“Your effort in ‘business model preservation’ to avoid ‘business model disruption’ will probably be the death of you!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Back in the dot.com days, my co-author and I wrote a book – “Selling Online: How to Become a Succesful E-Commerce Merchant.” Released around 1999 and updated with later editions, the book saw editions being sold in Canada, the US, Germany, Russia, and (unauthorized) India.
We were told by many, of course, that the idea of e-commerce was doomed to fail – the Internet would never amount to much when it came to being a sales channel! Retail would always see in-store traffic! Selling online was but a fad! And the dot.com collapse of 2001, driven by a wave of hysterical expectations, certainly put some wind in the naysayer’s sails.
And yet, over time, the idea took hold – and in 2020, Covid-19 had different ideas about the role of online shopping, forever shaping the future of retail! We are now at the point of no-looking back – by way of example, Nike recently announced it was going to concentrate on e-commerce as its primary channel for the future.
The early days were fun, though, and in this photo, I’m on stage in Orlando speaking at a retail conference about what I saw ‘back in the day.’ The context – it’s the late 90’s, and a group of entrepreneurs has decided to disrupt the established business models for the funeral home industry by selling caskets online. I told the story on stage:
As reported in the media, the results were predictable – the funeral industry saw it as a threat:
In March 2001, an Internet casket retailer brought suit in the federal district court in Oklahoma, challenging an Oklahoma law that allows caskets to be sold to state residents only by state-licensed funeral directors. Last month, the FTC filed an amicus brief in support of the online retailer. The suit, Powers v. Harris, is ongoing.
The funeral industry suggested only they – being properly licensed, accredited, approved – had the expertise to sells coffins. Today, car companies and automotive dealers are arguing the same thing when it comes to Tesla selling cars directly online – ‘it should not be allowed.‘ There are countless other examples – music companies tried to preserve a dying business model for decades.
These efforts are almost always doomed to fail. And it raises a valid point – far too many industries try to preserve their existing business model in the face of business model disruption. They don’t understand that it’s not about ‘preservation,’ and that their efforts are pretty much guaranteed to fail.
If preservation is your mindset, you might want to check your assumptions, because you’ll probably find your idea soon to be embalmed.