How To Disrupt An Industry: Lessons Learned From An Overlooked Market
Over the last few years, there has been a growing trend in the U.S. financial technologies (or fintech) market as investment pours into such point-of-sale solutions as peer to peer, money transfer, Face ID, digital wallets and more. Companies like Paypal, Apple, Facebook, Intuit and beyond have all made recent announcements on apps and platforms that enable people to pay one another with ease.
We're in an exciting time, as the fintech world is evolving on an almost constant basis with technology presenting traditional finance with new and exciting opportunities. Most financial sectors and offshoots are seeing large investment:
• Money transfer successes like Venmo, Kantox and Remitly have invited significant investments, acquisitions and major companies to follow suit. PayPal acquired Venmo through its Braintree acquisition in 2013, Facebook launched peer-to-peer payments in Facebook Messenger in 2015 and Apple recently rolled out Apple Pay in its iOS 11 update.
• The sectors of business and personal loans and financing are also seeing many new entrants, such as FundedByMe and LendingClub. They are also inspiring larger company investment like Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage.
• Personal investment is changing as consumers switch from brokers to platforms with tools like Mint and Nutmeg.
• Point-of-sale and mobile solutions are making it easier and faster for retailers to make transactions through such innovations as Square, Stripe and SumUp.
Yet while the global fintech market is expanding rapidly, out of the nearly $40 billion of venture capital and growth equity invested into fintech startups over the last four years, according to a PwC study, most of that investment has completely ignored a large part of the payments market: bill payment.
With 15 billion bills paid per year in the U.S. today, make no mistake — bill pay is a big business, yet my company estimates that less than 3% of fintech investment has been targeted at improving the bill-paying experience. According to a 2017 report sponsored by ACI, U.S. consumers pay out more than 50% of their household spending to an average of 12 different regular bills per month, to over 250,000 billers nationwide. In 2016, roughly $3.9 trillion was spent on bills.
Despite these statistics and the ubiquity of the task of paying bills, innovation in bill payment is years behind the rest of the payments industry. Major investments are being made to accelerate the well-known areas of fintech, while bill pay remains largely overlooked by investors. But despite the lack of investment in the space, my bill-pay company is rapidly growing -- with over three million users.
My advice to other marketers is not to let imbalances in funding dissuade you from chasing a disruptive opportunity in a difficult market. By definition, disruptive innovation in a market means that you will be creating a new value network that displaces market leading firms and conventions. Disruption can be the biggest and most rewarding results for a startup, but it won't be easy.
It might be an overused example, but Uber and Lyft faced huge headwinds when they first launched. In 2010, Uber received a cease and desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency within 90 days of its launch. However, the consumer experience it provided was vastly superior to the status quo, as evidenced by its massive growth.
Let’s look at my company's efforts in the bill-pay space and what you can learn to disrupt an industry and deliver the best customer experience possible.
Diagnose the customer problem.
Disruption starts with identifying the best consumer experience. Look for common problems and everyday hassles that continually surface for your customers. My company recognized that bill paying is a dismal process, but most people accept the hassles that come with it — hassles that include navigating a variety of fees, websites, passwords and payment methods in order to complete payments and check them off our to-do lists.
Define the solution.
Once you’ve identified the consumer problem, define the solution that would improve the customer experience it. Then hone in on your mission statement — how you will commit to improving the customer experience through your product or service. After identifying the problems listed above, my company committed to the mission of enabling consumers to pay bills within a single, secure account.
Identify the value add.
Disruption is about more than just finding a solution to a problem. You need to identify the value you will create and how it is better than the status quo. In the bill payment space, there is a natural network affect between consumers and billers. As consumers add their billers to a network, other consumers can take advantage of those billers. As more billers join the network to improve customer experience, more consumers can pay their bills. Despite this, our no-hassle solution has solidified our company as the largest biller directory.
No matter your industry or its amount of funding, you can create a disruptive solution by identifying the best customer experience.