Escape Zoom: Session 3 – Which technologies and new platforms will be the winners in how we conduct business in future?

Necessity is the parent of invention and in a crisis we see the truth of this. When the landscape shifts and the context of our lives changes, human ingenuity quickly responds with new solutions to match new needs. 

Technology is playing a pivotal role in keeping the world connected through the COVID-19 crisis. In our third Escape Zoom session, Propeller Group chairman Martin Loat brought together a raft of industry experts to explore which new technologies and platforms will emerge as essential for how we conduct business in the future. 

Participants in the latest Escape Zoom episode session included: 

  • Steve Hyde, CEO, 360 Executive Search – placement specialist for c‑suite individuals
  • Neil Kuschel, CEO Europe, Global‑e – cross-border ecommerce tech solutions
  • Ranj Begley, Chief Content Officer, Readly – magazine-collation app 
  • Roy Jugessur, Executive Vice President (EVP) EMEA, Thunderhead – customer journey engagement specialist
  • Charles Nicholls, Senior Vice President, Upscale Commerce, SAP – commerce platform
  • James Moffat, Executive Chairman & Founder, The Organic Agency – digital experience agency 
  • Neil Garner, Founder & Chief Executive Officer,Thyngs – mobile platform to turn physical objects into point-of-sale terminals
  • Rob Dembitz, Chief Commercial Officer, Handi – connected hand hygiene technology
  • Gary Reid, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, We Are, Polymer ‑specialist digital agency
  • Danny Denhard, Former Director of Growth, JustGivingonline fundraising platform

Here’s what they had to say. 

Steve Hyde, Chief Executive Officer, 360 Executive Search

We need smart people. A problem companies face is they might seem lean but mentally they aren’t sharp. Lots of businesses have emerged from 2008 looking and thinking the same. Now another crisis has hit and they recognise they aren’t as distinctive as they think. 

Consumer attitudes will change. Brand sincerity and consistency – both internally and externally – will matter more than ever before. Very few brands are able to deliver this currently – they have become complacent. 

The advertising and media industry will shift rapidly towards native technology which focuses on content and context, and not about driving price margins which has screwed everything.

Advertisers will want to take out more intermediaries from the supply chain – potentially making way for machine learning as companies operate on leaner business models. We will then see human input become more cerebral, strategic and creative – while most implementational tasks will be driven by machines.

The high street will be accelerated towards the internet. It was largely on its arse anyway. Technologies that can plug-in and assist this ground shift by retailers to ecommerce will naturally do very well.

The sad reality is that thousands of people will lose their jobs. Many of these people will become the new entrepreneurs – and will need the technology which can accelerate nothing to something within 12 months.

Ranj Begley, Chief Content Officer / UK Managing Director, Readly

The pandemic is driving us physically apart, but technology is pulling us closer together. At Readly the crisis is affecting us in different ways. From a consumer perspective, homeschooling means parents are using Readly to help entertain and educate their children – and engagement scores in lockdown countries like the UK and Italy are through the roof. 

The appetite for magazine content is clearly there not only from an entertainment perspective but also for trusted factual information and knowledge. 

We’ve just had to launch in Australia and New Zealand without setting foot in the countries. This has been tough due to the bushfires earlier this year and now Covid. However, technology played a key role in allowing us to do this – and allowing businesses globally to make a step-change to digital.

Roy Jugessur, Executive Vice President (EVP) EMEA, Thunderhead 

 It is customer journey orchestration and its associated analysis which is allowing businesses to radically improve the end-end experience while impacting business metrics across the customer lifetime.

In the current contact-free economy there are many organisations undertaking budget optimisation and it is important to shield those investments which support customer led activity across sales, service and marketing.

One way to view this is moving from something like a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs to the ‘Bette Midler Hierarchy of Needs’. You may remember Bette Midler’s 80’s hit ‘From A Distance’? All our human needs are still the same, but they need to be delivered from distance.” – James Moffat

Charles Nicholls, Senior Vice President of Upscale Commerce, SAP

There will be significant behavioural change following this – from both consumers and merchants. 

We’ve had shortages of goods in a way many people have never seen before, which has created a culture of hoarding amongst consumers. We may see these behaviours of hoarding certain supplies continue well beyond the crisis’ peak and merchants will need to adapt supply chains to this behaviour. 

Supply chains themselves may become more localised, much like they were after WW2, as global supply chains are disrupted and become perceived as higher risk. 

We are set to enter a new era of ‘continuity commerce’. D2C ecommerce platforms and subscription models will emerge as winners as consumers look to avoid uncertainty around access to goods and pursue security and consistency.

James Moffat, Executive Chairman & Founder, The Organic Agency

I’m getting a lot of calls from brands who are now viewing this crisis as a moment to make radical change to business practice, structure, tools and skills – excuses and reasons not to change have gone out the window 

For these brands, it really illustrates how important it is to think about how you evolve a product and offering over time. The technologies that succeed are the ones that best align and satisfy current human needs.

One way to view this is moving from something like a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs to the ‘Bette Midler Hierarchy of Needs’. You may remember Bette Midler’s 80’s hit ‘From A Distance’? All our human needs are still the same, but they need to be delivered from distance. 

Neil Garner, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Thyngs

A friend of mine runs a consumer experience agency and they’ve just published a study on how people feel about touching public objects. The findings show that people do not want to be touching shared surfaces and screens anymore. This new behaviour will stay for good. 

The Amazon touchless-tech model we are seeing is too complex and requires too much infrastructure for a small business. Smartphones hold the key for 3.5 billion users. 

Smartphones can do higher value transactions than chip & pin – they work on-the-go – and are more secure. The tap-and-go tech that powers contactless payment can be used on any physical object to deliver information directly to a smartphone, without an app – whether that’s content, a payment or an engaging experience. 

Consumers were already becoming more comfortable with paying via a smartphone – and this health crisis will speed up this behavioural change even more.

“Consumer attitudes will change. Brand sincerity and consistency – both internally and externally – will matter more than ever before. Very few brands are able to deliver this currently – they have become complacent.”  – Steve Hyde

Rob Dembitz, Chief Commercial Officer, hygiene tech company Handi

I’m not sure how much this crisis will change our overall behaviours as humans. But there will be a very obvious change to emerge: people are going to be more aware of their personal cleanliness. 

Small behavioural shifts like this will make a huge difference. Businesses of all kinds will need to be able to supply proper hygiene facilities to staff and customers. 

This means there will be a hugely increased focus on the brand experience from hygiene products and utilities.

Gary Reid, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, We Are Polymer

There will be a big change in the reputation of technology businesses. Google has been the bad guy for a long time around privacy. But the general public’s perception could change as they assist Governments around the world through this crisis – particularly when it comes to health data and tracking. This crisis could give these companies more power, or give people more control of their own data. 

Danny Denhard, formerly Director of Growth, JustGiving

We need to see a switch to human-first tech.

Technology has fairly successfully replaced the formal aspects of our business lives. What technology needs to replace is informality – we need to figure out how we can recreate the ‘corridor conversation’ between colleagues. This needs to be a blend of the virtual and physical. 

I’ve come armed with some promising tools I think could help bridge this gap.

Jamm, enables your team to chat and share (like a remote room), great for huddles, stand-up and built for multi-time zone calls. 

Pragli,  leverages the stories format, video style updates., uses AI to block out noise and to auto-mute, zooms in and focuses on your head not your surrounding 

Shindig,  allows you to  present to 1000 people, take virtual and video based q&a and it allows people to mingle 

Remotion, takes the friction away from the casual drop-in and allows teams to work together more normally like you would in an office.

Technology has proved vital in keeping us all connected through the pandemic, but we shouldn’t expect this importance to diminish when this crisis passes. Necessity is the mother of invention – but it is clearly also a close cousin of opportunity. 

Whether it is video calls, contactless payments, touchless retailing or D2C ecommerce platforms, it is the technology which best satisfies our current needs as both businesses and consumers which will emerge successful and become embedded in our post-crisis lives.