Five years on…

This week Chrissie Douglas reflects on the change of pace in both her own life and in the broader business world over the last 5 years.

Doesn’t time fly. Thursday’s here again and this week it’s my turn to put pen to paper. This is when I have to admit, I begin to panic. I panic because my life has been hijacked by my 2 young children for almost 5 years now. During this time I haven’t really had to think about the outside world, never mind write anything. Life for me is about minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day ‘fire-fighting’ – school runs, nappy changes, are they fed and watered?

So I palm the kids off with their Dad for a couple of hours and for the first time in years I sit, ponder and reflect. The thing that immediately comes to mind is how much things have changed in the last 5 years and the pace of that change – where did those years go?

Five years ago the world was a very different place. With the risk of being random – Britain was booming yet now we are in the midst of the greatest recession since the 1930s. Twitter was known as “text messaging” and the “tweet” only went to one other person – now you share your thoughts and movements with the world. Friends were called ‘friends’ and you used to go and meet them in the pub at the weekend. Now friends are your ‘social network’ and the pub has closed down! We now ‘talk’ to friends & acquaintances via the rapidly growing social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. We used to go to the store to shop – now the store comes to the door. And in keeping with this randomness – there were 9 planets in our solar system and now there are only 8 (Pluto was demoted in 2006)!

So a lot has changed. The world has moved on in such a short time and I have struggled to move with it. I still use my phone as a phone whereas all my friends are talking about the latest apps. This preoccupation with our own world, the day to day and short term-ism is often mirrored in the business world. Just like me, some businesses are so entrenched in the detail, the tactical, the ‘here and now’, that they fall into the trap of loosing focus, lacking direction and forgetting about the big picture. Many businesses drift along unaware of the changes going on around them and even when they do, fail to react quick enough.

There are some high profile examples in this 5 year timeframe. For example in the retail sector in the last 2 years alone we have lost; Thirst Quench, Stylo, Mosaic, Principles, Sofa Workshop, Allied Carpets, Viyella, Dewhursts, Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi/Virgin Megastore, and Barratts. The list goes on…

The specific details are varied, but the commonality is that they failed to spot and/or react to change quickly enough. For example Woolworths, failed to move with the times and compete effectively with the ‘pile it high’, ‘sell it cheap’ supermarket discounters. In other words – as the competition changed their trading models – Woolies didn’t react. Another example is Sofa Workshop who struggled as consumers put off buying so-called ‘big ticket’ items due to the slowdown in the housing market, fears over the wider economy and the lack of available credit.

There are other companies that are clinging onto their existence. For example, Blockbuster was late in realising that brick based stores no longer work in a world of on-demand TV and is desperately trying to change their business model to one based on low-cost DVD rental kiosks and offering mobile movies via smartphone. Likewise, Borders, the global book store is currently developing a Kobo e-reader to try and compete with e-book readers from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble. Will they make it or are they too late?

So how do we keep informed of what’s going on around us? How do we pre-empt change and respond proactively? How do we stay ahead? The answer lies in research.

Market research obtains information direct from the people who matter – business people, industry experts and customers. Market tracking research provides low cost, up-to-the-minute, detailed market intelligence. Market tracking monitors allow important trends to be captured rapidly, enabling quick, reliable decisions to be made on market size, growth, value and development. Tracking research is also fundamental to monitoring brand performance and measuring customer satisfaction. Market tracking allows companies to monitor how effective they are in relation to their competitors, and to react quickly to changing market conditions.
With more than 30 years’ experience, B2B International are ideally placed to offer advice, propose solutions and devise strategies for future business growth and development. We will help you keep focus on the big picture whilst you continue to look after the day to day.

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