Digital disruption: Kiwi opportunity

SIMON POMEROY
Last updated 15:14 03/03/2014

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OPINION: We are surrounded by digital disruption on a daily basis and traditional business models are under pressure like never before.

Customers are quickly reclaiming control of the relationship with how and who they do business with. The institution of banking is not immune from this change and challenge.

The internet enabled mobile device has become ubiquitous and 9am - 5pm opening hours along with products built for systems and putting processes ahead of people are now out-dated concepts. The connected customer has control of who, how and when they do business.

Some industry heavyweights that have misread the drivers of this change or tried to ignore it are, or will, be unfortunate case studies for business management courses.

Yes, change is required but crucial to commercial success, even survival for some industries, is how they respond to this challenge.

The well known quote by Bill Gates is as pertinent as ever: 'We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction.'

The implication is that even with the speed of change that customers are currently driving through their uptake of new technology, adapting and coming out ahead from a business point of view, is actually a long game in reality because this is really just the tip of the iceberg.

The industrial revolution led to significant change in agriculture, manufacturing, transport and many other sectors in addition to creating a cultural change and generating a sustained period of economic growth. It was a turning point in our history.

While not suggesting anything on the scale of the industrial revolution, the consumer uptake of mobile technology is in the early stages of rewriting the business manual. The impact of that and the innovation that will follow has the potential to permanently change the way businesses around the world operate. Understanding the future implications of this consumer driven, technology enabled change, where it can go and what that means to customers in the medium to long term is where success lies.

History is littered with misreads and missteps: "The Americans may have need of a telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys," said the Chief Engineer of the British Post Office in 1876. Even the man, who founded electronics and made television and broadcasting possible, Lee de Forest, did not understand consumer appetite when he famously said, "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility".

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Data is a key new fuel in this period of dynamic digital change. Consider this current activity for every minute of the day - Google receives 2 million new searches, 571 new websites are created, brands and organisations receive nearly 35,000 Facebook 'likes' and consumers spend $272,000 on internet shopping.* That's for every minute of the day.

New Zealand business has the opportunity to benefit on a global scale.

The advantage we have is the Kiwi consumer, renowned as an early adopter and strong with feedback. Listening to them paired with smart, innovative thinking focused on delivering fast, easy and secure solutions to meet their needs has the potential to produce ground breaking work across many sectors.  

Think of the self-check-in kiosks in airports that Air NZ first introduced in 2008, or Vend, who launched in 2010 and is at the forefront of integrating payments into point of sale systems for retailers. The promise of Xero; these companies are examples of Kiwi innovations, ahead of their time, and now replicated or being used around the world. They all showcase the importance of understanding their respective customers' needs.

What's upped the ante now is the speed of uptake by consumers. It's creating a step change and the challenge to traditional business models. With nearly 60% penetration of smartphones in New Zealand, ownership of tablets more than doubling year-on-year and Kiwis being strong connectors and social media savvy, innovative Kiwi businesses and entrepreneurs have a chance to make a global impact in a truly great era of change.

Of course, an eye has to also be kept on global developments. The World Mobile Congress was held in Barcelona last week where the latest innovations were revealed. It's the premier event of its kind and everyone who is anyone was there and showcasing. New Zealand businesses, like Westpac, will be keen participants seeing what is in the works and comparing it to what we have and what we have planned and assessing if anything on show will help make it easier and faster for our customers to do business with us.

This is an era of change in New Zealand business that developers, designers and customer focused companies need to lead for us, as a country, to be relevant in this quickly evolving world. The new breed of Kiwi developer/designer has the traditional combination of traits New Zealanders are renowned for - ingenuity, intelligence, vision. We know this first hand having crowdsourced mobile apps last year.

Kiwi consumers are smart, innovative and very able guides in this new environment.

It's up to Kiwi businesses to tap into them both and give themselves every chance of being at the front of this global wave of change in their market sector. By doing so, there is the opportunity for New Zealand business to redefine some of the rules in this rapidly evolving environment because there are plenty more rules to be rewritten still.

Simon Pomeroy is the chief digital officer, Westpac NZ

*Sources: Http//News.investors.com/, Royal.Pingdom.com, Blog Grovo.com, Blog.Hubspot.com, Simplyzesty.com, PCWorld.com, BizTechmagazine.com, Digby.com 

- Fairfax Media

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