Mitch Joel shares some insights about living in a culture of change, constant disruption and digital transformation. Consumers have adopted technology in a way that has fundamentally changed how they buy and interact with businesses. The world continues to change and challenge brands like never before. The new leadership is being a digital leader. Is your business ready to disrupt disruption?
Q. What types of technology are most disruptive, especially when it comes to how car wash owners interact with their customers?
Smart audio is not something to focus on just because it was the big deal at CES this past year. The story is much bigger than that. We’re starting to see data, insights and usage that reminds me of another magical moment in time: the early days of the commercialization of the internet. That’s what this is, and that’s what this feels like. There is one big difference. As we sit here today, the devices have already gone mass market. Over 3 billion devices currently have voice assistant technology in them (think cars, lots of cars…). People have these devices. They are everywhere, and that is expanding as well. When Amazon launched Echo Auto (by invitation only), they may not have been prepared for the 1 million-plus preorders that were about to ship. That’s where the state of smart audio sits. The devices are plentiful and filling up our homes and cars, and are available in smartphones. Small business owners need to rethink everything about their digital presence and how to connect with consumers. With this technology comes new realities.
Q. How can we become better at being digital leaders?
Competition is harder than ever. Companies like Amazon have over 150 full-time economists on staff. It not just about the economists. You can become a better digital leader by having smart people thinking, challenging and studying the data. But that’s not everything. We need to ask better questions: How do businesses truly compete? How do we attempt to offer something more valuable and relevant to consumers? How do we use our data to make the customer experience better (as well as our own business)? What new angles exist for our business? How will our business grow? What new markets and models are here for us? How can technology connect us better to our team and our customers? If you don’t have 150 economists (and, who does?), this begs the question: What type of different thinking can we bring to the business table? Better questions will make you a better digital leader.
Q. Is there a step car wash business can take to help ensure they are more insulated from technology trends?
As with all businesses that grow, the need for increased sales and growth (for those direct-to-consumer brands that want to be more than a mom-and-pop type of operation) are imminent. How will they scale, grow their consumer base, up their consumer’s basket and keep them coming back? Subscription models and content marketing will be a huge component of this for direct-to-consumer brands, but there’s something that lurks beneath the surface that needs to happen: Pressure.
Nobody likes pressure. Nobody likes to feel pressured. Nobody wants to be pressured into buying something. Still, when we think of brands and pressure, we think of sales tactics and other snakey things. Pressure is something that needs to be reclaimed and redefined for the direct-to-consumer revolution.
Reclaim (or develop) the same storytelling techniques that a standup comedian uses, and that writers who work on Netflix series must deploy to get noticed in a sea of everything. Think about how quickly a great comedian can grab your attention, change your emotional state, build up that pressure and then… at the last possible moment… get everyone to laugh, release and to be open to more. Your content and stories don’t have to make people laugh, cry or anything like that, but they must create that same emotional response… it must move them with pressure.
Q. Should businesses let technology trends shape their decisions?
No. They should look more closely at how these technology trends have (or if they have) changed consumer buying behavior. Adapt your business to the consumer’s buying behavior… not to the technology.
Q. Which types of technology should businesses avoid? Which types are more likely to be beneficial and/or long-term?
Impossible to say or choose. What makes technology so magical is that it can be optimized and personalized. What’s working for someone on YouTube might never work for their competitor and vice-versa. Avoid hype and speculation. Engage deeply in consumer experiences and behavior. This is where the gold is.
Q. What upcoming technology trends do you anticipate will affect car wash business owners the most in the next year? 5 years?
Smart audio (as stated earlier). Machine learning and artificial intelligence (only because it will be baked into every technology and change the way business owner’s see their output). Anything related to payments and currency should also be closely monitored. Lastly, watch Shopify. I believe their strategy, technology and focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses provide many new ways to think about the future of physical outlets and commerce.
Q. What are three common mistakes you see being made by businesses that reflect a priority on short-term goals instead of long-term successes?
1) Following a tech trend, because it’s a trend.
2) Doing something because a competitor has done it.
3) Following a “best practice” in a world where every best practice tends to be the industry anomaly.