How does innovation transform businesses?

Torrens University

Think about how Airbnb changed the short-term accommodation model; Uber rethought taxis; and Netflix overhauled the way we watch television. Those companies leveraged their innovative business ideas to accelerate change and growth – and have been rewarded for it.


Here are three innovative business ideas and how they have transformed businesses.

1. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a way of running a retail business in which the seller takes customer orders without keeping stock on hand themselves.

The origins of drop shipping lie in the mail order catalogues of the ’60s and ’70s, during which the more successful companies created fulfilment warehouses to help them store massive inventory and meet customer orders more efficiently.

With the advent of the internet and ecommerce, dropshipping exploded in popularity. Amazon, in particular, innovated the use of dropshipping in a way that has revolutionised the way we shop.

Amazon was founded in July 1994 by Jeff Bezos as an online bookshop, and steadily rose from there. These days, along with e-commerce, Amazon trades in cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence, but much of its foundational success was based on its business innovation approach to dropshipping – including its industry-leading fulfilment centres. Other companies followed Amazon’s transformation innovation, but it still retains the competitive advantage of having innovated so strongly from the beginning and is one of the world’s most valuable brands.

2. Print on demand

Print on demand is another digital innovation in business that has revolutionised the retail industry. This transformation innovation allows businesses the freedom to print products only when customers place orders. This business innovation means companies don’t have to keep inventory on hand, which saves on storage costs and reduces wastage. Print on demand also offers flexibility in terms of design and customisation so businesses can be nimble in response to market demands.

Print on demand is also particularly useful for creatives who can sell their designs to customers and outsource having them printed on T-shirts, mugs and wall art through companies such as RedBubble, which specialises in print on-demand products.

3. Virtual assistants

In the last few years, there has been a huge shift towards the use of virtual assistants for small companies; it is estimated that virtual assistants’ market size will reach $25.6 billion by 2025. Sydney-based physiotherapy practice Physio on Alice is just one organisation that has reduced its overheads and increased efficiency with the use of a VA.

With just two physios practising out of the small clinic, having a full-time receptionist on-site was an unnecessary cost. The company transitioned to using an online booking site, Cliniko, and a virtual assistant to deal with queries and cancellations by phone. Physio on Alice no longer needs a dedicated space for an assistant, and the role is now part-time, which reduces the cost and creates greater returns for the practice.

How innovation translation expands business transformation and innovation


Innovation translation is a theory of innovation in which, instead of using innovation in the form it is proposed, potential adopters translate it into a form that suits their needs.

In what turned out to be fortuitous timing, shortly before the pandemic hit, Australian company Me&U launched their innovative business idea: providing restaurants and bars with QR codes that would allow customers to order directly from their table.

The QR code system was invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara from the Japanese company Denso Wave, to offer Toyota a more accurate way to track vehicles and parts during the manufacturing process. Hara developed a type of barcode that could encode kanji and kana as well as alphanumeric characters.

While not the first to repurpose the QR code, Me&U saw the potential for this technology to translate into the customer-facing food and beverage industry. The QR code innovation has also been translated into use in museums and galleries (to replace traditional audio guides), in tourism (to replace guided tours) and in security (to replace pen-and-paper forms).

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