The impact technology has had on traditional business can be determined by examining its usefulness, application and demand. The purpose of this paper is to explore the evolution of traditional business models to incorporate technological innovations as they are developed and to examine the benefits and disadvantages to consumers and businesses.
Over the last two decades we have witnessed a fundamental shift in the way traditional business is conducted. This shift is due an exponential evolution in technology. Research conducted by the University of Oxford depicted a timeline in which technology has taken to reach 50 million users as representation of the heights in which technology can reach.
It stated that it taken 75 years for the Telephone, 38 years for Radio, 13 years for Television and only 4 years for the internet to reach 50 million users [see figure 1]. With these statistics in mind it is not hard to see the importance of integrating technology into the traditional business model, if a business chooses is to remain stagnant in the process, this could prove catastrophic in their long-term future.
This report will cover the incredible journey of the evolution of technology and how it has not only changed the characteristics of how consumers shop but also how it has impacted business’ as a result. It will look at the tangible and intangible benefits of the online platform and what amalgamating both traditional and digital business models can do for a company’s growth.
The use of technology has become common place in the business industry today although, this wasn’t always the case.
Before the integration of technology, businesses had to conduct all their processes and operation using man power, they would source their stock by meeting with potential suppliers in person. This meant travelling hours and various meetings for updates along each stage of production, before the delivery off their stock, assuming the order was fulfilled on time. This method cost time, money and often mistrust on both the buyer and suppliers end. Office management was also a slow process that consisted of documenting all transactions and monitoring inventory, payrolls, employees and customer details using a paper filing system. Marketing methods would entail printed advertisements in the form of billboards and magazine covers which cost a lot of money for a short period of display. The use of direct mail to customers and distributing flyers and brochures locally.
When companies started to integrate computers into their offices in the late 19th century it made these processes a lot easier and brought about office automation. Computers and accompanying software were able to complete complex calculations making transactions faster, facilitating employees to easily manage inventory and receive updates when a product was running low on stock making their operations more efficient and less time consuming. The digitisation of a company’s employee and customer records saved physical space and ensured security of sensitive data.
Progression didn’t stop at back office processes. The development of the Internet in the late 1990s enabled Instant connectivity with the use of Email and instant messaging. Communication with employees, suppliers and customers became an easy process and allowed for a faster response time in emergencies and a more relaxed time frame for less urgent issues. Email marketing was incorporated and was used to send daily newsletters to customers on upcoming new arrivals and discounts on their existing stock.
The creation of the Internet took the world by storm and provided a new virtual platform to not only conduct business but to connect with people all around the world in real time. It meant that business was no longer localised or restricted to relying on customers travelling to their physical store. The ability to create a website and a virtual online shopping experience brought new meaning to the world of consumerism. Businesses were able to showcase their products and services on a virtual store that is omnipresent with the capabilities of global reach providing them with the means to distribute their business internationally. The introduction of new intermediaries such as PayPal provided a safe and secure method of paying for goods and services online for consumers.
Technological innovation continued to flourish and advancement in the tech industry brought another milestone in the form of Mobile Technology that completely revolutionised the way we interact with the world and conduct our everyday lives. In 2003 3G mobile Internet was adopted successfully worldwide, paving the entry of the smartphone in 2007 .
Mobile technology has greatly impacted the consumer and the characteristics of their shopping habits. Many retailers realised the need to make their website mobile responsive, meaning their website can be viewed with ease on any device including smartphones. The convenience of being able to conduct research on the brands they like and to discover new offers for the same items while in the comfort of their home or while in another store has made consumers smarter shoppers. E – commerce platforms connecting manufactures directly to consumers illustrated disintermediation giving customers the advantage of transparent pricing. They receive bigger discounts on the same goods and the merchant can raise profits while keeping their prices low.
Established traditional businesses were able to utilise this technology and all it had to offer. Their years of building a reputation and customer database meant they could analyse the data they previously accumulated to further personalise their existing customers experience while targeting new customers by creating an online e-commerce store. By setting up an e- commerce store for a small monthly fee compared to that of a physical store meant that monetary resources could be used in the digital marketing of their products.
Collecting data by closely monitoring their customers use of their websites, tracking what products they view and which they buy or abandon in their shopping cart could be used to specifically target customers. The use of correct keywords within content on an online store could drive traffic from all over the world with the use of search engine optimisation a feature used on search engines such as Google. Banner advertisements can also be placed on other websites that have content relating to the same products. Digital advertising is a fraction of the cost of traditional print advertisements and can be changed at a moment’s notice without a large fee or time delay.
Arguably one of greatest benefits to a business’ digital marketing strategy is social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As of 2018 Facebook has 2.34 billion monthly active users . Social media offers the most granular way for a business to segment the market by analysing profile data to know who they are advertising to and taking attributes that best match them to their products, whether it be male or female, demographical location or interests.
To see how consumers, interact with a brand is a unique advantage of social media. Although, this needs to be monitored from a business perspective. When a customer shops with a brand they have the option of leaving a review on their website or social media account since most e- commerce stores have a social media account attached via hyperlink. Good reviews can create viral buzz for a brand and its products which is essentially free advertising. Although, however a flip side to this, when a customer is unhappy with the experience or product received either due to delivery delays, damaged product or simply does not live up its expectations, there are ways of making this known. They take to social media and website communities for product reviews to announce their dissatisfaction in order to get a prompt response from the brand. This accelerates resolutions in the customers favour as a brand does not want the bad press and need to remain diligent in keeping their online reputation to a high standard.
Not all traditional retailers predicted the need for an online presence. As was the case for Blockbuster retail outlet CEO John Antioco. In 2000, Reed Hasting the founder of Netflix approached Antioco with an idea to become partners. Reed would create and run Blockbusters brand online and Blockbusters stores would promote Netflix . John Antioco refused the idea, for at the time Blockbuster was the leading Video outlet with over 9,000 stores and earning over $800 million a year on late fees alone, which accounted for around 16% of their revenue .
Reeds proposal entailed adopting their existing business model to accommodate customers and charging a subscription fee in exchange for keeping the DVDs for as long as they wanted if they were subscribed. This meant taking away late fees which Blockbuster wasn’t willing to lose the profits from that revenue. Soon thereafter John Antioco became realised that Netflix was a growing threat and tried to secure their future by proposing cancellation of the late fees that upset customers and investing in a digital platform for the company, but his idea was later rejected by the board.
This decision cost Blockbuster the ultimate price, their company’s survival. In 2010 Blockbuster went bankrupt and only 2 stores remain open as of 2019 while Netflix is worth an estimated 28 billion dollars . While Blockbusters traditional business model had its merits, it was inevitably the inability to take risks and merge a new concept that proved detrimental to company’s success.
Computing systems are now being programmed to think and act as humans do, or as it is better known Artificial Intelligence (AI). Computing systems that can process data and information to imitate human processes such as learning, reasoning and self-correction. The first concept of AI was conceived in the 1950s by various teams of Scientists, Mathematicians and Computer scientists although, at that time computers had to undergo various fundamental changes before the concept could be put into practice .
Progress with AI is accelerating, and we are seeing different versions of AI being used in business’ every day, Telecommunications and speech recognition software such as Amazons Alexa to name a few. Amazon has created a business that uses AI and converges the latest technological inventions with e – commerce and traditional business models to give its customers convenience and ease of shopping in a shop and go store. They aptly named the new establishment Amazon Go.
Amazon Go combines technology such as Artificial intelligence, weight sensors, cameras and QR code Scanning software to provide a complete automated shopping experience that has no cash registers and no ques to purchased products, which was there main motivation behind the research and creation of such a store .
To shop at the retail store a customer must download their app, an application downloaded onto their mobile device. The app will generate a personalised QR code, to be scanned to enter the store. Hundreds of cameras are placed at every angle of the score to keep track of every customer. Sensor fusion software is then used to combine data from cameras and weight sensors on the shelves to monitor which items have been lifted for purchase and added to a virtual cart . If the item is placed back the customer will not be charged. When the customer is finished shopping, they leave, no checkout, no ques just an email with a receipt of each item purchased that is billed to their Amazon account, the receipt even tells the customer how long they spent in the store. The software also keeps track of inventory to reorder when needed. The store saves the data accumulated to offer promotions and make suggestions to customers before they shop.
Upon evaluation the self-service shop has its benefits it is not without its concerns. Consumers may be concerned for their privacy and may not be comfortable with a company obtaining and storing so much information on them although this seems to be the cost of convenience. The requirement to shop in the store is a recent generation iPhone or Android device to be able to gain entry with the QR Code. This may prove problematic as the older generation including the elderly have not converted to smartphone use as there is a lack of understanding for the technology. However, Amazon Go seems to be proving popular as there are plans in motion to expand.
The first Amazon Go store opened in January 2018 in Seattle, today there are now a total of 11 stores with 8 in Seattle and Chicago and 3 in San Francisco . There are plans in motion to open a store in late 2019 in London . The only employees that work in the store are chiefs in the kitchen preparing the readymade meals and employees to stock shelves and help customers when needed. The software is that sophisticated they won’t divulge any more details as most of it is proprietary, and still it opens new possibilities for the future of retailers.
Predictions for the future impact of technology on traditional business have been speculated by many with productions under way to create a more complex and intuitive version of Artificial Intelligence by a company named Zippin of Silicon Valley . Their objective is to provide customers with directions to any product within a store and even make suggestions on foods that may accompany the product you are searching for. Zippin have also developed and tested similar software to that of Amazon Go and although, unlike Amazon they plan to make it mainstream by selling to retailers . There have been suggestions that The AI software is currently being programmed to think smarter and to give customers recommendations by voice when they enter a store, for example if a customer has had a doctor’s appointment that revealed high cholesterol, when they shop in a store with the software the computer assistant could make suggestions for food to help reduce Cholesterol. One thing is for sure traditional business are in the process of evolving, mutating and adopting new and innovative technology to keep on top of current trends to not only satisfy customers but to remain competitive in today’s industry.
We have seen technology how has evolved, adopted and mutated to enhance not only the business industry but also our daily lives. When used in conjunction with traditional business models, technological innovations can be powerful tools in the expansion and growth of a business to ensure its future in the industry. As we have uncovered in this report research and development continues to bring consumers easier, faster and more convenient ways to shop on the move and with as little human interaction as possible, as we are witnessing with Amazon Go. From the early days of office processes to elaborate self service stores it is exciting to think what the future holds for technology as it continues to become an integral part of our lives.