A new decade hast started and I want to share a short reflection of my business journey since the start of this Millennium with you. Two decades – with so much change in personal life and business frame conditions. The current normal was partly unimaginable 20 years ago. I didn’t think I’d go from employee, to managing director, to entrepreneur, to bankrupt, to freelance, to employee and back again to entrepreneur, speaker and coach with such an intensity – and how this actually feels.
Fortunately, I have the privilege to have spent more than one decade in Business around Digitalisation and ecommerce. So many things are constantly and rapidly changing. It shows how incredibly challenging it is to forecast the future, even though some developments are somewhat obvious and inevitable. Here`s a short reflection of my journey.
2000 – 2009
20 years ago, everyone went crazy about the new Millennium. IT companies earned lots of money due to the threat and fear of the Y2K Problem – in the end nothing severe happened.
The Internet was mainly relevant for research and listings. The Internet’s takeover of the global communication landscape was rapid in historical terms: in 1993 only 1% of information was communicated through two-way telecommunications networks, but already 51% by 2000, and more than 97% of the telecommunicated information by 2007 (Source: Wikipedia). In the year 2000 the dot-com bubble peaked, but drastically fell soon afterwards – diminishing lots of trust into the rise of the Internet area.
Various search engines like altavista, lycos, fireball held a total of >50% market share in Germany, Google lagged far behind with less than 20%. Ecommerce was at the very beginning with 1 bn € revenue in 2000 in Germany, whilst Amazon (founded in 1995) only reached appr 3 bn $. Ebay (also founded in ´95) realized less than 1 bn $ in 2000. Datasecurity was not a big issue, but (trust in) payment was. International online business was hardly in place.
Smart devices were not yet available. We did use CellPhones from Nokia, Motorola, Blackberry or Siemens to enjoy our new freedom. In order to organize my data on a mobile device, I was a proud user of Palmpilot – a Personal Digital Assistant from Palm. (losing 90% of Stock Value in one year with the dot-com-bubble)
Personally, I spent the turn of the Millenium as a Single in San Francisco – by that time the SiliconValley was not a tourist attraction. I worked in the Airline industry for Lufthansa – and this was before the 9/11 attacks in 2001 a completely different industry – somewhat a good working place to be.
Working in Logistics was not “sexy” and not (yet) seen as a facilitator for modern retail and online trade opportunities. The necessary connection between smart IT solutions and efficient logistics was at the very beginning.
2010 – 2019
Still, only 10 years ago the world was completely different from today. With the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and the incredible rise of the smartphones afterwards we lived in a mobile decade. Not having to buy or use Laptops or PC’s for online activities fueled the alwayson mentality and especially helped non-developed countries to grow their online activities and businesses. This made the online world a global phenomenon and also accelerated the growth in developed countries.
Artificialintelligence was present for many years before, but since Google started developing autonomous vehicles (2009) and IBM’s Watson beat former champions in Jeopardy (2011) the topic AI became more widely recognized. The rise of social platforms gained speed with the use of smartphones: Instagram and Pinterest launched in 2010, google+ launches (2011) and failed later, linkedin passed 100 mio users (2011), twitter useage fostered and facilitated the Egyptian spring (2011), facebook reached 1 bn users monthly (2012). Meanwhile virtualreality, augmentedreality, 3D Print, Blockchain and Voicecommerce have grown in niches but do not play significant roles in the mass market (yet).
Ecommerce grew constantly by 10-15% per year in the last decade – globally. It started with less than 1 trillion $ in 2010 and is supposed to pass 4 trillion $ in 2020, strongly driven by #China and international players like amazon and alibaba that transform themselves from retail to marketplace platforms.
Personally, I did run a 400+ employee Logistics Provider and went bankrupt early 2010. The following months and years were an emotional rollercoaster for me and my family with big learnings. I had to repay debts in the same amount that other friends were buying apartments for, which doubled their value in one decade. My knowledge of ecommerce, logistics and multichannel and my entrepreneur mindset were helpful to get back on my feet and to start a consulting business for these topics. After some freelance years I founded ecom consulting gmbh (2015) with my partners and we are nowadays growing into a leading independent digital transformation consultancy. Parallel to this I invested some time and energy into enhancing my speaker and coaching skills to build this up as additional business pillars.
2020 – and what’s next in the Golden 20’s?
Looking back over a longer period of time gives proof to the statement of Bill Gates: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.“
In the past, many innovations failed because they needed new (IT) infrastructure or a wide (global) reach and distribution to become profitable. That was very hard and expensive and in many cases impossible to realize for newcomers by themselves. Nowadays, with existing global platforms and ecosystems it is easier to reach out globally with smart ideas and great products and solutions. Furthermore there is sufficient and cheap money in the market to support promising startups.
Besides the continuous rise of platforms and ecosystems and the increasing innovation role of Asia, I do believe that sustainability (including sharing models) and data security will be relevant success factors in the coming years. We will also see flexible and modern ways of work ethics as the fundament for Company Culture and Learning. Especially, established “old” companies will struggle hard to transform their organizational architecture in order to survive.
We are going into a decade of manufacturers who will have to learn to interact and deal with their end-customers in smart and specific ways. Directbrands and Directtocustomer (D2C) will become the new normal, heavily fueled by the opportunities of socialcommerce, platforms and ecosystems. Our strategy dossier “The Era of Manufacturers – How Directbrands win the Race against established Brands” and corresponding workshops and seminars provide detailed insights and know-how on this subject. Retailers will have to offer specific added value in the competition with Amazon and other platforms and will have to be experts in data management, personalization and customer relationship management (CRM) to defend or increase their market relevance.
In the last years we have built up an expert team that is continuously striving for delivering good work from entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Through our consulting projects and our various market research activities, presentations and articles we are always staying ahead of the upcoming trends and can prepare companies to successfully master these ever-changing challenges from digitalization.
For a better understanding of Amazon our co-production Book “Amazon for Decision-Makers” launches via Springer-Gabler in March 2020 and does gather helpful insights in all aspects of the American giant. The incredible rise of platforms in the last years are subject to our current research and will also be published early in 2020.
To stay ahead, we will actively research the most innovative market and will travel to China – and will offer a business travel through the hotspots of China in May 2020 with a small group of manufacturers and retailers. If you want to join us onto this journey please contact us. We are very curious about the deriving business opportunities – and of course I will reflect these insights in my role as keynote speaker.
A big THANKYOU to my friends and partners and my family who support me and allow me to live my entrepreneurial life with all the freedom, all the downsides, all the travelling, all the uncertainty and all the risks that are constantly involved.
Wishing all of you an exciting and successful new decade, in which you can make all the things happen that you want to!
The best is yet to come! Let’s move forward!