A friend of mine pointed me to a long but very worthwhile read on Facebook the other day that got me thinking. It’s worth a few a minutes of your time, and you can read the full post here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10209535135194637&id=1214703941&ref=bookmarks
The article, in short, explains how many industries, if not all industries, are at the will of future technologies. To ignore it, to ignore change, to set aside the changing ways in which we all work and live, would ultimately write you off.
The Kodak example
It was the first paragraph of the piece which really demonstrates the point of the argument:
In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.
Just to clarify, this post was originally published on Facebook in 2016. It makes a lot of predictions about many sectors, most of which are accurate. Apart from the Bitcoin one, that is yet to come to fruition. Read the whole thing, you’ll understand.
The Kodak case is a perfect example. Here you have an existing model, one that had been around for a very long time, established all over the world. In the background there was an emerging technology in the same field, but because of it’s infancy, it was ignored by the likes of Kodak and others. But as we all know, when anything new is introduced into the market, it does not take long for improvements to be made and more and customers to get on board with the new idea. Fast forward to present day and Kodak no longer exist. Technology has in fact moved and improved so quickly that the vast majority of the public have even now moved beyond the digital camera and hold a smart phone which can take incredibly high quality photos on their phones. Had Kodak chosen to embrace the change, take an interest in it and adapt to the new ways of doing things then perhaps we would still have an iteration of the company today. They didn’t, and so they went to the wall.
A dying high street
Away from that Facebook post, we’re seeing the exact same thing play out right in front of our eyes with the death of the high street and brick and mortar stores. The internet has completely upended how consumers purchase almost everything. From the comfort of your own home you can order pretty much anything and everything and have it either delivered to you or you can chose somewhere to go and pick it up. This completely rids the need of someone having to make a journey to a store to make the same purchase.
The death of the high street is not exaggerated. The list of chains that have gone bust is too long to mention on here, but we all know of the most famous ones, and we all know of the most recent ones. All of the established department store businesses are clinging on to life, with the likes of Next, John Lewis, Debenhams etc a whimper of their former selves.
To be fair, there are additional factors at play adding to the woes of stores, like parking charges in town centres and high rent rates. But the key factor in this whole story is the internet and the utter arrogance of businesses refusing to accept the new reality and adapt their models otherwise.
It is likely that we will see a number of very high profile names go under this year, primarily because they did not adapt to their new environment. Retail in general in the UK has to take a very hard look at itself and choose whether to completely change how they do business, whether they like it or not, or risk going bust. The choice is that simple.
The glazing industry in this UK is very much involved in this new industrial revolution. Or Industry 4.0 as it is known. Both in how it deals with home owners and how it functions within itself.
Installers are the face of the industry to the home owner, and are therefore at the very sharp end of changing habits and expectations from home owners. They need to be technologically evolved enough to meet the demands of home owners and be able to do business with them in the ways in which they prefer. Having things like a fit for purpose website, social media channels, digital technical resources are all part and parcel of what a modern home owner would expect.
Even down to the way quotations are given to home owners. At our place we almost always email quotes to home owners, so long as they have internet access. We expect to deal with home owners like that and they expect it from us. We always follow it up with a written copy, just in case technology fails us, but almost always they get their email version first. It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s greener and it’s how people want to do business.
The business to business relationships in our industry also have to be suited to 2019 demands. For a lot of highly connected installers, they will reach out to their suppliers via email at the very least, or social media. Manufacturers should be able to communicate with their installers via those mediums without hesitation. There can be no excuses about training, age, time or anything else. Social media is free, simple and widespread. Installers who find communicating with their existing suppliers difficult might start to go elsewhere.
Here’s the Kodak example for our own sector: industry media. Once a month companies get a copy of whatever publications sent to them, packed generally full of advertorials, adverts and industry news. Then they go (hopefully) in the recycling bin. However, what most people will be reading are pieces they will have likely already read weeks in advance. Digital media, as it has with every other sector on earth, has revolutionised how we consume, create and spread industry news and stories. If there’s a big breaking story in our industry, sites like this will publish that news, post it on key social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, and it will distribute almost immediately. News that’s happening now, being read now. Can’t argue with that.
There is the argument that there’s a certain novelty or prestige about being able to hold a physical copy of a publication in your hand. And to some extent I agree with that. But modern day arguments such as time, relevance, carbon footprint, digital advertising and so on make that irrelevant. If something important happens now, I want to read about it now, not in a month’s time.
Then there is the more serious nature of the business model. More and more companies are investing heavily in our industry in digital marketing. Be it B2B or B2C. You only need to look at the drastic year-on-year increases in digital advertising in general in the UK in the past decade. Companies know that their audience is always online, so that’s where their content and advertising needs to be. You see it with some of our major manufacturers spending big bucks on digital marketing to get in front of their key demographics. If you fail to change your business model whilst everything else around you is changing, expect to fail.
Using our industry’s media as an example again, you can see how some publications have seen this change and are adapting to it. Some have invested in quality websites, using social media well to circulate content. Some are building an online library of their digital publications, which is a far more convenient, relevant, modern and environmentally friendly way of keeping previous content in view. Some however are not, and only sparingly keep their digital offerings updated. For those who understand that digital is changing everything, including how we consume news, they will pick up new business from advertisers. For those who are more Kodak and less Apple, that egg timer is almost out of sand.
Moore’s law. It applies in so many ways, not just technology. Ignore the future at your peril.
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