Growing up in Michigan, we had a saying about the climate: “Don’t like the weather? Just wait five minutes.”
Constant change, for better and worse, also applies to the business world and technology in particular. In no other industry can one go from laggard to leader (and back to laggard again) with such head-spinning speed.
In my very first blog post, back on Nov. 8, 2012, I invited readers to look at Best Buy’s troubles. You could have bought the stock for about $15. Today, it’s over $35. Back then, $15 also would have bought you a share of Barnes & Noble. Today, it will cost you over $22.
I won’t claim that the recovery evident in these two companies is a product of embracing every mobile marketing tactic and technology touted in these columns before, e.g. smartphones, mobile payments, beacons, integrated marketing, and more. It is clear, though, that retail is punching back with technological innovation that has mobile at its core.
- In-store apps are on the rise. As this article notes, stores are providing indoor maps to help shoppers find what they want more quickly. They’re incorporating mobile wallets that can warehouse loyalty card information, and they’re making it easy to look on their websites for similar goods if what customers want isn’t available on the shelf.
- Retailers are making at-home shopping easier: Many stores, including Home Depot and Best Buy, allow customers to order online and pick up at the store. Starbucks will roll out an app feature that allows customers to order even before they get to the coffee shop.
- Beacons and mobile payments are happening: The next few times you buy something, ask the clerk if he has seen anyone recently pay with a smartphone. More and more, their answer these days is “yes.”
This is not a clarion call for everyone with a brick-and-mortar presence to accept every technology, or even just the ones most en vogue. Instead, there are two big ideas worth considering.
- Don’t let technology be the tail that wags the dog. Instead, start by asking what opportunities, if pursued, will have the most out-sized impact on your business. What problems, if solved, will produce the most benefits? Chances are very good that you’ll have many choices of technologies and people who can implement them. That sounds like a much better approach to picking what technology to use than just chasing the latest fad or thinking of tech as a checklist you need to cross off.
- Fortunes do change. If you’re struggling today, your fate is not sealed. You have more time and more resilience than you may be willing to admit. Similarly, if you’re riding high, you can’t afford to stop thinking about your next move. Even if you have to inflict some pain on your business to move forward, better that you do it before your competition does.
Today’s pace of technological change is faster than at any time in human history, but if you take a deep breath, you’ll realize that you have more control over change than you may have realized.