A lifetime of Internet shopping – what will it mean?

You will probably know someone in their 80s – a grandparent, perhaps even a parent. Anyone under the age of 50 at the moment is expected to live into their 90s – and life expectancy – at least in the Western world – is growing each year.

But turn the clock back to when the current octogenarians were born – 1927 – and the world was very different to what it is now. Indeed, 80 years ago today was the launch of the first “talkie” – the very first movie with sound, The Jazz Singer, made its début. Just look at the developments since that time – stereo sound, Dolby, surround sound – and that’s just a few for the sound of movies. What about “Techinicolor”, movies on TV, videos, DVD, Blu Ray? Just in the world of moving pictures, in the lifetime of your 80-year-old grandparent, life has changed substantially.

But what if we were all living in 1307 and not 2007? What would life have been like back in 1227? How much did life change in those 80 years? Popes and kings argued, William Tell shot an apple of his son’s head and European emperors battled for supremacy. But in terms of daily life, you’d be hard pushed to notice many differences.

The pace of change in the 20th Century was rapid – the first talking movie to Blu Ray discs in less than 100 years. But the pace of change in the past seven years, since the start of the 21st Century has been even more rapid. What about back in the year 2000 (can you remember then?) Well 2000 was the year we saw the introduction of Napster, the first system to allow us to download MP3 music tracks. Hardly anyone did it at the time and by the end of the year Napster was in legal trouble bringing the service to its knees for some time. Now, with iTunes or even downloadable music from Tesco, MP3 downloads are an everyday occurrence embraced with glee by the music industry. Anyone under the age of seven will gaze in wonder at your CD collection and be amazed that you had such “old fashioned” things.

At the end of 2000 there were 94m computers connected to the Internet. By the end of 2006 that had exploded to 440m. The previous six years hadn’t grown as fast.

So what does all this mean for us, trying to run an online business or attempting to gain a reputation online? It means you cannot try to stand still. The pace of development is so fast now that what you did on your web site in January this year is no good by December. That means your web design needs to be flexible so that you can change things at the drop of a hat. No longer can web designers provide you with a site that will only need changing in a few years. You need it altered each week to keep up with the pace of change.

In the world of Internet shopping, for instance, the rapid growth of online shoppers and price comparison sites means that people are already shopping in a different way. If your products are not available via price comparison sites you are not going anywhere. Think it only applies to consumer goods; think again. Most business travellers now buy their travel and accommodation via price comparison sites. That means they are already getting used to this notion; expect price comparisons for services soon. Are you geared up for that? You need to be.

In the year 2014 we will come back and be “amazed” at things like social networking sites, price comparison sites and things we see now as “cutting edge”. Most business web sites are stuck in 1997 technology, let alone 2000 or even 2007. They are getting left behind in their droves and come to me and say “why doesn’t our web site work?”. Unless your web site is prepared to be “cutting edge” you too will be left out – not in seven years, but with the pace of change we have today, probably in seven months.

So, what does your web site need? It must have social – two-way – capabilities; your products and services must be capable of being found and used by price comparison sites; and you must be able to make changes to your web pages to adopt new technologies within hours, not weeks.

OK – that’s me off my soap box – I just got terribly frustrated this week by the number of people contacting me who were trying to lure Internet shoppers but who haven’t yet – or aren’t prepared – to whip their web site into shape by changing it from 1997 ideas to those of the 21st Century. I suspect the rate of online business failures is set to climb rapidly over the coming year or two.

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