When was the last time you used an agent or a broker to buy something, or go somewhere?
Job descriptions like “travel agent” and “stock broker” are all but done. As I predicted in the late nineties, any service catering to the masses that had the word “agency” or “brokerage” in it, is either already dead, or hobbling around on its last, margin-decimated legs. Indeed, on the current list of the 250 most common professions, “real estate agent” is the only agent remaining, and brokers are non-existent.
The next things to be killed by the communications technology star are services that can be provided and crowdsourced by everyman.
What’s next on the endangered species list? Hint: it’s no longer just the middlemen, the representatives and the go-betweens. The next things to be killed by the communications technology star are services that can be provided and crowdsourced by everyman.
Most newsworthy currently, are hotels and taxi services. The convenience, affordability and experience transparency of marketplace startups like Airbnb and UBER are already sapping the profits of hotel chains and taxi companies the world over. It had to come, didn’t it? The cost of entry to provide accommodation and transportation is next to non-existent for most people—almost everyone has a home and a vehicle. Give them the means to easily monetize these, the most expensive assets they own, and many will.
To survive and thrive in today’s reality, they need to make themselves more remarkable, purposeful, human, involved, inspirational and pervasive.
Now that these bricks and mortar and rubber-tire brands are no longer the only game in town, they need to realize that they, too, are subject to the new set of immutable laws of brand physics. To survive and thrive in today’s reality, they need to make themselves more remarkable, purposeful, human, involved, inspirational and pervasive.
Smart hotel chains and cab companies need to stop being complacent while draining their coffers trying to enact legislation prohibiting crowdsourcing of their services, and discounting their way to oblivion—and start using it to making their offerings inherently more attractive. It’s not a complicated equation. But it’s a paradigm shift in thinking that many, sadly, will be unable, or unwilling, to make.
And they need to stop obsessing over what they physically offer, and start reexamining why they do it— their original, central purpose.
They need to figure out what it is about their businesses that can be more emotionally and physically rewarding than getting into someone else’s personal vehicle or home. A good place to start would be to turn around the thinking of “woe is me, I have all these people to pay” to “wow, only we have all these human touch points with customers”. And they need to stop obsessing over what they physically offer, and start reexamining why they do it— their original, central purpose. Look around at any other industry, and you’ll find those are two key bridges to irrational loyalty. The kind of irrational loyalty that hotel chains and taxis now need, like a pot smoker needs Cheezies.
As always, if you’re looking for better bridges, perhaps it’s time to chat to some better bridge builders. Perhaps it’s time to chat with Cult.