‘There’s no substitute for pace’ was muttered to me by an elderly chap as I stood and watched South African wing Bryan Habana tear through the English defence. He had a point, the devastating pace of the winger not only wrong footed the opponents but left them in his wake.
The same can be applied in business, today probably more than ever before. The arrival and evolution of new technologies is driving change across all sectors but there are few moving quite as quickly as the retail sector. The sector is moving so fast that it’s even catching many of its biggest names off guard and unprepared in their bid to attract and retain customers.
Admittedly it’s always been one of the fastest paced sectors, but in the last few weeks we’ve seen profit warnings from the UK’s most successful retailer and the closure of one of the country’s leading mobile phone outlets.
So what’s happening and what can be done? In a nutshell it seems that many of the biggest players are not reacting quickly enough to consumer behaviours or entrenching themselves behind the dangerous notion that “we’ve always done it this way”.
The point is illustrated through new figures from the ONS that reveal that three quarters of the UK’s population bought goods or services online in 2014, up from 53% in 2008. It’s also not just the younger generations that are shopping online, 40% of those aged 65 and over made an online purchase in 2014, up from just 16% in 2008.
Whether via phones, laptops or tablets today more than 38 million British adults access the Internet every single day – that’s 76% of the population and an increase from 21 million in 2006. For Morrisons to be finalising their on-line offering at this late stage is perhaps indicative of the retailer’s recent woes.
It’s not just retailers that are faced with rapidly changing markets. Internet banking has risen significantly, with more than half (53%) of adults now use Internet banking regularly, up from 30% in 2007, with those over age 65 more likely to use online banking than social networking.
Traditional sectors such as insurance, law and media are also under pressure to change and react to the evolving market demands or ways of working. Already more than 60% of online search traffic across the financial services sector is dominated by comparison websites, at the expense of established banking and FS brands. While in the current accounts market, direct retail brands accounted for 80% of the ten most visible online brands in 2012-13 but 12 months later, this has fallen just 50%.
The reality is that change is omnipresent and success often dependent on an individual’s or organisation’s desire to change or their attitude towards it. What’s more, change is now happening so fast that unless its management is regarded as part of day to day operations, there’s potential that even the most successful businesses could be left behind.