Disruption can be painful. To some, it signifies someone else eating their lunch. To others, it screams opportunity. The digital boom has had a huge impact on the way businesses and consumers operate, but some have embraced it more than others.
Here are the top four industries we believe have been most transformed by digital disruption over the past decade.
1. Financial services
Computerisation of the financial markets started after the Big Bang of the 1980s, and the shouts across the trading floor transformed into the hum of machines. But over the past decade, data and technology have created even more opportunities for growth and efficiency. Big banks no longer hold all the cards now that technology and market access is within reach of the smaller guys.
Even City mainstays like foreign exchange trading have gone through huge disruption in the past decade, as smaller firms use technology to get a slice of the action, and executives have left big banks to start their own operations. For example, Zar Amrolia left a top job in the City to join a small fintech company, and by using data analysis and algorithmic trading, they can be much quicker and more efficient. And that’s not always the experience at the larger behemoths of finance.
We’ve seen more and more start-ups over the past decade finding and filling holes in the banking system. Think about the online-only banks and card companies Monzo, Starling and Revolut. And where investing in stocks used to be an opaque and jargon-filled experience for consumers, now they are able to open accounts within minutes at Nutmeg and Moneybox. The barriers have come down and the markets have been democratised. Vive la revolution!
Consumers have spent years learning that they can get content and information for free on the internet. So why pay for a newspaper or a cinema ticket? This is the question media companies have had to contend with ever since the web was born.
But the dream of a free information utopia has more recently been sullied by terabytes of fake news and misinformation. People have realised the value of good journalism, a good sign for the newspapers, but the battle against content piracy still goes on.
It has been slow to react, but the biggest change has been to the media’s business model – from ad-supported, to subscription-based. With the digital boom, eyeballs were scattered across millions of websites, and classifieds were replaced with interest-based forums, and advertising revenue plummeted.
Today, advertising on news websites acts more like a motivation to pay for an ad-free subscription. And with the boom in subscription-model streaming platforms, one could theoretically go for weeks without seeing a TV ad anywhere.
The biggest story of retail in the media over the past decade has been the slow death of brick-and-mortar stores, and the rise of eCommerce. But we can ignore a lot of the doomsayers – retail is alive and well, it has just been transformed.
Brands have realised they do not have to rely on supermarkets and department stores to be the gatekeepers anymore. The internet has given them the power to build customer relationships directly.
Similarly, small businesses no longer need to invest in expensive store leases, hoping people will walk in. They can start cheaply online, build a following, open temporary pop-ups and market stalls, until they are ready to dive into offline retail fully.
And the disruption is not likely to stop. Amazon Go, the future store with automatic payments and no tills, proves we can expect even more tech-enabled changes ahead.
Schools closing for COVID over the past year showed us just how important digital transformation is for education, and where our system has fallen behind. Those schools which had been prepared, and funded well enough, meant they could offer their students a better standard of learning.
As the need to attend in-person classes has become less important, educational institutions have been able to take advantage of a huge new international market. And students have been able to get a high-quality education, no matter where they are.
As far back as 2014, an Accenture study found that 85% of university students said that digital capabilities, such as digital capabilities, technology in classrooms, virtual coursework and online classes were key when choosing schools. If students were demanding it back then, you can be sure they expect it today.
If there is one thing that disruption has taught us, is that it is an ever present possibility. Businesses need to be adaptable, with the presence of mind to know how and whether to react quickly. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and these industries are still in the midst of being transformed, but we can only look ahead if we understand the past.