Technology is Going to Change Everything Everywhere: Sooner Than You Think

This is the third of five articles in a series entitled “Technology is Going to Change Everything for Everyone Everywhere: Sooner Than You Think.addressing the opportunities available in a rapidly transforming marketplace, that have been pulled from a speech I gave on June 9, 2016 in Calgary at the Real Estate Strategy & Leasing Conference.

In parts one and two of this series, which can be found here and here, respectively, we looked at how emerging technologies and millennials are creating unprecedented opportunities in commercial real estate and across industries. Here in part three, I will discuss what this means for marketing in commercial real estate and across industries.  

So what do the disruptions brought on by millennials and emerging technologies mean for marketing?

3D printing erases the entire last barrier from full participation in the economy: you don’t have to have a factory. You don’t have to have cheap labour. You don’t have to have any labour at all. Distribution networks are not required: think of the impact on shipping and trucking and airlines and FedEx and trains and highways and infrastructure and jobs to support all of those things.

Retail stores? What will those be for? Maybe some kind of theatrical brand-experience; it won’t be for actual shopping and acquisition of merchandise anymore. Space requirements for retailers will change dramatically, somehow, into something else. Something we probably can’t even imagine right now.

I’ve heard rumours of a prototype running shoe 3D printer the size of a standard ATM machine being tested right now by Nike. Apparently you stick your foot in this thing, push some buttons, and your shoes get 3D printed right there. Nike doesn’t need a store or a salesperson or storage or factories if this thing catches on.

Now imagine if that same thing happened to 10% of the retail sector, 30%? What if 50% of retailers don’t need to look like retailers anymore?

Shopping malls are already facing these issues, and it’s only going to change faster and more dramatically. Developers are turning shopping malls into mixed-use residential and retail villages – which is amazing - but I wonder if there will be any retail at all in those spaces in the next ten years?

I met the Director of the Design Department at Museum of Modern Art at an event a few months ago. She was showing us a 3D printed dress. The printer knows how to print it pre-folded into a small cube, and when it is done printing you simply shake it out and it becomes a full dress. This innovation around dimensionality has been a barrier to fully embracing 3D printing - how could I possibly imagine printing a suit or a tie or a chair unless I imagine that my printer is big enough? But now they have that problem solved too.

If you don’t think massive changes to what we are accustomed to are possible, think about Chapters, and the bookstore industry. Would you have predicted the death of books and bookstores even 10 years ago? When is the last time you went to a store to buy a book?

Things can change. Things are changing. And it’s only just begun. And for any doubters left in the crowd, one last example.

Before technology came along and disrupted the media world, remember how media and advertising and branding worked? We all sat around in a boardroom and decided what to tell customers about our companies.

Media was in the business of providing content only so that they could sell advertising space adjacent to the content to companies with a story to tell.

Our brand was what we told everyone it was. What people said about our companies was what we told them to say.  

Then along came the Internet and social media and suddenly everyone could be a newspaper or a radio station or a TV channel; everyone – you didn’t have to be a corporation, have a bag of money, or an advertising department.

And all hell broke loose.

Media went bankrupt. Companies folded. Other companies became huge overnight doing things we’d never heard of, or even dreamed of before. WTF is a Facebook or a Google? Remember the first time someone showed you these things?

Now some of these new digital companies are facing new ideas and new paradigms themselves. Who knows what will come along next.  Industries don’t just move along and change with the times anymore; they are invented and burst into prominence and then burst into flames and get replaced. Yay technology!

Part four of “Technology is Going to Change Everything for Everyone Everywhere: Sooner Than You Think. will focus on what these market disruptions mean for marketing in commercial real estate as well as across industries.