The evolution of technology and industry is not linear.
It has been claimed that rather than one industrial revolution, there are (or were) actually three – the first was the recognised mechanisation of industry to make it easier in the later 1700s, followed by the early 20th century when pioneers such as Henry Ford created and perfected the moving assembly line, slicing the length of time to create products. Now we’re well into the third revolution – the digitisation of industry.
Although computational technology has existed for several decades in one form or another, the advent of the internet has distributed power to us all. Now anyone can build their own business in an hour, buying and selling and distributing and negotiating using inexpensive personal computers and phone lines.
If you have no knowledge of retail, learn it through an online course and attend seminars being filmed anywhere from Canberra to California. It’s easy to set up a secure payment portal and quick to get it sent out – indeed, some people have made very successful businesses from acting as the ‘go-between’ in the process, and barely ever touch a product. The screen is our catalogue, the keyboard is our bartering tool.
Sales giants such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Craigslist allow us to search for new or second hand items. Other, smaller sites cater for niche products, with of course an option to speak to an expert. Some retailers offer same day delivery. Even larger items are now changed beyond recognition. We can buy a business or a car or a boat from our armchair.
Let’s also take the example of housing. Who would ever have believed 20 years ago that we could purchase or offload homes online, to people on the other side of the planet? Video and flash technology allows us to take a tour of the home, in full 360 degrees. If we want to speak to an expert we could pick up the phone, or we could speak to them on Skype and process the sale online through a company such as HouseSimple.com, accessing relevant documents via a shared portal as we do so.
Not only can we buy or sell a home online, but we can also crowdfund the property purchase, so we can own a segment of a flat in London or Manchester with 50 people we’ve never met and never will. We can calculate our potential mortgage, then apply for it, then get a decision – all within a minute or so.
Of course, marketing professionals have realised that buying online is simple, but the process for getting the buyers there in the first place is anything but. The marketing funnel is designed to attract people towards a product and eventually for them to buy it and become an advocate for it. Really, that applies to anything from an item of clothing to a home; the seller is desperate for people to like the way they did business, for speed, delivery, and value, and wants everyone to know via social media and reviews and more purchases.
The message is this – don’t rule out buying or selling anything online. Even though you may never meet the buyer, or even know their name, the 21st century way of doing business is online.