It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the internet has dramatically changed the way that we all live, interact, shop and do business over the last twenty years. The digital revolution has swept us all along in its wake, creating the kind of generational shift that only happens once every hundred years. Arguably you would have to look back to the dawn of the motor car and air travel for a similar model of disruptive technology, and maybe even then the impact was slower and less widely felt. Many would say that the industrial revolution is a closer comparison. In short, the changes wrought by the development of the internet have been radical, far-reaching and transformational on a scale that the business leaders of the mid-to-late twentieth century could never have anticipated.
History keeps moving
Twenty years ago, there was a great deal of knowledgeable talk about how we had reached the end of history. But since then history has moved on to the extent that the daily life of the ordinary American citizen is nearly unrecognizable, thanks to our reliance on cellphones, laptops, and tablets to work, shop, socialize and mediate almost every aspect of our existence. We’ve taken this change largely in our stride, but every so often it’s salient to look back and consider just how far we’ve all come.
We mentioned the invention of the automobile and the airline earlier by way of comparison, and the travel industry is a perfect example of the changes that have occurred- and are still taking place. The days when booking a vacation meant a visit to a high street travel agent, who would manage everything from arranging your flights and hotels to mapping out an itinerary are mostly over. Now it’s commonplace to make your travel and accommodation plans yourself, using online booking sites like Expedia or dealing direct with airlines’ and hotel companies’ own websites.
Making your own bookings at home means that there’s no pressure, and you can use comparison sites to seek out the best deals, while visiting review sites like Trip Advisor to see what other people thought of the locations you’re considering. You can book a table in a restaurant on the other side of the world a month in advance, or find all the information you need after arriving in a strange city in real time, simply by swiping your phone.
More people are traveling than ever before as low-cost airlines pass on the savings made by processes like online check-ins to their customers. Big high street travel agents like Thomas Cook have survived by moving online and keeping selected high street outlets open as part of a multi-channel strategy. Their main asset is their brand- they remain a name that people trust amid the bewildering choice of the worldwide web.
At the same time, however, travelers are embracing disruptive models such as Air BnB, which is forcing traditional hotels to rethink their game. 9% of UK and US travelers have rented space in a private home via the site, and this figure will only grow. Air BnB combines the convenience and low cost of an online service with the unique human quality of staying with an ordinary person in their home, rather than in a standardized hotel room.
The Uber model
The success of Uber runs along similar lines, with the online app connecting passengers and drivers for greater convenience, less cost and more of a sense of control and agency for those needing rides. The Uber model is rapidly spreading to other industries, such as freight logistics. Companies like Convoy and Cargomatic connect companies with goods to ship to waiting truckers, and similar models are being applied to ocean shipping. Meanwhile, Flexe brands itself as Air BnB for warehouse space.
The digital generation
As well as giving better value for money and convenience, these online services also appeal to a younger generation who expect to interact with the world digitally and have no patience with slow-moving traditional models. In 2016, US lotteries generated $80m in revenue, but they weren’t connecting with the 18-35 age group. That meant that even though the industry appeared to be healthy, its prospects were shaky if the next generation wasn’t interested in playing.
The solution was to offer the opportunity to buy and track state lottery tickets online. Using a lottery messenger service, players can choose numbers, order tickets and stay up to date with the latest jackpots and announcements in the Ca lottery, as well as tracking their tickets and having the option of pooling winnings with other players.
Convenience and choice
Other forms of gaming are also moving online, as the massive popularity of online video gaming and eSports proves. Why go to the trouble of visiting a bricks and mortar casino or amusement arcade when you can play securely in the privacy of your home, alone or with friends, or even with friends from around the world that you’ve never even met face to face?
Digital entertainment as a service recognizes that we value the experience more than owning a product. With so many spectacles competing for our attention- and our shelf-space- convenience and choice outdoes physical ownership. As a result, the music industry has massively changed, with physical record collecting becoming a niche market while the rest of us stream our favorite songs online. And while we may still go to the local cinema to see the latest blockbuster on the big screen, movie streaming services like Netflix have contributed to the demise of home video rentals, and even DVDs are rapidly becoming obsolete clutter.
Book and record stores are disappearing from our high streets and are moving online, while our own collections are increasingly virtual and stored on the cloud, ready to be accessed from our devices wherever we may be at the time. While we’re Uber-ing from the airport to our Air BnB, we don’t want to be weighed down with books and CDs- though if we do need a physical delivery we can book and track it on our phones and have it delivered to the location of our choice. And with drone deliveries and even 3D printing waiting in the wings, the digital revolution is far from over. In fact, it may have only just begun.