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In times where everything is changing at a rapid pace, one wishes they had a crystal ball.
In times where everything is changing at a rapid pace, one wishes they had a crystal ball.

Has retail changed forever? - Free eMag

People now shop in many different ways thanks to technology and social media. COLEBY NICHOLSON says consumers not businesses are driving the changes. Read a FREE report on how the Digital age can work for you.   

I’m not in the business of predicting the future. Apart from the fact that it’s the job of economists to forecast, I’m simply not very good at offering accurate prophecy. I learned that hard lesson many years ago as publisher of a computer magazine called MacNews.

It was August 1989 and I had become a father. Like most new dads, I was thinking about what the world would be like when my son was a few years older, so I wrote a story in which I made various predictions about changes in technology by the time my son was three years old. 

As a starting point I predicted we’d be able to dial a phone number and see the other person via your computer – not a bad prediction, but it didn’t happen as quickly as I imagined. 

In the same article I predicted that a computer mouse would be redundant by the end of 1993. That is, I thought computers would react to visual stimulation – look at the scroll bar and it would scroll; look at “file” and the drop-down menu would appear.

Way off on that one, right? Well, it got worse! 

I said that almost everything in your home – heating, electricity, appliances – would be computer controlled and that you would be able to connect your car to your computer to advise the mechanic what was wrong. 

Coleby Nicholson
Coleby Nicholson
I made other predictions that seemed sensible at the time but few have become a reality, let alone within the three years. Maybe my crystal ball was a little foggy that day but now you can see why I am reluctant to predict anything, and especially to put it in print!

These days, I leave the crystal-ball gazing to people more skilled than myself, though I’ve heard economists described as “people who have a 50 per cent chance of predicting history”.

My 1989 article concluded by saying that the computer will be far more than just an information box – a tool to get things done – and that “turning on your Apple Mac will allow access to the whole world”.

Maybe you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that but keep in mind that in 1989 the general public had never heard of the world wide web, which existed only in academic research labs – the Mosaic web browser, the turning point of the internet, wasn’t launched for another four years. So while I had a little foresight, I grade my overall predictions with an F but I’d still like to make some observations about the future.

We all know how the internet has changed business and we’ve already witnessed the staggering growth of e-commerce. While the jewellery industry has often been accused of being slow to embrace the digital age, I believe we are witnessing another seismic shift, even though many in the industry are already way behind the first shift.

My observation – not prediction! – is that social media has passed the fad stage and is now a trend, the difference being that fads are short-lived behaviour whereas a trend develops into permanent change. 

The worrying thing is not only that many retailers and suppliers are so far behind that they can’t see – or fail to acknowledge – how new media has changed the way consumers shop, but that the same retailers and suppliers are going to find it almost impossible to play catch-up.

Social media, in its many guises, is becoming a vital ingredient to all retail businesses and there is no sense in hoping it will go away – all the “noise” about social media will just get louder.  The only difference this time is that the changes are happening faster than anything previous because customers, and not businesses propel them.

That’s why we decided to help you navigate the sometimes-murky waters of a rapidly changing retail environment with our Digital & Social Media Guide. Interestingly, we have used our own digital eMag technology to bring it to you.    

The sad thing is that I know some readers will probably show no interest in the eMag, and I predict – yes predict - that they may well rue the day they continued to ignore the change!


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Friday, 13 December, 2019 01:40pm
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