I remember the feeling of surprise when I bought the bracelets a couple of years ago. I was in a jewellery shop in a small, thousand-year-old town in Germany, about 20 kilometres away from Frankfurt, where my mother has her vacation home. I had just chosen some bracelets for my wife and daughter and placed them on the counter to pay.
To my surprise, the sales attendant started writing out a receipt by hand. She handwrote all the details of the products on the receipt. This surprised me on two levels; Firstly, it surprised me that this happened in a country like Germany, which is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Secondly, “who still writes receipts by hand in the 21st century??”, I thought to myself. I felt sad for the shop, as surely it was just a matter of time until they would be “disrupted.”
This incident happened a couple of years ago and the last time I went to the small town, the shop was still there. In fact, it’s been there for a very long time. It’s somewhat of a fixture near the town square. Still, I’m disappointed that a small business did not recognise the need to have a computerised inventory management system. I suspect the owners thought that this is the way we’ve always done it and it’s working, so why change it?
It was not hard to conclude from the handwritten receipt that the rest of their digital footprint was either very poor or non-existent. I went online and sure enough, their website looks like it was designed by a high school student from 2002. Also, their last Instagram post was from seven months ago. These guys were truly operating in the stone age.
The shop owners have failed to recognise a new truth, which is that every company – nay every business, even a jewellery shop in an ancient German town with cobblestoned streets – is a technology company.
We live in an age where technology is totally ubiquitous. This is even more true for Generation Z, those born from the mid-nineties to roughly 2010. They are total digital natives. They’ve grown up being exposed to the internet, mobile, digital currency and social networks.
Being a technology company does not mean that you need to hire armies of coders to develop new software or platforms. What it means is that you should, at the very least, use the latest available off-the-shelf technology to help make your business operate more efficiently and effectively.
The shop in Germany should, at the very least, have a decent inventory management system. This system will help keep track of prices and costs, purchases, cash register through a Point-of-Sale system and create reports that aid with ordering and other important decisions. Ideally, the systems would be linked to an ecommerce platform that is connected to a sleek, easy to use and navigate website. Moreover, it could be linked to ecommerce enabled social media accounts.
It pains me to think of how much time and effort is waisted in this shop by not having the above in place, and how much more sales are missed due to lack of online presence.
Not just for jewellery shops
If you’re thinking that this example does not apply to you because you’re not in the jewellery or retail business, you’ve missed the point. The question to you is, what equivalent mistakes are you doing in your industry? What technologies and trends are you missing out on because you’ve always done business in a certain way?
Here are some important questions you should be asking to help you figure out if your company is a technology company or not:
• Are you aware of the latest technology trends in your industry? What about tech trends on the peripheral of your industry? Like the tech affecting suppliers and other stakeholders.
• How has your customer’s behaviour changed due to technology? How have their expectations changed due to new technology? Are you changing with the times?
• How can you change the way you operate internally due to new technologies? Are you utilising them?
• What is your budget for investing in new tech? What is your budget for training your employees on new tech?
• Do you have an IT Manager or a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)? Is the IT department’s role just to fix the internet and provide new laptops, or are they part of the strategic decision-making process when it comes to the future of your company?
Writing down the answers to these questions and contemplating them will help you figure out whether you’re running a technology company or not. If you need any help you know where to find us. But whatever you do, don’t be like that shop in Germany!