In a rapidly changing world, it is vital to adopt a long-term vision to ensure that our projects and our society are “future-proof” and sustainable in the long term. In both retail and real estate, digitisation is a key component of this vision and your strategy. With these inspiring examples, we will explain how digitisation is now having an impact on all sectors. It’s quite simple: soon there won’t be any offline businesses without an online element. And to be able to keep up with the latest innovations, working in partnership seems to be the best solution.
The wave of digitisation began with the Internet in the early 2000s, before a new era dawned with the advent of social media which created marketing 2.0. Innovation is happening at increasing speed: today, 5G and AI are just around the corner. In 2020, we saw the greatest digital transformation to date. It has affected every aspect of our lives and it has affected all sectors, even those we thought were entirely people-oriented.
6 examples of areas revolutionised by digitisation
Who would have thought that it would be possible, in just a few days, to change from a working world in which almost 95% of workers (in Europe) travelled almost every day to work to widespread remote working for office jobs? 2020 has shown us that such disruptive changes are possible because the technologies already existed. Tomorrow, they may allow a safe return to the workplace: counting the number of people in a room, quickly taking their temperature at the entrance to the office, automatically measuring and adjusting the air quality and more.
Everything which was once thought to be unimaginable online actually had to happen online: from closing a sale by video-conference to organising international summits and one-on-one coaching sessions.
For many organisations, the return to face-to-face work will not be as straightforward or as widespread as initially expected and the role of offices could change permanently.
- Retail is experiencing the introduction of a hybrid form of retail and e-commerce: e-tail, which consists of selling retail products online.
One of the most well-known forms of e-tail is Click & Collect and Walmart, the American retail giant, is one of the leading companies when it comes to Click & Collect. After ordering items on its site, customers simply go to an in-store terminal where they scan a code and receive their order within seconds. This option is also available as a drive-in service. Yes, these options already existed, but Walmart has perfected the experience. It even offers to deliver the ordered items directly to your home (and, indeed, to your fridge). Perhaps consumers aren’t ready to move to such a level of convenience? No-one can know until the concept is tested; remember, it’s not the end of the world if the idea doesn’t work. In the future, all companies and organisations will have to adopt a more experimental mode to stay one step ahead when it comes to innovation.
What is equally certain is that we will need a good reason to leave the house in the future, in view of e-commerce and e-tail. A unique experience, an exceptional service: in short, a “unique moving point”, as some people call it, in reference to the “unique selling point”.
- Big data: as we know, big data has enormous potential and companies are increasingly eager to take advantage of this. A recent example: the new SuperPlus card from the Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize. This card provides additional discounts if you opt for healthy products, which is commendable in itself. But it also encourages you to buy more from Delhaize because more valuable benefits are available once you spend a certain amount. And there are further benefits if you share certain private data with Delhaize’s partners.
Surely healthcare is impossible to digitise or automate? Think again. In China, more than 3 million people use the Ping An app which automates part of the medical process. Enter your symptoms and after an initial diagnosis, the app will put you in contact with a doctor who simply has to confirm it and issue a prescription. Medicine is delivered within the next thirty minutes. The company has also set up terminals (known as mobile clinics) outside pharmacies for the same purpose. In this way, Ping An has become the leading medical services company in China because it remedies a serious imbalance between supply and demand in Chinese healthcare.
In 2020, almost all forms of entertainment were online. Netflix was one of the biggest winners with 26 million additional subscribers (source) during the first half of the year. Disney+ was also a big success; the company must still be thrilled by the timing of this new platform’s launch in the United States at the end of 2019.
Covid-19 also disrupted the cinema industry’s calendar. Disney, for example, decided to make its film Mulan immediately available to stream on Disney+. This was a significant risk in terms of profitability. However, Mulan was the fastest Disney film to become profitable. This led Disney to announce that other films will be released online in 2021. There are now questions as to whether the company will ever return to its previous business model. If not, things will become very difficult for cinemas.
5. Real Estate
We’ve observed two trends which will have an impact on real estate in the future:
- Digital building management, with innovative solutions developed by PropTech. Think of services like CozyAir and Polaar Energy which automate air quality and measure your water and electricity consumption, etc. There are many different tools and lots of start-ups are developing others to meet the demands of increasingly demanding (business) customers in this area. Smart buildings as part of smart cities: that’s the goal for the future.
- The sale and rental processes will also benefit from algorithms and AI (machine learning), with the development of tools which can predict sale and rental prices.
6. Industry & logistics
In these sectors, automation and digitisation can help us to:
- work less on a just-in-time basis;
- optimise the use of space;
- make projects or products more environmentally friendly.
The following example illustrates this last objective. Verstraete is a leading company when it comes to printing labels for plastic trays. Together with their customers (which include Unilever, which is now focusing on “no more plastic”), they have developed an innovative technology to print the product label directly on the packaging, rather than sticking it on, because these labels prevent the trays from being recycled. Being part of the solution will be an increasingly important factor in the future.
Ultimate convenience & purpose, the holy grail
Consumers are more critical and increasingly seek to buy from companies which provide society with added value. This is what we call purpose. Of course, sustainability and protecting the environment are a part of this. And this now concerns industries in their entirety, rather than just small sections of them.
More than ever, consumers are looking for instant gratification or the ultimate convenience. They no longer want to queue at the shops or even to see a doctor, as we have seen in the examples above.
We have seen how digitisation can be used in these areas. We believe that technology must be embraced wholeheartedly when it helps us to work and live better. But it must never be an end in itself and we must not fall into the traps of a loss of contact or a lack of trust. Contact with customers and transparency remain key for a sustainable business, in our view, even in an era of digitisation.
Partnerships to keep pace with innovation
Are you struggling to keep up with all the latest trends and innovations? That’s understandable – even experts in digitisation agree. That’s why they, like us, advocate a new way of working based on partnerships, including cross-industry partnerships. Partnerships help to accelerate innovation and create synergies for win-win collaborations.
In response to the hegemony of the major players in digitisation, this is the healthiest and most intelligent reaction: working as a resilient and agile ecosystem of smaller players who can capitalise on collective intelligence.
As you can tell, here at GeoConsulting, we believe in digitisation and partnerships.
Would you like to discuss your e-tail strategy or your plans to build smart offices?