Jack, my fellow co-founder, and I have argued on more than one occasion about who the better performer was. Apparently, this is an incendiary subject.
I won’t share my own personal views publicly for fear of reprisal from ‘the other side’, but I will impart a touch of shared wisdom: Whoever you prefer, the pair are forever connected by era – something we cannot or should not reprise – and their ability to reinvent themselves.
The king & queen of pop were musical mainstays for generations. From ABC; to Billie Jean; to Man in the Mirror; to Earth Song. From Like a Virgin; to Vogue; to Ray of Light; to Music. They have and continue to appeal to young and old, new and not.
Talented performers have come and gone; their refrains lost to history. Those that endure manage to evolve along with their craft and consistently find new fans, reinforcing their appeal.
Like so many of us now, their business was change, and they excelled at it.
You may have seen this doing the rounds again on your preferred social channel. Every couple of years, it rears its striking head, heralding a fresh wave of likes and claps and shares. Rightly so, it embraces change and responsibility, the entrepreneurial toolkit that fares particularly well in times of crisis.
Nike is amongst the most culturally relevant brands ever, and they’ve been cool since the 70s. They’ve innovated in product development, communications and marketing. They’ve taken sides and taken risks. They, like MJ & Madge, are masters of reinvention.
I joked with a friend recently that the world has just figured out what the internet is.
Websites have been around for a few decades now. Every business has one; many individuals have their own.
Websites have acted as digital storefronts for most traditional, bricks & mortar businesses, outlining services and products, introducing teams and ideals, and connecting customers with contact or purchase options.
They’re digital kiosks for many, extensions of their current business. ‘You have to come into the store to buy’ necessarily lead to ‘you have to come to our website to buy’. And that was more than satisfactory.
But if people only know of your website through your offline offer, then, simply, you’ve misunderstood what the internet does.
Most traditional business models work in the same way, integrating products & services (for a supermarket this would be their supply chain, providing a rich variety of products) and controlling distribution (a physical storefront in a location you had to visit to buy said products).
The internet opens up the once-narrow window of distribution. No longer do you have to be or go anywhere, you can just order. If you can fulfil a physical order, you could have buyers in far-flung corners of the globe. Even better, if your product can be delivered digitally, then your potential market is only limited by how utile, intriguing and differentiated your product is.
A supermarket offering home delivery to the same audience that used to visit the store probably has a website. A supermarket offering national delivery to those that would never have been able to visit the store is taking advantage of the internet.
And a supermarket that creates a product it can sell online with no physical footprint and a low-to-no marginal cost, is no longer a supermarket alone.
The tsunami-sized ripples through the economic landscape brought on by Covid-19 (read our series on Coronavirus here) have fundamentally changed how we interact with each other. We’re distanced by 2m in person, separated by mistrust in mindset, and disintermediated as much as we are connected by technology.
Covid-19 is forcing us to change. Where we once had options, we now have none.
Now you have to work from home. You have to stay in on a Friday night. You have to talk to your loved ones via a device. In turn, you’re now that much more likely to order online instead of wandering out your door, turn to the TV or computer for entertainment in favour of a game or gig, or install an app that supports what you used to manage in person.
As consumer’s relationships with bricks & mortar establishments have eroded – their habits undermined and diverted – so has their connection with a brand’s online offering. After all, if you told me that your website was just ‘your business online’, and I no longer need your business, then I’m liable to head elsewhere.
Netflix is not a technology business; they use digital distribution to share content with a wide, global audience. Their approach has changed how people watch TV and changed how other industries consider content production. Their model became defensible due to their brand and following, and they’ve deepened the moat by now crafting their own content.
Deliveroo is not a technology business; they’ve aggregated food supply and integrate logistics to deliver food to a wide, local audience. Their approach has changed how people eat and how restaurants & bars prepare their offer. They have a following. They’re creating their own content.
Distinct from technology – neither of the examples above has proprietary tech that distinguishes them – digital has and continues to transform industries, from media to manufacturing and the majority between.
Digital, not technology, is the great enabler of rapid change: The internet is the foundation, but people visit websites and click on apps.
Digital channels are agile. They can be changed in seconds and adapted to any proposition.
They’re enduring. They’ll be online through weekends, holidays and existential crises.
They can reach the most people with the least cost and, vitally, put you in control of the data you receive, the oil of the digital era.
And when they work coherently and in unison with social, email, engines and aggregators, they can increase visibility exponentially. They can become the business, not solely support it.
Post-Covid, no investor should look at a model that fails to incorporate technology at its core, define practices to bend the business based on data and utilise digital to provide an offer clearly delineated from the offline proposition.
Amid-Covid, you can start to change how your customers interact with your business, what your core proposition is, or even how your industry operates.