The landscape of industry in general is changing dramatically. The largest ‘taxi’ company globally, Uber, owns no taxis. One of the largest accommodation companies in the world, Airbnb, owns no property and the largest information company, Google, owns no books……
I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers used a great analogy to highlight the impact of technology on our lives. He made the point that most people in the audience could pinpoint exact times where technology has had an influence on their lives, namely the introduction of iPad, Wi-Fi, skype, fibre and so much more. In contrast, children of today will not know what the term “technology” means when they grow up. This is because it has always been a part of their lives. Children are learning to play with iPad from the age of two and interact with various forms of technology on a daily basis. The other day I spotted my three year old trying to navigate the TV screen in the same way that she controls an iPad, which was rather entertaining, however it was a great example of the new generation’s ability to embrace technology.
It’s hard to believe that cell phones were only introduced to the SA market in the mid 90’s and the iPad only hit our slightly apprehensive South African market five years ago. Needless to say, the iPad captivated the market and these days one would be hard pressed to find a boardroom without at least half of the participants in the meeting taking notes on their iPad or tablets. The rate of change in the technological space has been astounding over the past ten years and is developing at an ever increasing rate.
From a marketing perspective, there have been a great deal of changes to the industry. Consumers no longer want to be bombarded by hundreds of meaningless smses a day. They are opting for a more personalized, contextualized approach to their needs. This form of marketing provides endless opportunities for retailers. An example of this is that customers can be updated of specials in real time via their cell phones as they are walking through shopping centres or driving past specific stores. It also allows the consumer to decide on how much communication they want to receive and the information is specific to them based on their purchasing habits. This information can also be fed back to the retailer so that they receive valuable information regarding their customers spending habits.
So what does this really mean in our everyday lives? Technology has been developed to such an extent that people’s lives are made simpler, their needs are met immediately and the “I want it now” generation has been born. In my business, our online ordering has grown from an inconsequential figure to a quarter of our turnover within a matter of months. A couple of months ago, I was approached by a QR code payment company which we adopted and this has also taken off at a rate of knots. People want convenience and the ability to interact with our business on their terms. This has assisted us in reducing costs as our drivers no longer all need to carry speedpoints. Customer’s cell phones have become our new speedpoint machines.
The other impact of technology is that it simplifies the purchase of a commoditized product.
What do I mean by this?
Well, when was the last time that you called a travel agent to book your flight to Cape Town? If you were booking an anniversary then a travel agent would definitely be the person to call as no technology can replace the human touch of arranging someone to meet you at the airport in a foreign country and making sure that the diving operator, hot air balloon operator, cycling guide etc. and the hotel all meet your requirements to make your special occasion a memorable one.
Technology is great in getting the transactional aspects of your business out of the way so that you can focus on the really important value that you offer to your clients.
The downside of technology is that everyone is now a journalist. Social media means that a small bad experience can be broadcast in seconds. Twitter and Facebook can be both your best friend and enemy. It is more likely that you’ll hear about complaints on social media than someone picking up the phone to let you know that they were disappointed. It’s important to know which sites to keep an eye on so that you keep up to date with the feedback on your business. Responding to a tweet that happened 9 months ago, might not work in your favour, but responding to someone immediately and getting their issue resolved, could convert them to a customer for life, or lose them for life!.
Technology also has a few more practical implications. We’ve had to adapt our businesses to load shedding and implement contingency measures such as generators, UPS, inverters etc.
The landscape in which we work and operate our businesses is changing on a daily basis with new technology being developed, power restraints, legislation changes as well as many other influences.
It is important to have a solid, yet fluid strategy in place to enable your business to deal with all of the changes that are taking place, or may take place.
A strategy should not just be a document which sits in the drawer, it should be a living, breathing part of your business.
It needs to be based on a sound business framework, yet be adaptable in order to change with the times. Doing small things such as updating your marketing strategy to include a more interactive approach might be just what you need to connect with your customers in a more meaningful way. If your business has predominantly grown organically, then perhaps you need to adjust your strategy to include an online presence and make use of the current technology available. The e-commerce industry has gained significant traction in the SA market and may be appropriate for your business to adopt in order to take you to the next level of expansion.
Stress test your strategy on an annual basis by doing scenario planning based on the current opportunities and threats facing your business. Work out a plan of action should the worst case scenario happen and look for opportunities within this space. Identify ways of harnessing opportunities should the best case scenario come to light and adapt your strategy accordingly.
The most important thing to remember is that your strategy needs to be able to change with, or even better, ahead of the times, without losing sight of the core values of your business. It’s important to be very clear, irrespective of technological changes, what the value is that you offer your clients. Technology should simply be there to support this strategy, not replace it.
Strategist and Business Owner