The literature on digital disruption has a gap in understanding the capabilities that incumbents develop or enhance to defend or counter-attack against digital attackers. We examine examples of incumbent fashion retail-manufacturers, both high and poor performers, from a systematic review of publicly available data. We uncover the capabilities that underpin the performance outcomes from the incumbents’ defence or counter attack against disruption from digital attackers.
We show that the higher performing incumbents have developed new and enhanced capabilities across the whole range of capability categories in order to out-perform the digital attacker. In addition they focus on two specific categories: to further enhance a strong capability around their unique differentiation based around existing resources - their physical stores; also to focus on one of the attackers’ strongest capabilities - a rapid response to changing GENz customer trends. The strategic choice of which capabilities to enhance is driven by a goal to increase an existing advantage, or match the attacker's advantage, or both.
We contribute to theory on the dynamic capability of strategic agility which includes the speed and scale of pivoting to implement new initiatives and the capability to shape, and not just respond to, uncertainties in the external environment.