Digital Darwinism: Are You a Swinger or Dead Meat?

brachiating chimpThe late author Carl Sagan observed that those of our ancestors who couldn’t figure out how to brachiate successfully through the jungle simply didn’t leave any offspring.

Rather gruesomely they ended up as piles of rotting meat on the forest floor many metres below.

Darwinism at its most brutal: Figure it out or die.

Business, especially Australian online retail, is going through its own painful process of natural selection right now caused by the booming online economy.

They either don’t get or are completely unaware of the need to start swinging in the online business jungle.

And, unfortunately, there’s no doubt that it is a jungle with all sorts of lethal traps for the unwary and strange, exotic beasts that will devour them overnight if they are not quick enough or smart enough.

But into it they must swing, there is no escaping it.

 

The Rise of Digital Darwinism

digital darwinsim

The term Digital Darwinism has been coined by author Brian Solis to describe how many businesses today simply aren’t adapting fast enough to the changes that have already occurred in society.

And in failing to adapt, they doom themselves to extinction.

Over the past few months there have been never ending examples in the media of organisations and business groups that seem to have no understanding of the new world the customer is living in.

Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman is the classic example. He says you can’t sell furniture online, and immediately two other entrepreneurs pop up and say: “Well yes you can, we’ve been doing it successfully for a while thank you.”

Paul Wallbank at Smart Company laments at how most business owners seem to have been asleep at the wheel for the past 13 years and are likely to become digital roadkill.

Recently Australian Importers struck a deal with their suppliers to force Australian consumers to pay more for imported fashion brands

Such thinking seems to be completely oblivious to the realities of the online marketplace. It simply won’t work, and if anything will only hasten the local retailers’ demise.

The consumer will shop where they get the best deal, not where local retailers can charge the highest mark-up.

What’s more this story generated almost 1,000 comments condemning it within hours of its publication, in a clear indication that Australian consumers are not going to tolerate such behaviour from retailers.

In an earlier post I lamented that Australian Business Just Doesn’t Get the Web, and unfortunately the daily stories mentioned above just confirm it.

 

What Can Be Done?

Unfortunately not much. You can’t help people who won’t help themselves.  As Paul Wallbank observed, far too many businesses are operating as if nothing has changed over the past decade and a half.

slideshowAuthors Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff have written a whole book about it and say companies not taking advantage of the digital revolution are simply stupid.

See this excellent slideshow "How Stupid Companies Treat Their Customers"

 

Swing or Die

In order for any business to survive, they need to be getting online right now, not tomorrow, but more critically they need to be asking themselves:  How do I reconfigure my business to operate online?

After all, that’s where the customers are.

Over 90% of Australians are connected to the internet at home, and over 90% of them already spend money online.

Online business is growing at almost 30%, offline at less than 3%.

The web is now the dominant medium in Australia, surpassing television, and the advertising dollars are slowly following.

It should be obvious where the market, money and the opportunity are, but apparently it’s not.

The companies that survive will be the ones who embrace online business totally, not try and defend against it.

An article over on the BBC presents a similar view, pointing out that any business that isn’t completely reorganising itself from the top down to compete in the digital world will not have a business in five years.

 

The Fear of Swinging

Online business is a lot like brachiating: You’re only going to learn it by doing it. Just jump out of your tree, into thin air and reach out for the next tree limb.

Scary stuff: The risk is great, but the risk of not jumping is even greater.

 

What the Hell is Brachiating?

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