http://www.globalchange.com future of retail.The future of global ICT (information and communications technology)
The future is about convergence and divergence. The industry trend is for companies, products and services to converge – but many of the most important future innovations in ICT will be divergent: doing things differently to serve customers better.
Firstly we are seeing accelerating convergence on a global scale eg computer software, hardware and mobile companies (Microsoft /Nokia, Google / Motorola). Expect rapid convergence of telcos and banking. Mobile payments are being driven by growth in emerging markets. 70% of all mobile payments take place in the fastest growing economies, mainly in Africa eg m-Pesa, which now handles 33% of Kenya’s GDP.
Expect a mobile-based global revolution in banking. Over 1.7 billion mobile users have no access to banking or insurance. Expect at least 400 million of those to access their first banking services in the next 4-5 years using a mobile device. Expect telcos or banks to offer complete packages of free devices, free web access, free entertainment, free calls and so on, in exchange for customers agreeing to replace their bank cards with mobile payments.
We need to think “Beyond Mobile” to embrace the “Internet of Things”: a world where trillions of devices are able to talk to each other, broadcasting and storing information about their location, identity and relationship to other things. Most of these devices will be the size of a grain of sand. They are increasingly part of the clothes we wear, the components inside the products we buy, built into other electronic devices, into buildings, tickets.
We have already seen huge gains in manufacturing, wholesale, logistics and distribution efficiencies as a result. However the biggest prize of all will not be in manufacturing, but in marketing. Combining Big Data to predict what a customer is likely to be thinking and feeling about next.
In a convergent world, every technology ends up looking the same, with a very similar operating system, similar specifications. Convergence can lead to a very boring world for consumers where the only way left to compete is on price – a very dangerous way to try to make money.
All real innovation is by definition divergent: doing things differently to serve customers better. Divergent companies can charge a premium price, if they change people’s lives for the better. But divergent products are usually imitated very fast. Before long, what was unusual and special, becomes common and un-remarkable. So companies need to go on diverging from what they have done in the past, constantly exploring new horizons.
So where does divergence and fresh innovation come from? Often if comes from being really close to customers: understanding exactly how they often feel and think in different situations. Divergent thinking is often easier in smaller companies which are able to create the future in radical, fresh ways.