Digital disruption is a term we hear banded around a lot, especially within media and advertising circles. We are in the thick of a digital revolution, where technology is changing the way we behave at an alarming rate. Whilst most acknowledge this, it is easy to forget just how far we’ve come in an extremely short space of time – we’ve gone from playing Snake on our Nokia 3310s to ordering Taxis on our smart watches in little over 10 years. The scale of change is staggering.
For consumers, it’s widely considered to be a good thing – it’s hard to imagine how we functioned without smartphones and all the benefits they bring. If we just take the changing retail landscape in recent years – its astonishing. The phrase “I’ll just buy that on Amazon” is often heard from people browsing brick and mortar stores on the High Street. In fact, around 20% of consumers claim to have purchased an item on their phones, whilst actually looking at it in the shop. I read an interesting article recently, outlining just how far the internet and tech has given power to the consumer. Back in the day, if you wanted to buy something – car insurance for example – you were at the mercy of whoever was behind the counter or on the end of the phone. More often than not, you paid a premium for the access to knowledge that the salesperson had and you didn’t. How were you to know the ins-and-outs of a complex offering, let alone the best price? Now it couldn’t be simpler – 81% of consumers conduct online research before buying – scrutinising online reviews, product information and comparing prices.
So far digital has largely made the process of accessing stuff we want a lot quicker and easier. But with developments like 3D printing starting to hit the mainstream consumer market, consumers will actually be able to create what they want, from toys to medical apparatus to musical instruments. So from having access to pretty much anything we want through digital channels, we will soon be able to physically make it ourselves in the comfort of our own homes.
An interesting BBC article recently interviewed an Economist who predicted, in 1976, the collapse of the previously indestructible music industry with the dawn of the MP3. We’ve seen with brands like Uber and Netflix the extent to which digital is disrupting big industries, with household brands like Blockbuster falling by the wayside.
Many brands are doing what they can to brace themselves for the storm – overhauling operations, and putting digital at the centre of their offering and day-to-day activities. Advertisers are at the forefront of this disruption, and need to keep their fingers on the pulse to mirror the changes in consumer behaviour. As a minimum brands need to offer a consistent user experience across the range of devices consumers are now using.
It will be fascinating to see how the big brands of today move and shake up their businesses, and which ones fail to deal with the scale of change that digital technology is bringing to the mass market.