Productivity Business IQ Trends Success Stories Tech Solutions Awards Business Tools Subscribe Tech Enquiry
Morris Kaplan
Smarter Writer

Morris Kaplan is a former finance and venture capitalist who writes for entrepreneurs and professional services firms

Morris Kaplan
Smarter Writer

Morris Kaplan is a former finance and venture capitalist who writes for entrepreneurs and professional services firms

In the saturated markets of today, businesses need to look for ways they can stand out. Can innovation help save an ailing industry?

The 1960s were a great decade – from The Beatles to The Stones, and the massive investment by American car makers into Australia. We also had vinyl records and the transistor radio. Television sets had rabbit ears so that you could stand on one leg and lean over to get the best TV signal.

But the three most valuable companies in the world – Apple, Google and Microsoft – were yet to exist. It’s of little surprise that we’re witnessing the demise of many of the stars of the ‘60s – the biggest one being the automotive manufacturing industry.

Drawing of lit up lightbulb

Where we're going, we don't need roads

Yet, auto manufacturing isn’t dead, despite some of the biggest brands pulling the plug on their Australian plants. Other manufacturers, such as Tomcar Australia and the Volvo Group, both plan to continue manufacturing in Oz by focusing on niche and customised manufacturing. This specialisation helps them compete with low labour wages in Asia.

Looking at Tomcar’s strategy in more detail, they’ve recognised that innovation is the only way forward when operating in a saturated industry, and adopted a strategy that thinks outside the box. Rather than using the traditional model of relying on legacy dealer networks to drive vehicles out of the floor, they sell cars directly to customers online. 

The company has chosen to sell via a distribution system that’s in line with wider internet retail trends. Their website offers abundant information, videos and links – with plenty of shareable information. In effect, it’s an ecosystem where people can get all the information they need online, rather than having to visit dealers.

But it’s not just auto manufacturing that is being disruptive by external forces. Retail, particularly the fashion industry, is experiencing a looming shakeout. 

Technology online has made it relatively easy to start a business. Yet it’s harder too. You have an app for everything today! The adaption of technology is so rapid.


Fashion forward thinking

Look no further than the internal ructions at both David Jones and Myer which were very late in moving into the online environment. Now market observers are suggesting a merger as a way of rescuing shareholder value. Fashion retailers have few competitive advantages compared to businesses in other industries. 

With the increased penetration of the internet, entering the market is as easy as using offshore manufacturers, and a new business’s to-do list would consist of building a well-designed website and developing a decent online marketing strategy. As a result of this competition, retailers pinning their hopes on fashion will have to execute exceptionally well to deliver similar returns to years gone by.

David Vitek founder of Vitek Technologies, which operates online directories in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, says that the speed of change continues to increase which it makes it difficult for businesses and their products to stay relevant.

“Technology online has made it relatively easy to start a business. Yet it’s harder too. You have an app for everything today! The adaption of technology is so rapid. The iPhone, for example, its adoption was much quicker than previous (technology innovations).”

“Being the first mover is not necessarily a competitive advantage. Followers can be more nimble and access cheaper technology and thus operate from a lower cost base,” he adds. 

To remain relevant to time-short consumers, business models will need to adapt to a multi-channel world. If you look at both David Jones and Myer and compare them to the US-based business Zappos and Australian business Winnings Appliances, you have a clear message that bricks-and-mortar businesses, regardless of the products sold, are threatened by technology and/or the migration of buyers online.

The digital realm

Zappos sells nearly all its shoes and related goods online and does so with customer support staff, who are highly focused on delivering customer satisfaction. Despite selling bulky whitegoods – refrigerators, washing machines, ovens and the like, John Winning has built a thriving business that, again, is customer service oriented. 

Winning claims his company is now the Australia’s largest online retailer of white goods and appliances and says the company delivers to 98% of the country with next-day free delivery to most metropolitan areas. 

He says online should deliver an equal to if not a better customer experience each and every time.

“A customer can go and shop around, either by visiting three or four stores getting quotes, haggling and all that; we say we can, from the outset, deliver the best deal.”


Technology has forever changed the speed at which we do business. Now we do things at the touch of a button - shop, chat, study, transfer money. Yet, some business owners seem stuck in the past, so it’s important to look to other ways to innovate, grow, and provide ways to keep customers coming back.

Dave Macdonald and Annette Kaitinis of Scoot Boot
Annette Kaitinis: growing a business means knowing when to trot, canter, and gallop

Annette Kaitinis and Dave Macdonald have taken their small business with a big idea from Tasmania to the world. After just four short years, they're reaching international mark...

Charmaine Saunders of Mainie in store holding a traditional Indigenous-inspired garment.
Culture meets commerce: These Indigenous businesses are embracing both

These four Indigenous businesses – NAISDA, Purple House, Bush Medijina, and Mainie – combine commerce and culture. Find out how business works for people by Telstra Smarter Bus...

A photo of a woman from behind working at an office desk
Business IQ
Business IQ
How to empower staff and protect data security

Your cyber security is only as strong as its weakest link and that weak link is often the human element. Cyber security is a human problem. That’s why it is critical to invest...

A large amount of multi-coloured post-it notes lying in a large pile on a white floor.
How to multi-task and do what matters

As a busy business owner, it’s tempting to try juggling all the balls at once in order to get things done. But using the right technologies and processes – not constantly multi...