Consider how you used to book a hotel room or flight 25 years ago, or how and where you watched a movie, or hailed a ride from the airport. Companies that have thrived as innovators have capitalised on digital advances more than their peers have, and as a result, they have built strong brands that customers keep coming back to.
“Customers have more information today than ever before,” said Bill Swedish, a consultant in the western US state of Washington. “They have speed of obtaining that information and, because of that, they have the power.
“There is a call for companies to innovate today because of the rapid changes that are happening with their customers and in their markets,” he said. “… The imperative here for the organisations is to get back ahead of their customers and to be proactive in terms of establishing products and services and ways to interact that will win the hearts and minds of customers.”
Companies that have excelled in that realm have embraced four specific types of digital-related innovation, according to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which compiles an annual list of the world’s most innovative companies. The four types of innovation that are a strong focus among leading organisations are:
- Big data analytics.
- Fast adoption of new technologies.
- Mobile products and capabilities.
- Digital design.
BCG singled out those areas because they were the four that had the greatest year-over-year change in expected impact to their industry in the next three to five years. Overall, new products and technology platforms, at 41% each in a survey BCG conducts for the report, are tied atop the list, but their perceived impact shrunk in the past year. In particular, big data analytics (39%) and fast adoption of new technologies (38%) have narrowed the gap of what’s important for companies.
More than half of respondents said that their companies use data analytics for a variety of purposes connected with innovation, BCG said. These include “identifying new areas for exploration, providing input for idea generation, revealing market trends, informing innovation investment decisions, and setting portfolio priorities,” the report said.
One company is still No. 1
Not surprisingly, Apple is atop the BCG list. The Silicon Valley company has been No. 1 all 12 times the list has been compiled. Google, for the tenth time in the past 11 BCG lists, is No. 2. Amazon, which ranked No. 20 on the list ten years ago, is up to No. 4, just behind Microsoft. The rest of the top ten, in order are Samsung, Tesla, Facebook, IBM, Uber, and Alibaba.
Apple’s most recent financial results demonstrate how the company is winning with digital products around the world. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company’s number of active installed devices, including the new iPhone X, reached 1.3 billion in January, a 30% increase since 2016. For the quarter that ended 30 December 2017, Apple reported revenue of $88.3 billion, its all-time high. Apple said nearly two-thirds of that revenue came from outside the US.
On the BCG list, North America remains the most represented region, with 27 companies in the top 50. Europe is next with 16 companies on the list, up from ten companies in 2016. Europe’s improvement includes first-time appearances by German companies Adidas and SAP.
BCG bases its list on financial metrics, such as three-year total shareholder return and a survey of innovation executives.