Companies are constantly urged to keep up with technology and stay ahead of their competitors. But how do you do that when the goal posts seem to move constantly?
There are some clues in the cases of businesses and online services that have stood the test of time.
Consider the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com). Launched in 1990 as a series of scripts distributed through bulletin boards, today it is the go-to site for everything movies and TV.
Founder and chief executive Col Needham attributes early growth to the increasing mainstreaming of the web in the mid-90s – at the time the number of users was doubling every two weeks.
Originally shared with 20 users, imdb.com content now has 160 million unique monthly visitors, and the various mobile apps for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone have been downloaded 40 million times.
So just how does an online service like IMDb.com keep growing after 20 years?
Mark Little, principal analyst at Ovum, says innovation is so common and switching costs for users are so low that there is only one way to engage with an audience: "a compelling user experience".
In the case of IMDb.com it's all about the content. With 100 million pieces of data about more than 2 million shows and movies, there is simply no better source for anything you want to know about them.
But what makes IMDb.com the go-to source isn't original content - you can get it all from other sources – it's the ease of accessing it in a compelling, digestible form.
"As more service providers access the same content, the point of difference moves increasingly to user experience and brand equity," says Little. "Content may be king, but it's also just the base requirement the consumer expects from all services."
Ben Silbermann, the 29-year-old chief executive and co-founder of the particularly female-friendly Pinterest, digitsed what many people already loved – the pinboard – instead of inventing something completely new.
About 5000 users were invited to the open beta version in March 2010, and in January this year Pinterest had 11.7 million unique users.
"The whole idea of early adopters has changed," Silbermann says. "A few years ago if you were into technology you had a smartphone before anyone else or you paid more for faster internet. Now everyone has a really nice phone and Facebook on their app store.
"[To be successful] products will find their markets a lot more smoothly, and the idea that it's gated through Silicon Valley isn't the case any more.
"The average exposure people have to the primary distribution channels is really different. You will see products that come from very different beginnings rather than just the Valley mindset and that makes a lot of sense."
Silbermann's priority – with a small initial team – was to make sure Pinterest's grid pattern scaled gracefully between different device screen sizes. As he puts it: "Over invest in one thing people really notice."
And, of course, it's watching what your users are doing, and following them.
Liam Walsh, Facebook country head and director of commercial development and sales, says the last five to 10 years have been about getting everyone connected.
"The years ahead are going to be about the apps and experiences," he says. "[It's] about taking advantage of the opportunity mobile presents; 600 million people who use Facebook are connecting from a mobile device and ... mobile users are around 20 per cent more likely to use Facebook on any given day."