Digital Disruption in Singapore


Digital disruption is more than a catchy buzzphrase. It is a real threat, and yet so many would rather cross their fingers and hope for things to continue status quo. Singapore, It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

Why does this matter in Singapore?

Global trade is integral to the survival and success of small states like Singapore. Singaporeans will look back with pride on our history from a fishing village to the mighty Little Red Dot.

Yet we know our limitations. Small states neither have the size nor the clout to set the agenda in global trade practices, frameworks and agreements. We must be willing to be part of the conversations around global trade to carve out opportunities for our local business community where we can.

We need to be adaptable to the opportunities that are available to us. In many cases, we need to be willing collaborators to help the key initiators (USA, EU, OECD, etc) sustain the momentum for changes that foster global trade that are beneficial to our long-term survival.

Global trade is changing rapidly due to disruptive innovations: digital marketplaces, eCommerce, mobile apps, and creative digital marketing, and we have to adapt to thrive.


What is Digital Disruption?

Digital disruption is the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services.

There are 10 hyper-disruptive business models that you should know about if you don’t already:


10 Hyper-Disruptive Business Models

The Subscription Model

“Locks customers in” by encouraging attachment to products or services that were previously purchased on an “as and when necesssary” basis.

Examples include Netflix, Kindle, and Dollar Shave Club.


The Freemium Model

Entices customers by providing them access to a basic service, but requiring payment for the use of additional features. This model works for products and services where the marginal cost of each additional unit is low. The non-paying customers contribute advertisement revenue and help to spread word about the product or service.

Examples include Spotify, Dropbox, and Candy Crush.


The Free Model

Similar to the Freemium Model, except end users aren’t given the option to purchase premium features. Revenue is made in the form of advertising and data harvesting.

Examples include Google and Facebook.


The Marketplace Model

Creates a platform that connects buyers and sellers directly. The Marketplace becomes known as a supplier of goods and services it doesn’t actually own or produce. Revenue is earned as in the form of a percentage of transaction fees, or an upfront cost to list a product or service on the platform.

Examples include eBay and Aliexpress.


The Access-over-Ownership Model

Provides access to goods and services previously available only to their owners. Similar to The Marketplace in its revenue streams and function, but offers the ability “rent” luxury homes, cars, and even clothes, rather than “buy” them.

Examples include: Smove Singapore, Airbnb, and Mini Fashion Bar


The Hypermarket Model

Similar to traditional hyperstores. Leverages on sheer economies of scale, with a huge catalogue of products often sold at low prices, sometimes even below cost in order to drive out competition.

Examples include: Amazon, Zalora, and Zalando.


The Experience Model

Sells unique, intangible but valuable experiences. Customers are usually willing to pay a premium due to the special experience attained when interacting with the company or product.

Examples include: Coachella, Disneyland, and Apple.


The Pyramid Model

The “Pyramid” sits on top of a horde of affiliates and resellers. Similar to how many local companies in Singapore pay for influencers to advertise their products in social media, “Pyramid” businesses recruit people with a certain level of notoriety to sell their products on a commission-only basis.

Examples include: Amazon and Bodyblendz.


The On-Demand Model

Its value proposition lies in convenience and immediacy, offering instant access to customers with scarce time but money to spare. Commission is then earned from the service providers who conversely often have time but not money.

Examples include: Uber, Operator, and Taskrabbit.


The Ecosystem Model

Creates brand loyalty and dependency by offering a whole suite of products and services that work in tandem with one another.

Examples include: Apple and Google.


With so much Digital Disruption, what can you do?

No one really knows what new disruptive technologies and business models are going to pop up in the coming months and years, which is why digital disruption is so hard to fight against. Of course, you’re not going to simply throw your hands up and admit defeat, so here’s some knowledge to equip yourself with.

IBM’s Global C-suite study provides fascinating insights into the age of digital disruption:

  • Digital interaction has seen a 19% increase from 2013 to 2015, and CxOs are focused on creating more digital, individualized experiences.
  • Over half are also partnering with other companies to drive innovation and accelerate growth
  • Decentralized decision-making is rising in popularity too, “to get closer to the action”


The study also identified two types of businesses – “Torchbearers” and “Market Followers”.

  • Torchbearers, 5% of those surveyed, have strong reputations as innovators, with higher revenue growth and profitability than others in their industry.
  • “Market Followers” have a significantly lower profile and financial success as compared to the Torchbearers, comprising 34% of companies surveyed.

Torchbearers are more likely to enter new markets and decentralize, and are overall more prepared to deal with digital disruption by “stripping out bureaucracy” and adopting strategies of digital disrupters.


Steps you can take:

  • Decentralizing by delegating

    Empowering those closest to your customers gives you greater intelligence of market changes on the ground.

  • Sharing to grow

    Joining hands with allies helps all of you to grow together. You should start by recognizing your own strengths and what you can share, and looking for partners who innovate and have skills that complement yours.

  • Taking over the middle space

    Build an online forum bringing buyers and sellers together to swap insights and develop a healthy ecosystem. Other than positioning yourself as a thought leader and gaining valuable insights in your industry, doing this also helps you avoid being left out of the conversation in future.

  • Leveraging on mobile solutions

    To “facilitate a deeper understanding of the individual customer,” and empower your employees. We often stress on the importance of mobility,  and foresee even more digital disruptions will stem from mobile devices. Most Torchbearers place a lower importance on this at the moment, but only because they have already adopted mobile technology a long time ago!

  • Cognitive computing

    Analyzing customer data in context will allow more accurate predictions and recognize changing needs and trends quickly. Find out more about how cognitive computing helps you here.

  • Projecting the future

    CXOs are using a variety of techniques including brainstorming, predictive analytics, and less popularly, simulation, prescriptive analytics, crowdsourcing, and cognitive computing.

  • Looking outward rather than inward

    Assess your ecosystem and ask yourself whether it has the ability to recognize new trends and technologies to prepare for the future. Look not just at your competitors, but your partners and customers, so you get a well-rounded view.


Here’s how we can help:

When Uber was first developed, nobody could have predicted just how much disruption it would cause to the taxi industry. Likewise, hotel groups were caught offguard by the rise of Airbnb just under a decade ago.

Who are Torchbearers in your industry looking out for? Keep your ear to the ground because you can bet digital disruption is coming, be it in the form of a new subscription model or ecosystem.


Telepathy through Cognitive Computing

Cognitive computing is a rising technology that Torchbearers are keeping an eye on and utilizing at this very moment, and you could be losing out by relying on your traditional commerce and analytics methods.

If you haven’t already, you should check out ZiZu, our futureproof commerce solution that promises a better understanding of your customers. Done right, ZiZu can offer your customers both the perks of the Experience and Ecosystem models.

Become the Hypermart of your industry

Perhaps you prefer the Hypermart model like Amazon, in which case check out SANA Commerce. It offers all the convenience of a webshop, while handling the complexities of the B2B industry’s requirements.


Get a slice of the cloud

We cannot stress enough how important it is to get your systems and documents in order before you can even begin to grow. You can’t get away from this forever, so you need to start as soon as you can. We’re launching our affordable Cloud subscription packages some time next month, and you can bet they’re going to help you stay strong even as your industry gets digitally disrupted.

Make sure you subscribe below to get the latest updates on our subscription packages, including free trials and potential discounts.


Got a question? Comments? Suggestions? Leave a comment below or hit “Contact Us” on the right! Like and subscribe for more useful content.



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