The amount of insight shared by Howard Tullman at the January BMA Chicago luncheon on January 14 only slightly exceeds the pages of notes (and phone pics) I was able to take to capture it all. Howard is the prolific CEO of 1871, the No. 1 startup incubator in the United States, and spent 45 minutes — and probably twice that in slideware (I lost count) — to share what he called the “new rules of the road” for today’s business leaders.
Howard started his talk by posing that the rate of change we are experiencing today is the slowest it will ever be in our lives, and that it is only getting faster. By way of example, he shared that over 45,000 apps were submitted to the Apple App Store during the last four weeks. But, interestingly, users aren’t changing as quickly. Despite having over three million apps and growing to choose from, we only access about 27 apps a month and spend 80% of our time on five or fewer … and 50% on just one.
The game has definitely changed, and incremental advancement on our part just won’t cut it. We need to speed up, too — and think differently. “What was ‘super’ yesterday will be ‘so what’ today,” concluded Howard, as he spoke of the perpetually progressive expectations of today’s customers.
So what’s going on out there? Howard shared 10 trends for tomorrow that will impact not just the way businesses go to market, but also how we as individuals will navigate the ever-accelerating transformation our world is going through, both personally and professionally. Hyperbole? You be the judge.
1.Time is the scarcest resource of all
Businesses, in short, will ultimately compete for time. “The economy of now” is already so advanced in the consumer realm that Amazon is actually experimenting with “anticipatory” shopping — in other words, getting the product to you before you buy it. Mobile shopping is up by 60%, but, interestingly, 70% of mobile use takes place in the home. So it’s not about optimizing how you use a platform (such as mobile), but how you use your time.
2. I want it my way
Commitment is going away. Subscriptions are archaic. Nobody wants to buy anything anymore, and when they do, it’s “on my terms, at my price, in real time, with instant feedback.” Interestingly, we may even end up paying more to have it our way, but the world of gaming has shown that this is apparently OK with us. Consuming games by the bite is preferred over “all you can eat” pricing models.
3. Attention is the newest currency
Before the Internet, it once took an average of seven contacts to close a sale. Given the amazing increase in content competing for our finite attention, it now takes triple that. To get my attention, then, there needs to be an exchange of value: Save me time. Save me money. Increase my productivity. This is known as a value-based transaction, a simple deal to better the life of the person you are trying to influence in order to get their attention.
4. Context is more important than content
If you’re not where your customers are, you’re nowhere. The old adage of being in the right place at the right time has never been more important. “Smart reach” is about this and more — your content needs to be timely, engaging, relevant and customized. To take it further — what we need, when we need it, wherever we are and without asking. That’s all. Easy, right? But seriously, the rewards will be there for the companies that get this right. As Howard said, “engage me, don’t enrage me … quit moving that ‘X’ around like I don’t know how to delete your content in front of what I really want!”
5. A world of constant connectivity
When was the last time you turned off your device? They don’t even seem to have on / off switches anymore. The average consumer spends around three hours and 40 minutes a day on their mobile phone. Children today have grown up with such constant connectivity that they are completely asynchronous and think in terms of 24/7 availability. Devices are now evolving into trackers, too — for example, are cocktail waitresses serving the right clients? Are nurses doing rounds per protocol? Which retail aisles get the most traffic, as seen on mobile phone “heat maps”?
6. Messaging increasingly trumps email, and even social
Email is going through an interesting evolution as better targeting occurs — open rates are up. But revenue per email is falling quickly, with the ability to filter (with Google sorting for you) making it even harder to engage on this platform. Messaging is on the rise as wearable devices push ongoing timely content that matters to us. The interesting shift taking place is from “quality” to “distribution.” We used to care about audio fidelity, worry more about file size than mobility and stick with iTunes on our computers … now the ability to stream via an app on the go is fine. We create the content and worry less about professionally sourced quality — everyone has a camera and the ability to edit and share. Distributing the messages consumers want, when they want them further reinforces “the economy of now.”
7. Personal data is the oil of the digital age
It’s really not about “big data” anymore, if in fact it ever was. Personal data that gives insight into behaviors is creating a new feedback loop between commerce and advertising, and it’s changing the way companies influence consumers. For example, Facebook is helping Ticketmaster sell more tickets by enabling you to see which of your friends are on the concert seating map … as you are selecting your tickets. Ticketmaster couldn’t do this alone, and technical solutions wouldn’t have gotten them any closer — Facebook has the data to personalize the experience for the purchaser. Personalized data is enabling the move from data diagnostics to prognostics.
8. Access is more important than assets.
Uber is the world’s largest taxi company, but doesn’t own any taxis. The consumer today is less concerned with ownership and more with utility. This shift in the definition of a purchase’s value is going to fundamentally shift the economics of buying and selling. Eventually there will be an “Uber” for everything.
9. It’s not about sharing, it’s about surplus.
We all are good at something … and the trend is to offer that talent to all those who are interested, not just one employer. Do you have surplus time for sale? Similar to the prior trend of owning assets becoming less important, the workforce is shifting to a “company of one” model, with more contractors in the economy than ever before. The prediction is that by 2020, 42% of the workforce will be free agents. Check out TaskRabbit, where you can get just about any task handled by an expert, and where you can turn your talents (and surplus time) into a business.
10. The Internet of everything.
Lastly, and not new, is the connectivity of everything to everything. Of course, we have all heard of the Internet-enabled refrigerator. I have attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for years, and recall seeing that concept fridge so many years ago! Now it is a reality. Your wallet can tighten up as you near or exceed your monthly budget. An umbrella can sit by the door and tell you to take it with you for the day, because it is enabled by Wi-Fi with a weather report. This fundamental connection of everything is only just beginning.
So there you have it. These trends on their own are having a massive impact, but the real takeaway from presenting all of them together is to consider the seismic transformation of how we live, work and play. Howard didn’t get into the underlying challenges we need to grapple with as this transformation continues — like privacy, security, economics and more. But in the end, his main point holds true — trying to move at our desired pace isn’t going to slow it down. The change is happening anyway, and frenetically. The challenge (and opportunity) for us all is to shape it along the way, to make it work for us as individuals, businesses and ultimately as all humanity. We’ll learn a lot along the way, and we’ll make mistakes, but that’s where the No. 1 lesson from startups comes into play: fail fast and move forward even faster.
As old as the world is, it sure is acting like a hot new startup, isn’t it?