Businesses and Services in the UK That Need to Modernise to Survive
By on 13th Nov 2019
Sometimes a simple glance at the latest news can quickly indicate that the business landscape in the UK is rapidly changing. It’s certainly apparent with the high street; once bustling city centres are now veritable graveyards of empty shops, and some of the oldest institutions of shopping, synonymous with the UK, have vanished into thin air.
It’s not only shops who are suffering, manufacturing has taken a downturn too, and those who produce cereal, toys, ready meals and bar soap have noticed a large decline in sales in recent years. Blame it on the millenials if you will, but we’re more inclined to think it can be an industry’s refusal to adapt and change to consumer demand that kills it.
An interesting graphic I spotted recently stated something along the lines of ‘Netflix didn’t kill Blockbuster, ridiculous late fees did.’ and ‘AirBnB isn’t killing the hotel industry, limited availability and pricing options are.’ and this made us think. How many businesses are being killed off by their refusal to adapt to and invest in modern technology, rather than anything else?
If you don’t adapt your business to modern developments, someone else will gladly step in and take your place.
Here’s a quick run down of a few businesses and services we believe need technology adoption to survive in the future.
The Post Office and Delivery Couriers
Call us demanding, but we believe most people in the UK now expect to at least be able to choose next day delivery on their online orders, and many stores now even offer the ability to order up to 12 midnight, and still qualify for next day delivery.
How can all couriers reasonably expect to be able to compete with the likes of Amazon on their speedy deliveries? Well we think automated, smart distribution centres might be the first piece of the puzzle.
With the rise of the Internet of Things, more distribution centres need to be considering the inclusion of processing machines and booking systems automatically communicating with one another in increasingly quick and efficient ways. Wearable tech is also on the rise for distribution centre workers, with wrist terminals and finger scanners becoming more commonplace.
To facilitate these tech advancements, distribution centres need to be investing in their IT infrastructure, ensuring their centres have strong-signal, reliable wi-fi.
DHL is leading the way with smart warehouses with several exciting technologies. They have wi-fi technology on all their trucks and portable devices, this enables location tracking, and supervisors can map their workers in order to increase safety and efficiency. They also work extensively with RFID technology and the Internet of Things to keep constant track of the location of their parcels. This sort of technology is invaluable for delivery services, as customers can instantly track the location of their parcels at any time using this data.
DHL's Smart Warehouse Solution
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Aside from distributors, the local post office could also benefit from a few tweaks. Although we have seen the rise of self-service machines, the post office still requires considerable human intervention to process letters and parcels. To invest in the future, perhaps the post office should be considering self-service terminals (in the style of McDonald’s recent advancements) for form requests, or researching AI learning for customer queries.
Public Libraries and Council Services
Walking into most council service buildings, outside of those situated in cities, gives the instant impression of dated technology. Fortunately, most libraries are adapting to self-service checkout of books, but we think they may be missing a trick by not offering downloadable content or streaming services of their archives and digital book collection.
Imagine being able to utilise your local library as a content creator; having access to shared technology as a community. Imagine facilities for podcast recording and listening, VR learning and audio visual search interfaces that allow students to quickly locate necessary books.
Libraries and public services are often left behind with technology due to funding issues, but we strongly believe local government should be investing in IT infrastructure with a view to enable local citizens to learn valuable tech skills that can allow them to improve the local economy.
Automated booking systems could also be of immeasurable value to other local facilities; wouldn’t it be great to be able to book in to your local leisure centre or book a course or event at your community centre ad-hoc?
Sometimes a foot in the door can be as simple as installing a good wi-fi network and combining it with an open source app.
In the not too distant past we saw high-street staple House of Fraser go under, and now Debenhams sits teetering on the edge of disaster too.
Those are just the most famous of the struggling department store names, in recent years we’ve also seen several independent department stores struggle and enter administration, including the country’s oldest department store and Northern Ireland’s oldest department store in Derry.
Adversely, Selfridges is doing quite well, but it’s easy to see at a glance that their business has a reputation for experimenting with new ideas and changing with the times. According to news reports this year, they have already worked with Auxiliary on an Augmented Reality shoe shopping campaign, recognised that second-hand clothing is a growth industry and hosted a pop-up collaboration with Depop and opened an in-store cinema.
Department stores really need to be the pinnacle definition of an ‘experience store’, somewhere people go not just to shop, but to experience the extensive activity of shopping. They need to be able to interact with brands in ways they cannot elsewhere, and need to be placed in awe of things they’ve never seen before, much like how department stores captured their Victorian audiences originally.
There are plenty of reasons high-street clothing retailers are struggling, including poor quality fabrics from fast-fashion, unflattering influencer-led styles and a lack of inclusivity across body types and style preferences, but perhaps managers would know this if they had integrated digital store-based analytics.
Once upon a time, analytics were associated with only websites and online retail, but no longer. With new technology such as SkyFii, store managers can gather and analyse a whole host of informative and extensive data that can help them design their store layouts, understand customer behaviour and make smart marketing decisions.
Physical retail locations need to take this information and run their stores more like a website. They need to be responsive and adaptive to data.
Aside from the feedback, retail also needs to become a more immersive experience than just rows and rows of products. Many retail stores are now adapting to have more interactive elements in their stores, such as augmented reality dressing rooms with smart digital personal stylists, and push notifications that alert customers to sales.
Many retailers are also using technology to find ways in which their offerings fall behind ecommerce - for example, many people like the fact they can check stock levels online, so there are no unknowns. To contend with this problem, many stores now offer a 1 hour click and collect option, so customers can browse stock conveniently online but also instantly get their items without waiting overnight for delivery. Ideal for last minute gifts or emergencies.
Which industries do you think need to adapt to survive? Who's in danger of a disruptor moving in?
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