My keynote presentation at the launch of the Future of the High Street whitepaper.
I authored these 3 whitepapers. Download them here.
The Future of the High Street
Connected Products Smart Lives
The Future of the Retail Bank
Customers want an estate agent brand they can believe in and who’s service is comparable to the services they love and use daily – Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, TfL, Amazon etc. But who will take challenge to transform into the estate agent of the future now?
With the population in the UK increasing year on year, and house building not even getting close to keeping up, the shortage of properties is becoming acute. This shortage will push up prices and create a clear challenge for all estate agents. The competition for stock will intensify, and the best placed estate agents in this fiercely competitive landscape of the future will be those that can offer the best service across the entire customer journey for the best price – for the selling, buying and rental of property across all the key customer segments.
The property market has changed. Property Search portals have taken control of property search. The 4 main portals – Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation and On The Market – list around 1.1 mil properties with 16,000 estate agents currently using them, and have disintermediated estate agents from the top of the sales funnel.
Online estate agents are beginning to enter the market with new business models based around flat fees. Currently, online estate agents sit across a spectrum of Hybrids to Pure Plays. The Pure Plays offer a more basic online service (such as Tepilo) which is cheaper but more work for the seller. Hybrids like Purplebricks offer full packages which aim to compete with the traditional estate agents. None of the online estate agents have a high street presence currently, but this could change very quickly when and if they build up enough resources to do this. If their cost models allow it, they will do it.
The differences between Traditional and Online estate agents are clear – but may become more blurred as time goes on – with all estate agents becoming hrybrids. The Traditionals have the advantage currently – with their high street presence and local knowledge, their vast experience in getting sales over the line, and in their pricing structure which incentivises them to drive hard for the completion.
But there are large sways of the customer’s journey through the house selling and buying process where Traditionals have no real brand presence. These customer decision journey dead zones are ripe for brand ownership through the creation of brand interaction points to drive sellers and buyers towards down the funnel towards a particular estate agent. For example, who of all the Traditional estate agents will be the first to fix the hole in the bottom of the sales funnel by building advocacy programs that lock in current customer’s loyalty for their next sale or purchase? Will the Onlines with their more nimble business models crack this first? Or will the necessary investment to do this properly be a barrier to them allowing the Traditionals to get there first? Will the Traditionals use technology such a VR in their high street shops to deliver a better customer experience and leverage their high street presence as a competitive advantage much like holiday companies are doing?
What is clear is that the rethinking of the estate agent service and integrating digital as a service across the entire customer journey is an open goal opportunity for whoever wants to take a shot at it. Whoever takes the challenge to own and join up the customer’s experience using digital and physical service elements will be able to extend their service footprint further across the customer decision journey and win a place in the hearts of UK’s buyers and sellers through an always-on more outcome led personalised service offering that delivers not just an increase in sales, but an increase in brand loyalty.
Watching in shock as the reigning Premier league champions Man City got thrashed by Leicester, I pondered on how quickly the almighty bedrock of the status quo gets pushed around so easily and so unexpectedly sometimes. It is like a little success and stability precludes us from believing in anything changing ever again. Our brains yearn for a stable knowable world that is unchanging – even in such a changeable thing as football.
It is very similar in business. Market leaders sit back and fall into a lazy belief that current success and profit equals future success and profit. They forget to listen to the market and their customers. Then their customers’ buying behaviour changes in reaction to new technologies and boom! suddenly there is a new incumbent and they are playing catch up.
It seems too much winning breeds too much confidence which then becomes the seed for future failure.
The key to getting ahead and staying ahead is innovative reinvention. But not reinvention for reinvention’s sake – but reinvention squarely based on anticipated future technologies and customer behaviour. Listen, learn, invent, change, listen, learn, invent, change etc. It is a continual process of change.
Mass products and services are always behind the curve – that is their natural place. But the curve now changes with such violent speed that companies can find themselves behind so quickly that unless they have invested in good strategic R&D they will not catch up.
Technological change is now so quick and so unexpected that companies need future vision and strategy to react with speed to this ‘alien technology’ that emerges from nowhere. They must be forever expecting alien entrants to their market and must be prepared through visionary R&D spend.
In short, get ready for an alien invasion!
R&D spend is crucial for every company in every industry in the Digital Age because it is the only way to prepare for future customer behaviour change brought about unexpected technological advances. No company can now solely rely on incremental improvements to current products & services. They need strong strategies in their back pockets ready for new s-curves and the technological and customer behaviour changes that give market disruptors competitive advantage. In digital, strategic vision is everything.
The equation is simple : No visionary R&D equals no answer to market disruptors
If a new technology suddenly appears in your market, how will you react? You can’t suddenly turn into an innovative company – innovation takes vision, strategy and investment over a period of years.
Innovation is not reactive, it is predictive.
Kodak had two very big tech s-curves to deal with in their market – digital photography and the camera phone – both of which they did not take seriously. And both of which radically changed their customers’ behaviours and ultimately bankrupted Kodak. They went from an innovative company to an incumbent trying to protect the status quo. They lost.
How do we prepare for this? How do we create and keep a mental state of siege in the culture of our company so we are ready for an alien s-curve?
S-curve blindness is a common trait of incumbents. This needs to be replaced with a type of s-curve hyper-anxiety – the feeling that any disrupting innovation outside of our industry is an immediate threat to our future and needs to be prepared for.
We need to prepare ourselves for the emergence of alien technologies – and build our companies around this type of thinking.
Ultimately the question is – would you survive an alien technology s-curve in your industry? If the answer is no I suggest you get a skunk works funded and up & running immediately. Your days may be numbered.
See the amazing work I led at Greyhound from strategy, ux to design and build through to content and service design. The whole kit and kaboodle.
Such a great brand, and such a great company that is on its way back.
The Brand Challenge
The next ten years will see the continuing ferocious acceleration of change in how companies attract and build loyal customers.
One of the key drivers of this change is the disruption caused by the digitalisation of our world through technology, and the accompanying changes in customer behaviour and needs.
Digital channels and platforms will soon be the main and only brand touch-points and therefore will become the critical space for brands to engage customers.
Interactive brand experiences will become the new competitive advantage, and the depth of digital engagement delivered by the experiences will become one of the key measures of brand value.
These changes promise to disrupt markets, bankrupt the status quo and reward brand innovation and dynamism.
The Brand Opportunity
Digital has created amazing opportunities for brands to reach customers on a 1 to 1 basis, creating interactive personalised experiences that have the potential to build loyal and valuable long-term relationships with customers.
The humanisation of brands through digital means that all brands must understand how to act and react in interactive spaces. Trust has become the new brand currency – and has led to the opportunity for real, digital, value-led brands that represent their products & services authentically at ground level, to disrupt markets.
The opportunity for brands to stay ahead and innovate using digital platforms to quickly create, test and learn new product & service ideas and enhancements has never been greater and easier.
Digital now affords organisations with the will the potential to quickly and easily build a rapid fire innovation mentality within previously staid and static brands and create innovative digital experiences that deliver deeper and more long-lasting customer engagement.
The Digital future is brand led – and companies that can deliver consistent brand experiences across all channels will earn the continued loyalty of their customers over generations to come.
See the great work I led at PlayStation in Detica case study below. Doesn’t really do it justice – but was one of the best projects I have had the pleasure to work on. I did the full global experience strategy and ran the ux, design and build of the global sites.