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Heading Upwards

For many small businesses, success comes from thinking outside the box. While you never want to spread yourself too thin, if you stick with what you’re good at while applying those strengths in a new way, it can help you stay ahead of the competition.

Recently, we’ve noticed a number of established companies have been following larger movements and expanding their business models to accommodate those trends. When this is executed well, a business adapts to these shifts and grows- without sacrificing quality of service.

What follows are four specific examples of companies that have leveraged a consumer trends and altered or enhanced their business structure accordingly.

The Health Tracking & Quantified-Self Trend

It all started with simple pedometers, but comprehensive self-monitoring has turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Fitbit, a California-based company best known for their step-tracking devices, has evolved tremendously over the past five years to better accommodate the trend toward Healthcare IT and wearable fitness trackers. While pedometers originally functioned merely to track the number of steps the wearer took each day, Fitbit devices have evolved into high-tech accessories that let the user track floors climbed, calories burned, distance walked, and even sleep efficiency. Additionally, the global shift towards social sharing has had an impact on how the company evolved. Today, the company offers a smartphone app that allows for seamless wireless syncing with the tracker and an online dashboard that allows the FitBit wearer to log meals, monitor progress, and even cheer on other Fitbit-wearing friends.

The Microbrew Scene

Craft beers are a major part of the foodie scene these days – made popular by hipsters and trendsetters who opt for taste and authenticity over big name brands. Sure, Bud Light will always be available, but for those seeking something with depth and flavor, it usually fails to satisfy. As independent breweries are popping up around the country, transit companies are leveraging this trend for their own profit.

Reston Limo, an upscale transportation company located near us in the DC-area has been offering vineyard tours for years. More recently however, in the wake of a growing craft brew movement, the company began offering brewery tours. The limo company essentially took what was working from their vineyard tours (classy day of drinking + safe transit) and applied it to a fast-growing local trend to meet an emerging customer demand.

The Transit-on-Demand Craze

Most of us have heard of Uber these days. The car service makes it easy to get from place to place in urban areas when cabs are unreliable and public transit is slow and inconvenient. Uber has single-handedly ushered in a new wave of private transportation options in major U.S. cities. Customers simply download the app, adjust the level of luxury they’re willing to pay for (black car, SUV, basic cab, or UberX) and within minutes a vehicle appears. Now that Uber has the technological infrastructure and network to offer land transportation efficiently, they are slowly branching out.

Though many of their new projects are still in the experimental stages, Uber has offered rush hour ferry service in northern California as well as direct helicopter rides to the Hamptons for wealthy New Yorkers. The app is extremely good at connecting users with their desired method of transport, so Uber is merely expanding the company’s offerings in certain regions. These quirky and memorable side projects have allowed the company to enhance its already-coveted business model to offer a wide range of on-demand services to customers.

The Fast-Casual Food Fad

In the past, if you wanted to go out for a meal, there were fast food joints and there were sit-down restaurants. Lately however, a third option has become increasingly widespread: “fast casual” dining. This niche includes recognizable favorites like Panera, Cosi, SweetGreen, and Chipotle.

Chipotle is one company that has seen enormous growth over the past few years and has opened up hundreds of new locations across the country. The mission behind the company – to serve “food with integrity”- has helped it become a favorite across all subsets of the population. More recently, in response to the growing demand for delicious, affordable, quickly-prepared meals, Chipotle is opening up a spin-off restaurant – this time based on the flavors of Southeast Asia.

Shophouse is the newest offshoot from the Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) company and it is already poised for success. With a business model nearly identical to Chipotle’s and carefully crafted, abundantly flavorful recipes, the new fast-casual restaurants are slowly being unveiled across the DC-metro region.

These are just four examples of companies that are demonstrating exciting business innovation. FitBit, Reston Limo, Uber, and Chipotle Mexican Grill are all capitalizing on different aspects of various consumer trends to scale the current business – and the payoff is considerable.

About Brian Patterson

Brian Patterson is a partner at Go Fish Digital, an online marketing firm based in the Washington, D.C. area. Brian practices and writes extensively on the topics of Online Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization. His experience ranges from helping small businesses beat out national brands for top industry keywords to helping Fortune 500 companies protect and defend their online reputations.


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