DIGITAL TIMES FOR BUSINESSES: SINK OR SWIM?


Marketing & Business
piece written on the 25th February 2018 by  

The world is changing before our eyes. Consumers are behaving differently and businesses have to adapt to survive. The most obvious example of this is how businesses and consumers talk to each other. In yesteryear, a consumer would go into a shop or make a telephone call if there was a question at hand, but consumers no longer want to do this; a consumer wants to sit at home and be able to easily reach a business. This is happening predominantly through social media.

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If you think back several years ago, had you ever asked a business a question on social media? Probably not, or at least very few of us would have. Ask yourself the same question now, and I bet my bottom dollar that most of you would have reached out to a business via a social channel before getting in your car or making a phone call. This might sound trivial at first thought, but after thinking harder it’s rather clear that this is a massive shift in the world of how businesses and consumers communicate.

These changes are forcing businesses to adapt; a business now needs to be armed with social media accounts on at least Facebook and Twitter. In this regard, we’re purely talking about communication. What about marketing? If consumers are operating on social networks then businesses need to be there and they need to be marketing. It’s not only Facebook and Twitter; it’s Instagram, Snapchat and a myriad of other platforms. The difficulty for businesses is that it’s so much more than just setting up an account; it’s managing the account correctly, and this is a large undertaking for any business.

This change from offline to online is coming to the forefront at a rapid rate, and what we’ve looked at above isn’t anything new. The topics that are flying around at the moment are Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality (AR) is defined as a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, ideally across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. Companies like Ikea have explored AR to allow customers to see how a couch would look in their living room or whether a rug would suit their lounge. Imagine you could see how your new house may look on a plot of land? There’s a whole long list of applications for AR which you may read about here. Virtual Reality (VR) works as the inverse reflection to AR, in that VR creates its own reality whereas AR enhances an experience. The best example of VR that comes to mind is that of being able to simulate a situation to understand what would work best before the situation arises in real life. Imagine being able to truly explore a situation in business prior to it happening. There’s a great article on Forbes that talks more about this.

We’ve looked at social media and the pressures it’s creating, and the rapid rise in popularity around AR and VR, but what we haven’t thought about is How Digital Disruption Is Forcing Businesses To Evolve Their Customer Experience. Let’s look at Airbnb, Uber, Netflix and the likes: These companies have literally changed industries and, with that, there are disadvantages and advantages for businesses that operate within these industries. Hotels which were previously holding a monopoly in an area are now fighting for bums in beds with lots of small hospitality options popping up around them through Airbnb. To the same extent, there is an opportunity–businesses that provide cleaning services are now able to become Airbnb clean-up crews. The point I’m trying to make here is that, with the advancement of the internet, there are opportunities available and there is also most certainly a lot of disruption, and businesses need to adapt quickly to stay in the game.

The concept of social media, I believe, isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. VR and AR aren’t going anywhere either–they are evolutions of technology, not fads. This is how the world is shaping up to be. I suppose everyone said that about Myspace at one point, but although the platform essentially died, the concept of having a place online to put your information is still there in Facebook–it’s just more integrated now. The idea of companies launching in industries and disrupting them isn’t going anywhere either – in fact, this has always been the case, for decades, but it’s accelerated through the newness that is the internet. Evolutions of technology aren’t going anywhere; they’re just changing how we do things.

Take this simple concept of social media and put AR and VR into the mix–both of these incredible technologies will only further accelerate the movement of the digital world. Businesses at the end of the day are going to really have to look at what’s going on in the digital space and look for ways to ensure that they are positioned where consumers are, and able to pivot when required. This puts a huge amount of pressure on businesses and some may argue that businesses are having their hands pushed for them, but it’s a matter of sinking or swimming with the flow.

I feel that 2018 doesn’t hold too much that 2017 didn’t. With that being said, anything that did happen last year will happen this year with far more strength and speed. Forbes reported that spend on VR in business will be $9.2bn by 2021! With that carrot dangling in front of all of us, businesses will be pushing harder and harder to get into that market space, so what happened in 2017 will happen in 2018 far faster as we approach a market size of this nature. I feel that companies need to be really careful about information overload and not allowing themselves to get scattered; they need to rather carefully look at what’s happening, pick the channels that feel correct, and stick to them. Becoming scattered in the information overload era puts businesses in an incredibly difficult position, and those companies that aren’t able to focus are going to spread themselves too thinly, which will ultimately dilute focus and result in problems. Having a partner like Merchants, who asked me to address this topic, work on your company’s business process outsourcing can help you focus and deliver in the important areas of your business.

Image Credit: enterprisersproject.com

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